Sudan: Authorities force people to return to danger zones in Southern Kordofan

Reports of freshly laid landmines in some areas – restriction of humanitarian aid 

  Amnesty International is alarmed by reports that people displaced by the ongoing conflict in Southern Kordofan are being coerced to return by the Sudanese authorities to places where their lives and safety could be at risk.    Since fighting began on 5 June between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and elements of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in Southern Kordofan – a Sudanese state soon to become the international border between north and south Sudan – thousands of people have fled the villages and towns. The UN have reported that more than 73,000 people have fled the area.    Despite ongoing aerial bombardments and artillery attacks around Kadugli – the capital of Southern Kordofan – by both parties of the conflict, the state’s governor of and the Minister of Health stated on national television and radio that Kadugli town – the capital of Southern Kordofan – was now secure and citizens who fled should return to their homes.   Earlier this month (20 June), local authorities ordered the people seeking refuge in the camps on the outskirts of Kadjuli to return to their homes in Kadugli town or to congregate in schools or at Kadugli Stadium.    Amnesty International UK’s Tim Hancock said:   “Ordering families to return to a highly dangerous region where bombings continue is senseless.      “We would urge the Government of Sudan to respect and protect all the rights of the displaced men, Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and Children's rights, and to ensure that they do not undermine the basic right to not forcibly return or resettle anyone to a place where life, safety, liberty or health is at risk.”     Humanitarian agencies prevented from accessing areas   Amnesty International is also concerned that humanitarian agencies are being prevented from accessing many areas. Kadugli town has been closed off to international humanitarian organisations since the beginning of the conflict. On 14 and 25 June, Kauda airstrip was bombed, preventing humanitarian supplies from reaching the area. Severe constraints remain to accessing the displaced and other civilians affected by the conflict. Humanitarian agencies are also subject to scrutiny by Sudanese authorities at checkpoints.   Tim Hancock added:   “The Sudanese authorities must guarantee unfettered access for impartial humanitarian assistance in Sudan.”   Northern Kordofan   People attempting to flee the fighting have also sought refuge in other places including Er Rahad and El Obeid in Northern Kordofan. Government authorities in Northern Kordofan also stated that people displaced in the area should return to their homes, or seek accommodation with family members in other areas.   Local residents assisting the displaced in the El Obeid area – capital of Northern Kordofan – were instructed by authorities to stop donating food to the displaced on 20 June. Furthermore, residents in El Obeid reported that the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) have been closely monitoring host families, and the displaced   Landmines near Kadjuli town   There are reports of freshly laid landmines around Kadugli town, which pose a further threat to civilians returning to the area. Landmines are inherently indiscriminate weapons and are banned under international law. To date, no mine action team has been able to assess the situation due to restricted access to the town.   Tim Hancock said:   “We’re particularly worried at the reports of landmines being laid in the area. These weapons kill civilians and combatants indiscriminately and cause untold suffering.  If these weapons are in use, then a mine action team must be allowed to enter the region to defuse them immediately.”   

  • Landmines are banned under 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction.  
  • Pervasive NISS checkpoints have resulted in abuses against Nuba people or suspected SPLM supporters and have hampered the provision of much needed humanitarian aid. Amnesty has received eye-witness accounts of security officials with lists of people’s names at each checkpoint. People on the lists are believed to be members of the SPLM, or of Nuba descent. Further reports have been received that even those not on lists but who are believed to be Nuba are interrogated and harassed or ill-treated by security forces.

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