20 May 2005
The following statement was issued today by Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions of the United Nations Commission of Human Rights, and Walter Kälin, Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs):
We were greatly disturbed to hear of the violent clashes recently sparked when Sudanese security forces sought to relocate displaced persons living in the Soba Eradi IDP area south of Khartoum on 18 May.
According to media and United Nations reports, Sudanese officials, accompanied by police, sought to relocate the 23,000 residents of the camp, who are among the over two million internally displaced persons from various parts of Sudan living in and around Khartoum. Residents reportedly resisted the relocation and a conflict ensued in which a number of civilians and police were killed or injured, and several buildings in the camp were set afire, including the police station. Conflicting versions have been offered concerning who commenced the violence, whether the police used firearms against the crowd, and the precise numbers of deaths and injuries on both sides.
While it is clear that the Government of Sudan is entitled to plan the locations at which it provides shelter and other vital services to displaced persons, it is obliged to make every effort to avoid new displacement to this already impoverished, traumatized and vulnerable population, as pointed out by the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. Where this is not possible, any relocation should be carried out in full consultation with the affected persons. Moreover, relocation sites must be suitable for habitation, with adequate access to shelter, water, food, employment and vital services.
Most importantly, relocation should not be undertaken in an atmosphere conducive to violence. Seeking the voluntary and fully informed consent of persons subject to relocation is one important means to ensure this. Another is for police and security forces to apply non violent means to the degree possible before resorting to the use of force, in accordance with pertinent international norms, such as the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.
We call on the Sudanese authorities to ensure that a thorough investigation of this incident take place as soon as possible and to take all appropriate steps to prevent similar incidents in the future.