A new United Nations report says Sudan is falling far short of many of the human rights commitments it made under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement it signed last year ending more than 20 years of civil war.  The report says human rights violations in Darfur have escalated and civilians continue to be victims of attacks, including sexual and gender-based violence.  This third periodic report on the human rights situation in the Sudan covers the period between December and April.

The report says the conflict in the western Sudanese region of Darfur has reached a new level of violence. 

U.N. Human Rights Spokesman, Jose Dias, says the intensity and frequency has reached new heights, not seen since the conflict erupted in 2003 and 2004.  He says last month, there were reports of bombing of villages with helicopter gun ships and airplanes.

"For example, from the period between January and April, just in the Gereida area of South Darfur, there were attacks either by armed militia and/or government forces on more than 20 villages," he said.   "It was particularly alarming according to our report that the government has reverted to the use of helicopter gunships and aircraft to attack these villages." 

The report notes a disturbing new element to the violence in Darfur is the fighting among different factions of the rebel Sudanese Liberation Army.  It says this is increasing dangers to the civilian population.

The report finds across Darfur, women and girls continue to be sexually assaulted and raped.  It says this happens most often when they go outside the confines of their camps to collect firewood or hay, fetch water, or farm. 

It notes the culture of impunity continues.   Few people are ever prosecuted for rights violations, which include the killing of civilians, raping of women and girls, and the pillaging of entire villages. 

Dias says the renewed fighting also has worsened the humanitarian crisis.  He says access for humanitarian workers and aid is seriously limited due to insecurity.

"There have been blockades either de facto or actually explicitly set up to keep aid from getting to affected populations," he noted.  "There is also limited security.  There have been reports of direct attacks on humanitarian workers.  This is worsening the humanitarian situation that was already very critical.' 

The report finds the Sudanese justice system is unable to address gross violations of human rights.  It says the International Criminal Court has a critical role to play in Darfur in bringing to justice State officials, and militia and rebel members alike.