Sudan asks UNAMID to shut human rights office in Khartoum

AFP , Wednesday 26 Nov 2014

Military personnel patrol in Tabit village in North Darfur November 20, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

The UN-African Union mission in Darfur said Tuesday that Sudan has asked it to close its human rights office in Khartoum, as the government accused its peacekeepers of abuses.

Ties between UNAMID and the government have deteriorated over the mission's attempts to investigate reports that government troops raped 200 women and girls in the Darfur village of Tabit last month.

UNAMID said it received a formal request "from the government of Sudan to close the mission's human rights office in Khartoum on November 23".

The mission "has always had a liaison office" that includes a human rights section, its press department told AFP.

It said it was "working to clarify" the situation with the government.

Sudan's foreign ministry confirmed it had asked the office to close, saying its role was "outside of their mandate".

But spokesman Yousif al-Kordofani said the ministry and UNAMID had exchanged letters about the issue before the Tabit affair.

The ministry also hit out at UNAMID on Tuesday, accusing its peacekeepers of "worrying abuses and violations" in Darfur during the years of its mandate, including rape.

"We observed incidents in which UNAMID soldiers raped women and the mission took no measures to hold them accountable and did not make them leave the country" Abdullah al-Azraq, under-secretary for the foreign minister, said in a statement run by state news agency SUNA.

He did not elaborate any further and the UN-AU mission did not immediately comment.

The UN mission was set up in 2007 to protect civilians and secure aid to Darfur, which has been wracked by conflict since 2003 when ethnic insurgents rebelled against the government.

Relations between the mission and Khartoum have soured over UNAMID's attempts to investigate a report from a local news website that soldiers raped 200 women and girls in Tabit on October 31.

When UNAMID visited Tabit it found no evidence of rapes but an internal report said Sudanese soldiers had intimidated villagers to quash the allegations as the peacekeepers investigated.

Khartoum summoned UNAMID's acting head and said last week it had asked the mission to form an "exit strategy".

The foreign ministry denied Tuesday that the move was motivated by the alleged attack in Tabit, but said it had been discussed for years.

In a separate statement published by SUNA, Azraq said Darfur's prosecutor general had finished his own investigations in Tabit "and concluded that there was no proof or evidence" to back up the report.

The conflict in the vast Darfur region of western Sudan has killed more than 300,000 people and displaced two million, the UN says.

President Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in the region.

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