Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sudan suspends Catholic aid group's work in Darfur

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan has suspended the work of the humanitarian agency Catholic Relief Services in West Darfur state, accusing it of distributing Bibles, a local aid official said on Saturday.
It was the latest in a series of restrictions on foreign humanitarian agencies in Darfur, where eight years of conflict have led to one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. The United Nations estimates 300,000 people have been killed since the conflict began.

"The work of CRS has been suspended in West Darfur after there was an accusation that they had been distributing Bibles," Mohamed Awad, head of the government's Humanitarian Aid Commission in the state, told Reuters by telephone.

Darfur is almost entirely Muslim. Awad said Bibles had been found in refugee camps and schools and the governor had ordered an investigation which showed they had been handed out by CRS.

He said a final decision had yet to be made on CRS operations in the state. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Darfur citizens need protection

Last month, approximately 80 San Antonio area residents gathered to watch “The Last Survivor,” a documentary that presents the stories of four genocide survivors and their struggle to make sense of tragedy.

The showing of the film was timely, taking place on the very day that citizens of south Sudan began voting in a referendum to determine whether to become an independent country. This vote, in which an estimated 99 percent of the population voted for independence, is the culmination of a process put in place by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended 22 years of civil war that resulted in 2 million deaths. The United States was instrumental in negotiating the CPA; it is important that the U.S. and its international partners remain engaged as post-referendum issues such as wealth sharing and border demarcation are worked out. There is significant risk of a return to violence if the international community looks away at this critical time.

In spite of all they have gone through, the people of South Sudan may be lucky compared to those in Darfur. The conflict in Darfur began during the time when significant attention was turned towards South Sudan as the CPA negotiations took place. Recently, as the world has turned to put the focus on the referendum in the south, violence in Darfur has once again increased. In December, over 32,000 Darfuri civilians were forced to flee from their homes because of aerial attacks by the government of Sudan and clashes between the government and rebel groups. In 2010, an estimated 300,000 civilians were displaced in Darfur. Over one-third of the population is living in internally displaced persons camps. Survivors face severe shortages of food and clean water.

The new U.S. Special Advisor to Darfur, Ambassador Dane Smith, must address these recent atrocities and make it clear to the Sudanese regime that violence targeting civilians will not be tolerated and will not lead to normalized relations with the United States. Ambassador Smith must push for unfettered access for peacekeepers and humanitarian workers throughout Darfur to support and protect the millions of civilians uprooted by the violence. Protection of civilians in Darfur is a key stepping stone toward eventual peace and new negotiations which can permanently end the crisis. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

New Satellite Images Reveal Continuing Human Rights Atrocities in Darfur, Amnesty International Says

WASHINGTON - February 2 - New satellite image analysis released today shows that while international attention is focused on the South Sudan referendum, grave violations of human rights continue in neighboring Darfur. Images secured by Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) and analyzed with partners from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) show irrefutably that civilians were targeted in the Negeha region of south Darfur with whole villages burned to the ground as recently as December. According to Amnesty International, in December alone, more than 20,000 people were displaced by government attacks, including in Dar Al Salam, Shangil Tobaya and Khor Abeche displacement camps in north and south Darfur.

Scott Edwards, AIUSA Advocacy Director for Africa, stated: "While the world has understandably turned a hopeful eye to the referendum process, the satellite evidence collected from the Negeha region of Darfur demonstrates what happens when vigilant attention wanes and support for accountability cedes to political or diplomatic expediency."

The imagery and analysis corroborate reports of attacks against civilians in Negeha in December 2010, just a few weeks before the referendum in South Sudan took place.

The release of the findings coincides with other recent high profile uses of satellite imagery in connection with the referendum, and builds on Amnesty International's three-year-old Eyes on Darfur ( satellite project. It is a continuation of several years of work by Amnesty International to use geospatial tools for human rights monitoring.

"Unless the international community demands accountability for the atrocities and ensures that those responsible do not evade justice, these images will serve only as a reminder of the world's collective failure and responsibillity to the victims in Darfur," said Edwards.

Arrest warrants for President Omar al Bashir and several Sudanese officials and militia leaders have been issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and in the case of the president, genocide. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>