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UN decries widespread rights abuses amid fighting near Sudan aid hub

By AFP - Dec 21,2023 - Last updated at Dec 21,2023

People displaced by the conflict in Sudan gather outside a passport office in city of Gedaref as they attempt to get passports and exit visas after fleeing flee Wad Madani, the capital of Jazirah state on Wednesday (AFP photo)

GENEVA — The United Nations warned on Wednesday of widespread rights abuses amid fighting near the former Sudan safe haven of Wad Madani, with dozens of civilians reportedly killed, including in ethnically-motivated attacks.

The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces on Sunday set up a base near Wad Madani, where their offensive has sent thousands fleeing Sudan's second city and former aid hub, many of them already displaced.

"I am very alarmed by recurring reports of widespread abuses and violations of human rights in recent days amid fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces in Wad Madani," UN rights chief Volker Turk said in a statement.

Turk also voiced concern at the "dire" humanitarian situation in the wider Al-Jezira State, which hosts nearly half a million internally displaced people. while at least 250,000 people had been displaced.

Since Sudan's war erupted on April 15 between army chief Abdel Fattah Al Burhan and his former deputy, RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, the city of Wad Madani, 180 kilometres  south of Khartoum, became a haven for thousands of displaced people during the conflict.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement that the city's population had reached 700,000, after more than half a million people took shelter there, among them 270,000 who need humanitarian assistance.

“Reports indicate that dozens of civilians including medical personnel were killed and many more injured in Wadi Madani between 15 and 19 December,” Turk said.

“Some of the attacks were allegedly ethnically motivated.”

Turk also pointed to reports of mutilations and looting, and an attack on a hospital.

Dozens of people had also reportedly been detained by both sides, “including some on the basis of their ethnic and tribal affiliations”, he said.

“Once again, I urge... the SAF and the RSF to respect international humanitarian and human rights law,” Turk said.

He insisted that both parties “must protect civilians and civilian objects. Attacks targeting civilians, including specifically protected persons like medical personnel, as well as civilian objects, including hospitals, are prohibited”.

“They must also protect humanitarian workers and human rights defenders, whose work is especially important in critical circumstances such as these, and ensure civilians have necessary access to much-needed humanitarian assistance,” he said.

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