Sudan PhotoThe Baroness Cox
Tel: 0208 204 7336/5661
FOR URGENT CONSIDERATION
The Rt. Hon. William Hague
Secretary of State
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Cc The Lord Howell of Guildford, Henry Bellingham MP, Douglas Alexander MP, Andrew Mitchell MP, The Baroness Verma, The Baroness Kinnock.
December 6th 2011
We wrote to you on June 10th this year to request your urgent response to the then rapidly deteriorating situation in Southern Kordofan and Abyie, when reports from NGOs, including many well-recognised NGOs starkly described the situation as ‘ethnic cleansing’.
You will naturally be aware that subsequently, the situation has deteriorated with an escalation of military offensives by Khartoum against civilians in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile and that Khartoum continues to deny access by aid organisations to victims of these offensives.
Since our previous letter, other causes for grave concern include:
1. The recent report by Yasir Arman Secretary General, SPLM-N, which claims :
‘In the last three days, the National Congress Government of Sudan started launching its summer offensive in the Nuba Mountains in four different directions after they brought fresh forces from Western Sudan and Attbra training centre, which their graduation was attended by the two indicted war criminals, General Abedraheim Hussain, the Minister of Defence, and Ahmad Haroun. The forces started a major offensive in Torge-Bram area. The fighting is continuing the last two days. There is a heavy bombardment against civilian populations and massive displacement. The National Congress summer offensive is going to result in a much bigger humanitarian crisis than the last offensive that started in June 2011. The civilian population lacks water, which they were getting from the rainy season, and food, which they didn’t harvest during the rainy season because of the war’.
2. The aerial bombardment of civilians is a crime against humanity; the ethnic cleansing could soon become genocide.
3. Aid agencies suggest over 305,000 civilians had previously been internally displaced in South Kordofan because of the conflict and over 23,000 have now fled to Unity state in Southern Sudan.
4. The humanitarian conditions for the displaced are deteriorating with many hiding in caves in the mountains at risk from lethal snakes. HART was told “We are more afraid of the bombs than we are of the snakes”. Hiding in the harsh mountain conditions, they cannot obtain adequate supplies of food, water and medicines. Incidence of diseases including pneumonia, diarrhoea, skin infections, malaria, and typhoid is rising.
5. Deaths from malnutrition are already recorded; and growing numbers of children suffering from malnutrition – estimated 20-27% of children in Heiban and approximately the same figure for refugees arriving in Yida recorded on an index of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) and 2-9% on Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM).
6. The government of Khartoum continues to deny access to humanitarian organisations to reach the victims of the conflict.
7. Aerial bombardment by SAF is an almost daily occurrence, with a reported 160 bombs dropped on civilians between 13 September and 13 October. In addition to those civilians killed, many others will die from injuries because of lack of access to medical care.
8. Constant aerial bombardment prevents farmers from cultivating their land, inevitably exacerbating the desperate situation with regard to food supplies. Reports from Buram locality show that only 23% of last years fields were cultivated.
9. Reportedly over 23,000 refugees have fled into Unity State in the new Republic of South with another 300-500 arriving every day. Many are already suffering severe health problems having walked for days without food or water and vulnerable to continuing aerial bombardments.
10. On 10 November, 4 bombs targeted Yida, a de-facto refugee camp in Unity State, South Sudan.
11. Reports of deployment by Khartoum of long-range missiles against civilians: On December 4, 2011 at approximately 7:50pm local time, two long range missiles hit Kauda. Four civilians were wounded in the attack. The missiles are thought to have originated from Kadugli. Kadugli is 92km from Kauda. Currently, there are no hard military targets in Kauda. At 2:20 p.m. Monday, December 5th, four missile rockets hit a village just outside of Kauda, Southern Kordofan near a local market killing two young girls, ages 10 and 13, and wounding three other civilians. There were no military targets in the area.
12. The governor in Southern Kordofan, already wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes, has prevented the setting up of camps for those who have been displaced.
• Reports from numerous sources consistently describe offensives and atrocities perpetrated by the Government of Sudan similar to those reported in Southern Kordofan. These include aerial bombardment resulting in civilian deaths and injuries, denial of access for humanitarian aid, extrajudicial killings, detentions and torture of civilians, and looting of civilian properties.
