(Juba) - The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights should call on Sudan to cease human rights abuses in Southern Kordofan, Human Rights Watch, Interights, REDRESS, and the Sudan Democracy First Group said today. On July 2, 2011, the four human rights organizations petitioned the African Commission to urge the Sudanese government to comply with its obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.

The petition asserts that Sudanese security forces have carried out indiscriminate attacks on civilians and committed other serious human rights violations in Southern Kordofan, an oil-rich state near the border with newly independent South Sudan. Over 73,000 people have been displaced, and the humanitarian situation is dire.

"Since June, Sudanese forces have committed rampant abuses against the South Kordofan population," said Judy Oder, lawyer at Interights. "It is crucial for the African Commission to speak out."

The Sudanese government has blocked access to the affected areas, preventing the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) and other international agencies from providing humanitarian assistance, helping to protect civilians, and monitoring the human rights situation. Government security forces have arbitrarily arrested and detained UN national staff.

"The government's indiscriminate bombing and artillery shelling of civilian areas should stop immediately," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "There is also credible evidence of arbitrary arrests, ill-treatment and torture because of people's alleged political affiliations."

Fighting broke out on June 5, between the Sudan Armed Forces and elements of the southern Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) near Kadugli, the capital of Southern Kordofan. The fighting followed weeks of growing tension between the ruling National Congress Party and the southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) over security arrangements in Southern Kordofan and the re-election of Ahmed Haroun as governor of the state. Haroun is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur.

"We want African political and human rights bodies to heed the international calls for a fact-finding mission to South Kordofan to investigate the scale of violations, identify those responsible, and ensure accountability and justice for abuses," said Monim El Jack, co-founder of the Sudan Democracy First Group. "A failure to do so would risk a repeat of gross violations witnessed in the Nuba mountains in the 1990s and later in Darfur."