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Sudan: Pillay urges immediate cessation of hostilities in Abyei

GENEVA (24 May 2011) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Tuesday called on both sides of the conflict in the disputed Sudanese region of Abyei to immediately cease hostilities and respect international human rights and humanitarian law.

On 19 May, a UN convoy transporting troops of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) Joint Integrated Unit came under attack in Dokura, an area just north of Abyei, which was under the control of the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). Two days later, the SAF attacked and took control of Abyei itself.

“I condemn the recent attacks and counter-attacks in the Abyei region by both sides – this is certainly no way to advance the peaceful coexistence of North and South Sudan,” the UN human rights chief said.

“I am particularly alarmed by the shelling of civilian areas in Abyei by the SAF, as well as reports of aerial bombardment in other locations such as Todacch, Tajalei and in the vicinity of the River Kiir bridge,” Pillay said. “I urge all parties to explore a negotiated solution to the Abyei crisis and to avoid a descent into further conflict and chaos.”

The United Nations Mission in Sudan has confirmed reports of bombing and shelling in and around Abyei by the SAF, as well as widespread looting and burning of houses by militiamen. Thousands of civilians have fled from the area as tanks from both the SAF and the SPLA have been positioned on either side of the Banton Bridge, which leads south from Abyei to Agok.

“Any remaining civilians in Abyei and surrounding towns and villages must be protected and guaranteed safe passage in line with international human rights and humanitarian law,” Pillay said.

She called on the Government of Sudan to ensure that, in areas under its control, homes and property are not burned and looted. Those found responsible for such criminal acts must be brought to justice.

“The governments of both the north and the south must investigate all breaches of international human rights and humanitarian law and ensure that perpetrators of violations are brought to justice,” Pillay stressed.

END

OHCHR – Country Page: Sudan http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/SDIndex.aspx

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