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UN Report Says Sudanese Security Unlawfully Fired on Refugees in Darfur

The United Nations says Sudanese security forces unlawfully fired into a crowd of thousands of internally displaced people in a camp in Darfur last August, killing dozens of people and wounding more than one-hundred. A report released by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and the U.N./African Union Mission in Darfur accuses the Sudanese troops of having violated international human rights law.

The joint U.N./African Union report released Friday underlines the dangers faced by internally displaced people in Sudan's conflict-ridden province of Darfur. U.N. Human Rights Spokesman, Rupert Colville, says 33 people were killed and 108 wounded in the Kalma Internally Displaced People's camp as a result of a Sudanese law enforcement operation that went disastrously wrong.

He says more than one thousand security forces tried to enter the camp to search for weapons and drugs. But, he says, they were met with strong resistance by a large group of IDPs who tried to stop them from entering.

"The security forces first of all fired shots in the air and then opened fire on the crowd. But, the government claimed that security forces had responded in a purely defensive manner after armed elements within the camp opened fire on them allegedly injuring seven army personnel and seven police officers," said Colville.

The report says the security forces were met by thousands of civilians, some armed with spears, knives and sticks. The report says credible, independent sources have reported the presence of light and heavy arms in Kalma camp. But U.N./African Union investigators say they have not been able to verify those claims.

Witnesses confirmed security forces shot arbitrarily at a large crowd of people, including women and children.

Colville says investigators were unable to interview the seven Army officers who reportedly were wounded in this attack. So, they were unable to verify that claim. But, he says they did interview the seven wounded Police Officers and found they had received minor injuries in a separate incident later in the day outside the camp.

"Essentially, the conclusion of the report is that the government security forces committed violations of international human rights law against the civilian population of Kalma IDP camp. It was established that the security forces used lethal force in an unnecessary, disproportionate and therefore unlawful manner," he said. "The government security forces also failed to protect the right to life according to their obligations under international human rights law."

Kalma is one of the largest camps in Darfur, housing about 80,000 homeless people. Living conditions are described as very poor due to overcrowding, water and food shortages. Since the camp was established, there have been several violent exchanges between armed elements within the camp and Government security forces.

Sudanese authorities say they opened fire in self-defense, after snipers fired at them from trees inside the camp. They claim rebels use the camp to store their weapons and as a launching pad for attacks in the area.

The U.N. investigation found no evidence supporting the government's claim that it had been attacked.