http://news.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=594012005


Tue
31 May 2005
GETHIN CHAMBERLAIN
CHIEF NEWS
CORRESPONDENT

CONFIDENTIAL African Union (AU) reports have provided
damning new evidence of the involvement of Sudanese government forces and their
Janjaweed militia allies in the murder and rape of civilians in the Darfur
region.

AU monitors have collected photographic evidence of Sudanese
helicopter gunships in action attacking villages, and their reports conclude
that the Sudanese government has systematically breached the peace deals that it
signed to placate the United Nations Security Council.

Reports from
Darfur indicate that air attacks on villages have continued amid defiance of UN
resolutions calling on the Khartoum regime to disarm the Janjaweed, with the
latest helicopter attack in south Darfur reported to have taken place on 13 May
as the UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, was preparing to visit the
province.

Pictures taken by AU monitors document attacks by a Sudanese
helicopter gunship on the village of Labado in December, a month after the
Sudanese government gave an assurance that there would be no more such attacks.
The Sudanese government markings are clearly visible on the tailfin of the
helicopter.

The village was visited by Mr Annan last week as he toured
the region to see for himself whether anything had changed a year after he first
visited Darfur.

The government in Khartoum has consistently denied using
air attacks against villagers, insisting that they have only been used
defensively against attacks by rebel forces.

The US and British
governments have accepted Sudanese assurances that there have been no air
attacks since February, but the anti-genocide Aegis Trust – which is campaigning
for an enlarged AU force to be sent to Darfur – claims it has received reports
of a bombing raid involving an Antonov aircraft on 23 March and a helicopter
attack in south Darfur on 13 May witnessed by AU monitors.

Yesterday, Dr
James Smith, Aegis’s chief executive, said: “Reports of airstrikes against
civilians in Darfur highlight the urgent need for a UN mandate for peace
enforcement operations in the region. The British government should show
leadership on this issue and table such a resolution at the Security Council
immediately.”

The African Union currently has about 2,300 troops in
Darfur, along with hundreds of police officers, and last week a conference of
international donors pledged about $200 million in additional funding to pay for
an enlargement of the force. However, there is still a significant shortfall on
the $700 million the AU estimates it needs to fund a successful
mission.

Since last year, the AU’s ceasefire monitors have been
attempting to investigate reports of attacks by government, Janjaweed and rebel
forces. Their confidential reports reveal in stark detail the scale of the
attacks and provide conclusive proof that Sudanese government forces have
carried out illegal attacks on civilians.

A report into two attacks on
the village of Marla on 8 and 16 December described how the AU team came upon
Sudanese government forces in the process of attacking the village.

“The
GOS [government of Sudan] forces were fire-supported by helicopter gunships
which bombarded the edges of the village and flew over the area for about 30
minutes thereafter,” the report said.

“The team also found some
unexploded rockets in the village. During the team investigation on 16 December,
the GOS soldiers were still burning houses, looting and harassing the citizens
of Marla.”

Major Omar Bashir, the GOS commander, told the monitors that
his company entered Marla on 17 December at 0800 hours escorted by helicopter
gunships which were used to provide protection and direction to the
area.

He said he was deployed in the area to provide security and wait
for the police who would be deployed there in a few days. He said that when he
arrived, he saw that part of the village was burnt. There was no resistance to
entering the village, he added.

But a local citizen told a different
story. Adam Juma Amar said the first attack on 8 December involved troops firing
and burning houses. Eight days later, he said, a group of soldiers
returned.

He said: “On entering the village, they were escorted by two
helicopter gunships firing at the edge of the village. They flew over the area
for almost 30 minutes before they left.”

He said the soldiers set fire to
houses and set up a base next to a water borehole to prevent the residents using
it.

“Some soldiers were within the village, looting, burning houses and
stores,” he added.

