The UN Security Council met privately today to discuss the escalating horror in Sudan. Yesterday, the human rights group Satellite Sentinel Project released a well documented report on the discovery of mass graves in the northern province of South Kordofan, which has received world media attention. (I diaried last month about reports of house to house searches and killing of ethnic Nubans who are the target of an ethnic cleansing campaign by the Khartoum regime, whose leaders are already wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur; and yesterday about the stunning documentation of mass graves and piles of body bags in Kadugli.)
As gruesome as it may seem to some, it follows that where there are mass killings, there will be mass graves. And indications are, that this is just the beginning.
Here is a slide show of the satellite images that caused the UN Security Council to meet in private yesterday to begin to address the growing crisis. (Courtesy of the Enough! project of the Center for American Progress.)
UN officials today publicly acknowledged their concerns after privately briefing the UN Security Council.
The UN News Service reported that Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs stated:
“I am increasingly alarmed by the mounting allegations of mass graves in South Kordofan, Sudan, and of reported disappearances of civilians, targeting of people on an ethnic basis, and extra-judicial killings,” Ms. Amos said in a statement released after the meeting.
She said the Government of Sudan has repeatedly denied the UN access to the area since the skirmishes between its forces and those of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-North) began in early June.
Ivan Šimonovic, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, told a news briefing in New York that the UN has received “very disturbing” reports recently from Southern Kordofan that include indiscriminate aerial attacks, shelling, abductions and extrajudicial killings.
“There are secondary sources, reliable secondary sources on the existence of mass graves,” he said. “I am saying ‘secondary sources’ because of reduced mobility we are not able to verify that.” Recent media reports said that as many as 100 civilians are buried in mass graves.
An internal UN report compiled last month but finally surfaced in The New York Times on July 14th, confirms much have what has been reported to date, and adds further horrific details. The Enough project reports:
In the most comprehensive cataloging of gross human rights violations committed in the conflict so far, a June UNMIS human rights report seen by Enough provides gruesome details of brazen executions of civilians, intimidation and assault of U.N. personnel, and forced returns and displacement of populations, all acts that may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Many of the report’s findings point to the deliberate targeting of civilians because of their political and/or ethnic affiliations. The ranks of the SPLA in South Kordofan are largely filled with Nuba, and many Nuba support the SPLA’s political wing, the SPLM. The report documents government forces summarily executing, abducting, detaining, and abusing civilians suspected of being SPLM sympathizers, bombing densely-inhabited civilian areas, and laying land mines in known SPLM neighborhoods. The report notes that witnesses and victims say that government forces have a list of Nubans wanted for being sympathetic to the SPLM/A; another incident in the report says U.N. staff being detained were “shown photographs of U.N. national staff and requested to confirm whether they were inside UNMIS [UN Mission in Sudan] compound.”
Given reports on the intensity of the military operations and the strafing of refugees by helicopter gunships and the bombing of towns with no legitimate military targets -- the numbers of mass graves and the bodies in them are likely to vastly increase once the UN, journalists and aid groups are allowed to operate freely in South Kordofan. But the government of Sudan has shown no interest in allowing that to happen.