United Action Urged Against Attacks on Civilians in Sudan

13 Groups Appeal to International Institutions

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ROME. MARCH 17, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Governments and humanitarian groups have been urged to agree on “disincentives” for warring parties who commit abuses against civilian and aid agencies in Sudan.

´´Precise benchmarking for action in both cases should be set and agreed upon by all the relevant international actors,´´ said a statement released March 1 by 13 nongovernmental organizations working in north and south Sudan.

The NGOs urged the United Nations, European Union, United States, other concerned countries, and other NGOs to ´´relay a clear and consistent message to the government of Sudan and other warring parties that any attacks against innocent civilians and humanitarian facilities are unacceptable,” IRIN news agency reported.

The statement is in reaction to a government aerial bombardment of a relief center at the village of Bieh, in Wahdah state, on Feb. 20, in which at least 24 people were reportedly killed. Food aid was being distributed to some 10,000 people at the time.

The Khartoum government has faced similar accusations in the past, though it in turn claims that rebel groups are guilty of targeting civilians in their attacks. About 4 million people have been displaced in Sudan as a direct result of the conflicts.

Meanwhile, a broad coalition of Sudanese civil society groups and indigenous NGOs called on the U.N. Security Council to create “safe havens” in southern Sudan to protect civilians from what it called the government´s ´´scorched earth policy.”

A statement issued March 5 by the coalition also appeals to the oil companies working in the western Upper Nile area to cease extraction until peace is achieved in Sudan.

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