Demand for inquiry into Sudanese 'atrocities'

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Human rights organisations appealed yesterday for an independent international investigation into alleged atrocities by Sudan against the African Nuba people in the mountains on its southern border. They are also calling on the UN Security Council to urgently press the government in Khartoum to allow the resumption of aid flights into the Nuba Mountains as well as the presence of foreign observers on the ground.

“There's an urgent need for an independent investigation into what's taken place and is still taking place in the Nuba Mountains,” said Jehanne Henry from Human Rights Watch, one of four groups to call for an inquiry into fighting in South Kordofan state where a disputed election led to heavy fighting last month.

“Sudan must be forcefully pushed into opening up the area to aid.” she said. Sudan has barred all international access to South Kordofan but The Independent was able to reach the affected areas and confirm reports of heavy civilian casualties and indiscriminate bombing by government forces. As many as 20,000 people were found to be living in horredous conditions in the caves and rocks of a single mountain range last week where they had fled to escape the aerial campaign.

Local relief agencies have estimated that as many as 100,000 people have been displaced since Khartoum launched a violent campaign to disarm the Nuban Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement and arrest or assassinate it political leadership and allies.

President Omar al-Bashir has denied that his forces have targeted civilians but doctors on the ground say that as many as 600 people have been killed since early June, including women and children shredded by bombs.

Talks between the Khartoum and the SPLM, formerly allied to the same movement in South Sudan, have decisively broken down. The Nuban rebel army is seeking an alliance with groups in Blue Nile State and Darfur to push for a democratic and secular government to replace the hardline Arab-Islamic Bashir regime.

A leaked UN report accused Khartoum of blocking their mission in the area and “indiscriminate shelling” and bombing of civilians in the Nuba Mountains.

The UN mission has been accused of failing to protect civilians and eye-witnesses told The Independent that peacekeepers allowed Nubans to be “slaughtered like sheep” outside its base in the state capital, Kadugli.

Refugees from the fighting further north have described similar atrocities in the battle for the town of Dalami.