HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH "Crises in Sudan and Northern Uganda"
Testimony of Jemera Rone, Human Rights Watch Before the House Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights and the Subcommittee on Africa July 29, 1998
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Thank you for holding this important hearing on the crises in Sudan and northern Uganda today and for inviting Human Rights Watch to testify. My name is Jemera Rone and I have been the Sudan researcher for five years at Human Rights Watch, and counsel since 1985, specializing in international humanitarian law or the rules of war. I most recently visited rebel areas of Southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains twice in the last year, and Uganda once. My March 1998 application for a visa to visit government-controlled areas of Sudan, including the capital Khartoum, was not granted despite the Sudan government's representations that it is "open" to all human rights monitors. My last visit to Khartoum was in 1995.

The wars in Sudan and Uganda overlap. Both states back and fund the other's rebels. It is fair to say that this region is convulsed in war and its spin-offs, including famine and disease. The situation of human rights in the two countries is different, however. My remarks will focus on some ways in which the two conflicts intersect, and on some human rights abuses that are endemic to the conflicts.

The biggest crisis in the area right now is undoubtedly the famine in southern Sudan to which the Ugandan government contributes indirectly through its support of the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). All parties to the southern conflict, however, have contributed to the famine. With regard to the famine-producing human rights abuses set forth in this testimony, Human Rights Watch recommends the following steps for donor governments, including the U.S.:

· insist on full international monitoring of relief efforts, with unrestricted access for food monitors and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) not aligned with any party, possibly in "poll-watching" teams including the relevant authorities;

· support the recently-created Technical Working Group and Taskforce (composed of U.N. and SPLA representatives) to find solutions for relief issues in the rebel areas, including diversion and mismanagement. Donors should require that a similar effort be undertaken regarding relief going into government-controlled areas of Sudan;

· refuse to supply spare parts for the Babanusa-Wau train or to use it to deliver relief; this train has been used for years solely for military resupply and to commit human rights abuses. Permit instead a train under the U.N. flag dedicated solely to relief, with international monitors to ride on the train to guarantee its proper use and to deter SPLA attacks;

· insist that those who caused the famine help defray its cost: the Sudan government can contribute grain from a good harvest in western Sudan, and the SPLA might contribute the labor of its soldiers for humanitarian purposes during the three-month ceasefire in famine-affected areas;

· require the government, without further ado, to live up to its promise on May 20, 1998 to permit a U.N. assessment team (and relief if needed) into the rebel-controlled areas of the Nuba Mountains, where the government has never allowed any kind of relief whatsoever at any time during the war;

· require the parties to the conflict to cease all targeted and indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian objects;

· require the parties to end looting and punish the looters, and those who buy and sell looted goods;

· require the parties to respect freedom of movement so that anyone may move to and from rural areas to cultivate; require the parties, particularly the government of Sudan, to end arbitrary detentions of persons fleeing the famine, and protect the safety of the displaced; and

· fully support and fund the establishment of full-time in-country U.N. human rights officers to operate throughout Sudan, to promptly inform the world community of human rights abuses, particularly those that lead to famine.

    Another serious crisis in the region is the large-scale abduction of Ugandan Acholi children by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan rebel group supported by the government of Sudan. The Sudan government's support for the LRA appears to be in retaliation for Uganda's support of the SPLA. However, the activities of the LRA are so dominated by the abduction of children that the Sudan government must find another way to approach Uganda on this topic, one that does not sacrifice the children of northern Uganda. Human Rights Watch recommends that donors pressure the Sudan government to:

· cease all military aid and other support to the Lord's Resistance Army, until it complies with the requirements of international humanitarian law (i.e., until the LRA stops abducting children, stops killing children, stops torturing children, stops sexually abusing children, releases all the children in its captivity, and generally respects the human rights of civilians in the areas of conflict); and

· use Sudanese influence over the Lord's Resistance Army to stop LRA abduction, killing, torture, and sexual abuse of children, to ensure that all LRA captives are treated humanely, and to bring about the immediate release of children held by the LRA.

The U.S. and other governments should find ways to pressure the LRA directly on the issue of abuse of children.

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July 1998

Human Rights Watch