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U.N. urges probe into Sudan "war crime" reports
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United Nations »
By Sherine El Madany
Mon Aug 15, 2011 1:37pm EDT
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - The United Nations called on Monday for an inquiry into reports of human rights abuses in Sudan's conflict-ridden Southern Kordofan region that it said could amount to war crimes.
Tensions have flared in state which holds most of Sudan's remaining known oil reserves, after South Sudan seceded last month, taking its oilfields with it.
Tens of thousands of civilians have fled since fighting broke out there in early June between Sudan's army and fighters, many of them from Southern Kordofan's ethnic Nuba group.
A 12-page report by the United Nations human rights office documented alleged violations in the state capital Kadugli and the surrounding Nuba mountains including extrajudicial killings, illegal detention, enforced disappearances, attacks against civilians, looting of homes and mass displacement.
The reports "if substantiated, could amount to crimes against humanity or war crimes," the United Nations said.
Most of the reported violations were blamed on Sudan's army and its allied militias, the report said.
But the army's opponents, known as the Sudan People's Liberation Army North (SPLA-N), also reportedly mined parts of Kadugli, the report said.
Nobody was immediately available to comment from Sudan's army which has dismissed reports of abuses in the past.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights listed about 30 incidents of violence and rights abuses in the preliminary report.
One part quoted an eyewitness saying Sudanese army personnel piled dead bodies into a mass grave in al-Gardut neighborhood in Tillo and used a bulldozer to fill it in.
The report said insecurity and restrictions on movement in June had hampered efforts to deliver aid in the state.
Southern Kordofan includes large populations which sided with South Sudan during a 20-year civil war.
The United Nations said on June 22 that 73,000 people had fled violence in Southern Kordofan after more than two weeks of fighting and some later returned to their homes.
Activists and some aid workers have accused the Khartoum government of starting the fighting to stamp its authority on the key oil-producing state after South Sudan broke away. Southern Kordofan borders the new country of South Sudan.
Locals have said fighting flared after the government tried to disarm members of the SPLM-N, who were allied to South Sudan before the split.
Khartoum denies charges of human rights abuses in Southern Kordofan. The northern army has dismissed allegations that it had made the humanitarian situation worse, saying it is working to help civilians, not hurt them.
It has accused the SPLA-N fighters of launching a rebellion inside Southern Kordofan to try and control the region, and team up with rebels in other areas to challenge the national government.
"This is a preliminary report produced under very challenging circumstances and with very limited access to affected areas," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in a statement Monday.
"However what it suggests has been happening in Southern Kordofan is so serious that it is essential there is an independent, thorough and objective inquiry with the aim of holding perpetrators to account."
The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Sudan's president Omar Haswsan al-Bashir and other officials to face charges of masterminding war crimes during a separate conflict in the country's Darfur region, which borders Southern Kordofan. Sudan refuses to recognize the court.
(Editing by Tom Pfeiffer and Andrew Heavens)
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