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US backs action on UN report on Sudan atrocities

The United States has urged Sudan to implement recommendations outlined in a UN report which found credible allegations that war crimes and crimes against humanity had been committed in the South Kordofan region.

The report, by UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillay, has been blasted by Sudan who described the UN report as "unfounded" and "malicious", yet conversely said that it would form its own committee to assess the situation in the area.

The move comes as efforts by the United States for a UN Security Council statement were stalled by Russia and China. The disagreements are said to be over the  “precise language” and not “on the need for a council statement”.

While Sudan has agreed to let UN relief agencies into the region, the regime still refuses to allow an investigation by the UN into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Pressure mounts

The statement by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, US Permanent Representative to the UN said that the United States was “deeply disturbed” by the report. She added:

“We strongly support Commissioner [Navi] Pillay’s recommendations, including immediate, unhindered access for humanitarian assistance and ongoing human rights monitoring as well as for an independent inquiry to hold perpetrators of violence to account. We urge all members of the UN Security Council to join us in pressing for implementation of these recommendations.”

The call for an investigation comes as a report by the Satellite Sentinel Project, has uncovered evidence of more mass graves in South Kordofan.

The project is a coalition of several groups working with commercial satellites and Google maps to capture and record the violence in Sudan.

Of the latest report, which included satellite imagery and eyewitness accounts, Dr Charlie Clements, Executive Director of the HarvardCarrCenter, said:

The concealment of potential evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity can itself constitute a war crime. The Satellite Sentinel Project’s evidence, presented in this report, adds urgency to the many calls to finally secure evidence of the crimes allegedly committed by the Government of Sudan.”

This was echoed by Phillipe Bolopion from Human Rights Watch, speaking to Al Jazeera who said:

"The Security Council cannot look the other way, it needs to act. It needs to let the Sudanese government know it cannot get away with murder.

We need monitors, we need an investigation. We need for people committing crimes to know they will be held accountable. At this point the Security Council is really left with no excuse not to act."

Security Council

Objections to UN Security Coucil criticism of Sudan are thought to have come from Russia and China, whose Foreign Minister Yang Jeichi visited Sudan last week, securing a lucrative oil deal for three new oil blocks in the country.

He then went on to visit South Sudan to “explore bilateral cooperation in agriculture, mining, housing, telecommunications, water conservancy, road and other sectors”.
Southern Kordofan is Sudan’s only oil-producing state, accounting for 115,000 barrels a day, according to Sudan’s minister of state for oil, Ali Ahmed Osman.

Despite having been a long standing ally of Sudan, China supported a referendum on the indepence of South Sudan over Khartoum’s objections.

See our earlier post: "A supremely pragmatic actor" (Jan 2011)

'Biased and had no evidence'

Meanwhile, Sudan has continued to deny any wrong doing in the region.

"Speaking of war crimes in South Kordofan is biased and has no evidence," foreign ministry spokesman Al-Ebeid Morawah told AFP. He went on to accuse southerners for the violence and of having "started the war and attacked government offices."

The decision to allow UN agencies into the country was described as insufficient by Western nations on the UN Security Council. Speaking to the AFP, one Western diplomat called the move “a smokescreen”.

"Khartoum is still banning free access to humanitarian aid. Khartoum is not allowing an independent inquiry into the accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity made against its troops," he added.

Sudan's state news agency said Justice Minister Mohamed Bushara Dosa vowed to form a committee to "gather information and facts, visit sites of the displaced and interview them as well as meet with government authorities and citizens" in Southern Kordofan.

The news comes as the US kept Sudan on its list of sponsors of terrorism and the UN-AU Joint Peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) extended its mandate in the country.

The UNAMID is the world’s largest peacekeeping force, consisting of 26,000 military personnel, and was established by the UN in 2007. The extension of the missions mandate quickly drew condemnation from Sudan who vowed to use all possible means to oppose it.

See our earlier posts:

UN calls for probe into Sudanese war crimes
(August 2011)

Sudan’s genocide against the Nuba people (July 2011)

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