U.N. Says Sudanese Government Forces Killed Darfur Civilians

Sudanese government forces arbitrarily shot into a crowd of Darfur civilians last year, killing dozens, the U.N. human rights office said Friday.

Some 33 people died and 108 were wounded in the Aug. 25 incident when members of the police, army and other security forces opened fire inside the Kalma camp in south Darfur .

"Security forces failed to abide by international law principles of proportionality and of necessity," the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a 12-page report.

"Witness testimonies confirmed that security forces shot arbitrarily at a large crowd of IDPs (internally displaced persons) including women and children," it added.

Ali Sadiq, a Sudanese foreign ministry spokesman, dismissed the U.N. report, saying government forces were met with fire when they stormed the camp in an attempt to execute a search warrant.

"Kalma was hosting anti-government rebels and is a place for the accumulation of weapons, robbers, and outlaws," he said.

U.N. investigators determined that although some inhabitants of the camp tried to prevent the security forces from entering, there was no evidence to support the government's claim that gunmen inside the camp shot at security forces.

"It did not appear that the crowd posed any imminent threat to the security forces before they opened fire on the crowd," the report said.

Among those killed were nine children and a 75-year-old woman who drowned in a pool of water as she attempted to flee, the report said.

In November, camp residents described the incident in conversations with The Associated Press.

One woman said she and her children huddled in a corner of her hut as bullets from machine guns and possibly artillery were whizzing over her head. She said she heard Sudanese security officials shout through loudspeakers asking camp residents to leave. The camp was drenched in seasonal rain.

U.N. officials say up to 300,000 people have been killed in the Darfur conflict and more than 2.5 million displaced. The government says the figures are exaggerated and has made no secret of its desire to empty the camps, which it says have become strongholds for rebels and the core of their support.

Following the attack, the government said it was sending its own investigator to verify reports of government excessive force. No results were reported from that investigation.

The 33 residents killed have been buried in four mass graves outside the compound of the U.N.-African Union peacekeepers inside Kalma. The force has since established 24 hours presence in the camp.


On the Net:

OHCHR Web site: www.ohchr.org

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APTV 01-23-09 1255EST