Amnesty International Urges United Nations to Act to Control Arms to Sudan's Southern Kordofan

Press Release
July 8, 2011

Amnesty International Urges United Nations to Act to Control Arms to Sudan's Southern Kordofan

(Amnesty International's arms control experts will attend the next stage of the Arms Trade Treaty talks July 11-15 at the United Nations in New York -- they will be available for media briefings and interviews, starting Monday, July 11. Please contact: 212-633-4150 to arrange an interview)

Human Rights Organization Urges President Obama to Show Leadership on Arms Treaty as United States Supplies Weapons and Military Training to Sudan Forces

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, strimel@aiusa.org

(New York) -- United Nations member states must act to control arms shipments to volatile regions like Sudan's Southern Kordofan, Amnesty International said today, ahead of next week's talks on a global Arms Trade Treaty.

China, Russia, and the United States are among those who have provided weapons or military training to the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), the official army of South Sudan, which marks its independence on Saturday (July 9).

Analysis by Amnesty International has linked Russian-made aircraft to indiscriminate airstrikes in the past month that led to civilian deaths and injuries in the regional capital Kadugli and other areas in Southern Kordofan.

"Civilians are being killed and injured in Southern Kordofan with weapons manufactured by governments overseas who fail to rigorously assess the potential humanitarian and human rights risks before doing business with armed forces," said Erwin Van Der Borght, director of the Africa Program at Amnesty International.

"In their negotiations on a global Arms Trade Treaty next week, big powers like China, Russia, and the U.S.A. must support the rule that no weapons or munitions are sold to forces who pose a substantial risk of committing serious human rights violations."

In Southern Kordofan, the Sudanese Air Force has recently used Russian-made Antonov aircraft and Sukhoi SU-25 fighter jets, 14 of which were exported from Belarus to Sudan in 2008 and 2009, according to UN data.

Expert analysis of images of rocket fragments from airstrikes on 14 and 25 June has determined that the S-5 57mm rocket and USSR 240mm air-launched rocket were used. While it has not been possible to identify the rocket supplier, it is known these munitions can be fired from MiG-21 or SU-25 jets or from Mi24 attack helicopters.

According to satellite imagery, all of these aircraft as well as an Antonov aircraft were present at the El Obeid airbase in Northern Kordofan on June 28. Sudanese Air Force attack helicopters are maintained by a Russian company and Sudanese Mi-24 pilots have been trained in Russia.

Sudan's military has in the past used Russian-made Antonovs for indiscriminate aerial bombing in its western Darfur region.

China has been one of the main suppliers of conventional arms to the SAF. In 2008 and 2009, China sold Sudan more than $23 million (dollars) worth of artillery as well as nearly $11 (dollars) million worth of tanks and other armored fighting vehicles and $1.8 million worth of military firearms, according to UN data. China only reports the export of sporting and hunting shotguns and rifles over the same time period.

Fighting between the SPLA and armed opposition groups since January 2011 has killed hundreds of civilians and displaced more than 10,000 people in Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei States in South Sudan. SPLA forces have been responsible for serious violations, including unlawful killings and the destruction of homes and other civilian properties. Amnesty International has called for accountability for abuses by soldiers, police, and other security forces in South Sudan.

The Ukraine transferred a major shipment of arms to the SPLA through Kenya and Uganda in 2007 and 2008. The weaponry and munitions included tanks, anti-aircraft guns, multiple rocket launchers and automatic rifles.

The U.S. government has reportedly provided $100 million (dollars) a year worth of military assistance to the SPLA in South Sudan. Little has been published about the nature of this assistance, but a December 2009 diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks refers to "our training program for the SPLA, including combat arms soldier training."

"The role of the big powers in supplying arms and military training that is stoking conflict in Sudan underscores the urgency for an Arms Trade Treaty with teeth," said Brian Wood, arms control expert for Amnesty International. "The treaty must include effective measures to ensure states comply with and enforce all of its provisions."

Adotei, Akwei, managing director for Government Relations at Amnesty International USA in Washington, said: "The United States has an opportunity to strengthen its own national security while helping the global community effectively address a major cause of conflict and human rights abuses by ensuring  the treaty has effective measures to ensure compliance and enforcement by states. It is time for President Obama to show leadership on this issue."
 
"The permanent members of the U.N. Security Council must now throw their political might behind efforts to make the treaty effective to save lives and prevent human rights abuses, or risk undermining its purpose and jeopardizing the whole process," said Wood.

Amnesty International is calling on states negotiating the Arms Trade Treaty to include procedures to implement a prohibition on arms transfers when there is a substantial risk of serious human rights and other violations. The treaty must also criminalize illicit trafficking and those involved in breaking arms embargoes, the organization said.


Notes to editors
Further background information on arms supplies to Sudan can be found here:
http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AFR54/022/2011/en

Amnesty International has recently published the following briefing papers on the Arms Trade Treaty:
Our Right to Know: Transparent Reporting under an Arms Trade Treaty   http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ACT30/116/2011/en     
How an Arms Trade Treaty can help prevent Armed Violence   http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ACT30/030/2011/en   
Arms for Repression: Will they be covered by an Arms Trade Treaty?   http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ACT30/120/2011/en   
Killer facts: The impact of the irresponsible arms trade on lives, rights and livelihoods http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ACT30/005/2010/en