(NEW YORK) - New satellite imagery and eyewitness testimonies from rebel-held areas in Sudan’s Blue Nile State show that Sudanese military forces have resorted to brutal scorched earth tactics to drive out the civilian population, said Amnesty International in a report published today.Witnesses also described bombing attacks as recent as April 2013 that killed children and other civilians.
‘We had no time to bury them: War crimes in Sudan’s Blue Nile State’ documents how bombings and ground attacks by Sudanese military forces have destroyed entire villages, left many dead and injured, and forced tens of thousands to flee - with many now facing starvation, disease and exhaustion.
“This systematic and deliberate targeting of civilians follows a disturbing pattern that was used by the Sudanese government to devastating effect in Darfur,” said Jean-Baptiste Gallopin, Amnesty International’s Sudan researcher. “Deliberately attacking civilians is a war crime. Given the scale, as well as the apparently systematic nature of these attacks, they may also constitute crimes against humanity.”
The report also describes how some people had to choose between carrying their children to safety andcarrying their elderly parents. Some of those who were unable to run because of disability or age were burned alive in their homes; others were reportedly shot dead by Sudanese troops and pro-government militia. In addition, soldiers and militiamen looted valuable possessions, including livestock, before systematically setting fire to houses.
The humanitarian situation of those remaining in rebel-held areas is dire. Because civilians are unable to tend their crops without fear of being bombed, food supplies are scarce. The organization documented more deaths from hunger, illness and deprivation than as a direct result of the violence.
The Sudanese government continues to block humanitarian relief to civilians in rebel-held areas.
“By making the unconscionable decision to bar humanitarian aid, the Sudanese government is once again causing civilian deaths and suffering on a massive scale,” said Gallopin.“The international community has failed to enforce the International Criminal Court’s indictment of President Omar al-Bashir who is wanted on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur. The ongoing violations in Blue Nile demonstrate yet again that it is civilians who pay the price when impunity for war crimes goes unchecked.”
Amnesty International is calling on the government of Sudan to immediately end indiscriminate aerial bombings and deliberate ground attacks in civilian areas and to grant immediate access to humanitarian organizations.
“The possibility of a long-term stalemate is extremely worrying," said Gallopin. "The international community must give this human rights crisis the attention it deserves."