• It is estimated that up to 400,000 have been displaced from Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, 30-40,000 have fled into Ethiopia.
• This week SPLM-N reported around 43,000 civilians who have fled Blue Nile are stuck at the border trying to entre South Sudan due to sever lack of food and continued aerial bombing by SAF.
• A new report by the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) analysing images captured on 11 – 27 November indicates SAF destruction of civilian homes, heavy armour movement and aerial bombardment in Amara village.
• Over 120,000 of the indigenous Ngok Dinka Population have fled to South Sudan. Many aid organisations, including Oxfam, have pulled out of the region.
• The plight of civilians displaced from Abyei continues to be cause for grave concern both for Sudan and South Sudan. During a visit to Bahr-El-Ghazal last month, HART met some of the many 100,000 who had fled the fighting in Abyei and are living in conditions of great hardship in improvised camps without adequate facilities or supplies. Several hundreds have died from hunger.
In response to these deeply disturbing developments, David Alton and I have been urging HMG to put more effective pressure on Khartoum to desist from these genocidal policies by imposing targeted sanctions, including restriction of travel to the UK for senior members of the NCP, responsible for this escalating catastrophe. However, we have been advised that the British Government is unwilling to take more effective measures to call Khartoum to account because of the difficulty of treading the line of making clear to the Government of Sudan that their actions in Southern Kordofan are unacceptable, while maintaining access and influence in order to maintain communication and dialogue with the Government in Khartoum.
Foreign Secretary, may we point out that the regime in Khartoum has, for over two decades, succeeded in maintaining dialogue while it has continued to kill its own people. The citizens of The Republics of Sudan and South Sudan are increasingly concerned that the British Government is failing to respond adequately to Khartoum’s escalating aggression, to such an extent that it could appear to be condoning this aggression by refusal to take appropriate measures. Moreover, according to many observers, Britain appears to making trade interests with the Republic of Sudan a greater priority than doing more to respond to gross violations of human rights and the emergence of a situation at least as grave as the catastrophe in Darfur.
It is also being said that the British government, claimed, after Rwanda, that we in the United Kingdom would never allow another genocide. However, the British government seems to be doing precisely this. The scale of death and suffering caused by the ruthless military offensives against the peoples in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile; the denial of access to international investigators or to the media as well as the refusal to allow access by aid organisations to victims of military offensives; and the catalogue of reports of violations of human rights, including unwarranted arrests, torture and threatened executions would seem to warrant a stronger response than continuing dialogue. It is feared that, unless the British government, which has a special responsibility for – as well as a special relationship with – Sudan, makes a more effective intervention, it will be seen to be allowing Khartoum to continue to kill its own people and to destabilise South Sudan with impunity.
‘The silence and the impunity they are getting is encouraging them to commit more crimes in front of the eyes and ears of the whole world’. (Yasir Arman).
Foreign secretary, you will be fully aware of the danger of allowing ruthless regimes to carry out their crimes against humanity with impunity. May we ask you, once again, as a matter of urgency, as the situation deteriorates in Sudan and the suffering escalates, to reconsider HMG’s position and to undertake some mote effective action. We have highlighted the imposition of targeted sanctions against leading members of the NCP, because this would put pressure on those who currently enjoy unimpeded travel to London, many whom also enjoy their ownership of residences here.
Until, and unless HMG is seen to be taking some such effective action, instead of making continuing to make dialogue a priority, there will be a real danger that Khartoum will believe it can escalate its aggression with impunity, not only with dire humanitarian consequences, but also with serious implications for the vulnerable new nation of South Sudan and for the geo-political stability of the region.
I am writing this letter with the full support of Lord Alton of Liverpool.
We hope that Lord Howell will be able to respond to issues raised in this letter when he replies to a debate to be held in the House of Lords tomorrow. Unfortunately, I will not be able to be present as I have a longstanding commitment to participate in a service in Westminster Abbey, but I believe my colleague David Alton will be referring to them.
(Baroness Cox of Queensbury)