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Rights Group Calls for International Monitors Following Sudanese Police Attack on Darfur Camp


A human rights organization has called for the creation of an international body to monitor Sudanese police in the war-torn Darfur region of western Sudan, following a recent police raid on a Darfur camp.

London-based Amnesty International Thursday urged the U.N. Security Council, when it meets next week, to come up with ways to better protect the people of Darfur.

The organization was reacting to Wednesday's early morning police raids on El Geer camp near Nyala in southern Darfur.

The spokesman for the United Nations' Advanced Mission in Sudan, George Somerwill, describes what happened.

"The police came in twice - just after midnight and about 7:00 a.m.," he explained. "They came into the camp. They used tear gas, I understand, on the second occasion. They knocked down the very flimsy houses, which some had re-built in the camp. They shouted at them, thoroughly frightened them. One community leader in the camp was quite badly beaten."

Amnesty International's Sudan researcher, Elizabeth Hodgkin, said Wednesday's raid proved that security in Darfur is inadequate, and needs to be beefed up.

"If such a thing can be done, in the middle of the night, in front of the U.N., in front of the African Union monitors, in front of journalists, then protection must be increased for the people," she said.

Ms. Hodgkin recommended that a group of international monitors provide human rights training for Sudanese police forces in Darfur.

She said the monitors should also ensure that human rights violators are not recruited into the police force, and help the force to gain the trust of people living in Darfur.

Ms. Hodgkin urged the U.N. Security Council, which is scheduled to meet in Nairobi next week, to also increase the number of U.N. monitors in Darfur. She called on the African Union to do the same.

Amnesty International says Wednesday's attack on the El-Geer camp is the fourth time over the past 10 days that displaced persons' camps have been raided by Sudanese forces.

A spokesman for Sudan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs told VOA he was not aware of the attack. He said the foreign minister was touring Darfur with the U.N. secretary-general's special representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, and would likely issue a statement shortly.

Wednesday's raid came hours after the Sudanese government and rebel groups operating in the area signed a security agreement at peace talks in Nigeria.

The conflict in Darfur, which the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis, has displaced an estimated 1.5 million people.

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