We Had No Time To Bury Them: War Crimes in Sudan's Blue Nile State

June 10, 2013

We Had No Time To Bury Them: War Crimes in Sudan's Blue Nile State

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These deprivations disproportionately affect the very old, the very young, and the disabled. Numerous refugees told Amnesty International about the plight of elderly and disabled people who-because they were physically unable to make the long trek to the refugee camps in South Sudan-were left behind. Some people were forced to choose between carrying their children to safety or carrying their elderly parents. Others described how children died during the journey, victims of malnourishment, untreated diseases, and exhaustion.

Sayub Ahmed Ule, age 67, was one of the lucky ones; he walked for three days from the village of Wadega to reach the border of South Sudan. But several of his friends were too old and frail for the journey. "My friend Hussain is almost 80," Ule said, describing a friend who was left behind, "he can't walk at all."

Amnesty International found that refugees from Blue Nile state face additional challenges even upon reaching safety in South Sudan, including the threat of coercive recruitment by the SPLA-N. The SPLA-N's active presence within the camps undermines the camps' civilian and humanitarian character, diverts scarce resources, and detracts from the credibility of the humanitarian effort.

Prospects for both refugees and people remaining in war-ravaged areas of Blue Nile state are dim. While the refugee outflow from Blue Nile state triggered a humanitarian response from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and aid organizations, the conflict has otherwise received scant international attention. Preoccupied by relations between Sudan and South Sudan, the UN Security Council and the African Union have failed to take real action to address the violent abuses, or to address the need for urgent and impartial humanitarian assistance in Blue Nile state or in nearby Southern Kordofan state, where a closely related armed conflict is taking place. The possibility of a long-term stalemate and protracted forced displacement is extremely worrying.

Much of what is now happening in Blue Nile state and Southern Kordofan follows a pattern that is familiar from Darfur, and, indeed, from Sudan's decades-long war in southern Sudan, now South Sudan. Although Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and several other high government officials remain under indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the grave human rights crimes they allegedly committed in Darfur, the pursuit of justice has lagged. Neither the UN Security Council nor influential states have shown any great eagerness to press Sudan to cooperate with the court's investigation, and President Bashir continues to travel to an array of African, Asian and Middle Eastern countries without hindrance. With no accountability for past crimes, there is little deterrence for those of the present.

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