Darfur: UNAMID Must Not Desert Civilians in Muhajeriya

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Darfur: UNAMID Must Not Desert Civilians in Muhajeriya

WASHINGTON - Amnesty International today called on the joint United
Nations/African Union peacekeeping force, UNAMID, not to desert
civilians sheltering in the town of Muhajeriya in south Darfur.

Following weeks of clashes between the government and the Justice
and Equality Movement (JEM), who control Muhajeriya, thousands of
civilians have sought protection outside the UNAMID base in the town.

"The UNAMID peacekeeping force must stand by the people of
Muhajeriya.  Ordinary civilians continue to be killed, raped and
displaced by both sides to the conflict and it is essential that UNAMID
does not withdraw and leave civilians in danger." said Tawanda Hondora,
Amnesty International's Deputy Programme Director of Africa.    

"We are seeking assurances from the peacekeeping force that it will remain in Muhajeriya and protect the civilian population."

The government of Sudan urged UNAMID to move out of Muhajeriya
before they started aerial attacks against JEM near the town on
Monday.  The Sudanese Armed forces and their allied militia have a
history of indiscriminately bombing and attacking civilians in Darfur,
in violation of UN resolution 1591

"If UNAMID peacekeepers withdraw from Muhajeriya, we are likely to
see a repeat of the indiscriminate attacks against civilians, which
took place in Sirba, Selea and Abu Suruj," added Tawanda Hondora. 
"This operation resulted in more than 115 civilian deaths and the
displacement of more than 30,000 people.  Then UN and humanitarian
agencies were denied access to the area for months.  UNAMID cannot let
this happen again."  

The government of Sudan has an obligation to protect civilians and
not undertake military exercises that will unduly place people in
danger.  The direct or indiscriminate targeting of civilians by all
sides to this conflict may constitute a violation of international
humanitarian law.  

Following the clashes, many humanitarian agencies evacuated their staff from Muhajeriya.

Background
The town of Muhajeriya has been the scene of fighting between the
Justice & Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudanese government for
more than two weeks.  The clashes have exposed the civilian population
in Muhajeriya to the worst level of violence witnessed in Darfur more
than a year.

In mid January 2009, the town of Muhajiriya was captured by JEM
forces from the Sudan Liberation Army/ Minni Minawi faction, a former
armed opposition group that signed the Darfur peace agreement with the
government.

According to the UN, up to 300,000 people in Darfur have died and
more than 2.2 million have been displaced since the conflict began in
February 2003.

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Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.

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