26 August 2008 -- UNAMID condemns use of excessive force at Kalma IDP camp in South Darfur
On Monday 25 August, UNAMID officials in the South Darfur Sector Headquarters of Nyala received information that Government of Sudan (GoS) armed elements were at the Kalma Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp, situated 25km from the town of Nyala. Initial reports mentioned that shots had been fired at the camp location, resulting in a number of casualties.
According to GoS authorities, its military and police forces were granted a search warrant for drugs and weapons by the South Darfur Attorney General and decided to raid the camp to execute this warrant. UNAMID Security indicated that 60 GoS forces vehicles surrounded Kalma camp at 0730hrs and that attempts to forcibly enter the camp were resisted by the IDPs. The situation escalated into confrontation and exchange of gunfire, with no indication as to who started it. Humanitarian staff who left the camp, reported the shooting lasted for about 2hrs.
A UNAMID team, made of UNAMID Military, UNPOL, UN Security and humanitarian agencies personnel, was tasked with a fact-finding mission and providing assistance in rescuing and evacuating Kalma casualties to Nyala Hospital. Negotiations were conducted with the GoS security authorities, resulting in the UNAMID team leaving for the camp at approximately 1230hrs.
The team was stopped on its way to Kalma at a GoS National Security (NS) check-point, which demanded a written authorization from the NS General Commanding. While the UNAMID team was eventually allowed to proceed, this was not the case for the accompanying medical NGO team. New negotiations involving GoS Security, the NGO concerned and UNAMID were conducted. After 2 hours, a GoS representative authorized the team to proceed to the camp where it arrived at 1700hrs, and from where it returned to report back to base at 2215hrs.
On the basis of information provided to the UNAMID team while on site, the casualty toll amounted to 64 killed and 117 wounded, of which 49 were evacuated by UNAMID to the Nyala Hospital. While eleven bodies were actually seeen by the team, unconfirmed reports stated a higher number of fatalities. Similiarly, the number of wounded could be higher than indicated to the team and all these reports will be verified by UNAMID.
The UNAMID team noted that GoS Military and Police were heavily armed, while lthe IDPs seemed to carry only sticks, knives, and spear. GoS security forces alleged that they were met by a human shield of women and children, from behind which gunfireaimed at them erupted, thus prompting them to return fire.
While the alleged presence of weapons in the Kalma camp is a real security concern for the GoS authorities, the actions taken to address it are a clear violation of the Darfur Peace Agreement. UNAMID strongly condemns the excessive, disproportionate use of lethal force by the GoS security forces against civilians, which violated their human rights and resulted in unacceptable casualties. The Mission underscores the fact that the presence of weapons voids the status of IDP camps granted to them by international humanitarian law and exhorts the IDP community and its leaders and representatives, to insure that their camps are, and remain, weapons-free zones.