(New York)- Rising violence in eastern Chad and Darfur highlights the immediate need for the United Nations Security Council to strengthen civilian protection by the UN mission in Sudan following Khartoum’s expulsion of the UN secretary-general’s special representative in Sudan, Jan Pronk, Human Rights Watch said today.
“The Security Council should not accept Khartoum’s endless intransigence over any UN effort to protect Sudanese civilians,” said Peter Takirambudde, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Violence in Darfur and eastern Chad is escalating, and the strong UN force that the Security Council mandated back in August is urgently needed to protect civilians on both sides of the border.”
Violence against civilians in Darfur has been escalating in the past two months following clashes between the Sudanese government and a coalition of Darfur rebel factions that refused to sign the Darfur Peace Agreement in May.
The coalition, which calls itself the National Redemption Front, is mainly active in North Darfur, where civilians have been victims of indiscriminate bombing carried out by government forces as part of Khartoum’s recent military offensive.
The Sudanese government’s formal expulsion of Pronk on October 22 came two days after the Sudanese army voiced anger over the UN envoy’s statement in his weblog that the Sudanese army had suffered two major losses and declining morale in the clashes in North Darfur.
“Pronk’s expulsion is Khartoum’s latest tactic in its ongoing effort to subvert UN efforts to protect civilians in Sudan,” said Peter Takirambudde. “The Security Council needs to implement targeted sanctions against senior Sudanese officials to press Khartoum to cooperate with the UN.”
Inter-ethnic attacks on civilians by militias in eastern Chad have also been increasing since early October, partly due to an increase in armed groups and rising ethnic and political tensions linked both to the violence in Darfur and domestic politics in Chad.
On the same day as Pronk’s expulsion, a Chadian rebel group attacked the Chadian town of Goz Beida in a sign of escalating conflict in eastern Chad. The Chadian government claimed to have recaptured it later on October 22.
Although there were no reports of civilian casualties, concerned by the potential for ethnic reprisals against civilians Human Rights Watch called for all armed groups operating in the area, including the Chadian government, to fully respect the rights of civilians and their property to protection, and to always distinguish civilians from combatants in armed conflicts.