Alarmed by reports of mass graves, UN urges access to Southern Kordofan

July 18, 2011 (UN Radio)

United Nations officials and the Security Council today called for a halt to the fighting in the Sudanese state of Southern Kordofan amid reports of aerial bombings of civilians and mass graves, and called on Khartoum to provide unhindered access for humanitarian assessment and assistance. Members of the Security Council "urge all parties to respect humanitarian principles and to allow humanitarian personnel timely and unfettered access to the affected civilian population," according to Ambassador Peter Wittig of Germany, which currently holds the Council's rotating presidency.

His comments followed a closed-door meeting of the Council with Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, who briefed the 15-member body on the situation in Southern Kordofan, where fighting continues despite an agreement signed last month between the parties.

"I am increasingly alarmed by the mounting allegations of mass graves in South Kordofan, Sudan, and of reported disappearances of civilians, targeting of people on an ethnic basis, and extra-judicial killings," Ms. Amos said in a statement released after the meeting.

She said the Government of Sudan has repeatedly denied the UN access to the area since the skirmishes between its forces and those of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM-North) began in early June.

Ivan Šimonovic, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, told a news briefing in New York that the UN has received "very disturbing" reports recently from Southern Kordofan that include indiscriminate aerial attacks, shelling, abductions and extrajudicial killings.

"There are secondary sources, reliable secondary sources on the existence of mass graves," he said. "I am saying ‘secondary sources' because of reduced mobility we are not able to verify that." Recent media reports said that as many as 100 civilians are buried in mass graves.

The mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan came to an end after the Republic of South Sudan became independent on 9 July. The Council has created a UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), but the new mission does not have a mandate to operate in Sudan.

Mr. Šimonovic said the loss of a mandate in the area was a "dangerous monitoring gap."

He added that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) will soon send an assessment mission to the area. "We do hope that they would be allowed by the government to access Kordofan," he said.

During his recent stop in Khartoum on his way to South Sudan's independence ceremony, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the Sudanese government to put in place mechanisms to ensure that humanitarian operations can continue in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, and that the United Nations is given full, unfettered access to be able to monitor the areas of conflict.


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