The report – marked “AU confidential” – is accompanied
by pictures of Sudanese soldiers involved in the act of looting. It also
contains an interview with a man who was shot in the head

The report
concluded that Sudanese forces had attacked Marla. “This has led to looting,
burning of houses and massive displacement of villagers,” the report said.
“These actions by the GOS constitute serious violations of Article 2 (2) of the
ceasefire agreement of 8 April 2004 in Ndjamena and Abuja Protocol on Security
of 9 November 2004.”

Meanwhile, Sudan has also denied there is widespread
rape in Darfur, but confidential AU reports from monitors on the ground paint a
different picture. An AU team – which went to the Abushok camp to investigate
the shooting in the back of a man by Sudanese soldiers on 5 January this year –
reported that witnesses there had complained of widespread rape and “rampant
harassment” of women.

After examining the body of Abdul Halmin Abdul and
concluding that he had been killed unlawfully by Sudanese soldiers,
Lieutenant-Colonel Ahmed Fouad noted: “During the investigation, cases of rape
were highlighted by the witnesses. They claimed that GOS soldiers usually come
to the camp and forcefully take away their girls to unknown locations and rape
them.

“One of the witnesses solicited for the AU to quickly notify the
Sudanese government of the atrocities being committed by GOS soldiers at the
camp, especially the cases of rape.”

In his report, Lt-Col Fouad
recommended that the AU put pressure on the Khartoum regime to “check the menace
of rape” at the camp.

During another investigation, into the killing of
12 villagers in the area of Umm-Ba’oud five days later – which the AU team also
concluded was the work of the Janjaweed militia and the responsibility of the
Sudanese government – more evidence emerged of the targeting of
women.

The AU team concluded that “the soldiers from the GOS camp [at
Shangil Tobaya] constantly harass women including female teachers in the
area.”

In Labado last week, Kofi Annan saw for himself the results of the
Sudanese government attacks as he walked among the burned huts and spoke to
survivors. One woman described to him how five government planes had bombed the
town and the AU commander there told the UN secretary-general that 105 people
had died in the town during an attack on 17 December.

At the time, Najib
Abdulwahab, the then Sudanese government’s minister of state for foreign
affairs, denied AU reports that helicopters were attacking the town, claiming
instead that they were fighting off an insurgent offensive.

“What the
government is doing in these areas is actually within its sovereign rights,” he
said at the time.

But the AU’s own confidential report into the attacks
demonstrates the difficulties faced by the AU monitors, who accused the Sudanese
army commander in the town of lying to them to keep them out.

“Team
established that GOS forces supported by Janjaweed attacked the village, killing
five people and burning down part of the village,” the report said.

“The
GOS commander said he could not guarantee their safety as rebels were still in
the village. The GOS commander lied to the military observer team about the
Janjaweed/armed militia on the northern area of their defensive position by
saying that they were IDPs [internally displaced people].” The team found five
corpses in the fields outside the village and reported that they saw about 500
Janjaweed on horses and camels. Two days after the attack, an AU helicopter came
under fire as it returned to the village in an attempt to offer medical
assistance. The team was again turned away.

“GOS commander said it was
too dangerous to go into the village due to the presence of armed elements.
Helicopter took off and flew over the village,” the report said.

“They
observed lots of human movement, some houses that were still
burning.

“After landing at Nyala airport, the post-flight physical checks
revealed that the aircraft had been shot on the tail boom; two bullet holes, the
entry and the exit points.”

The team concluded that the helicopter had
been shot at by Janjaweed militia as it flew over Labado.

Another report
records how monitors who went to the scene of an attack in the village of
Solokoya on 10 January found it deserted save for a few people in the fields
outside. “All witness accounts revealed that the village was attacked by armed
militia supported by the GOS which resulted in the death of many civilians and
damage to properties,” the report said.

“Inspection revealed every house
in the village to be burned and there were no possessions in the charred remains
of the village.”

Witnesses told the monitors that people were shot and
killed in a number of locations.

“Significant quantities of blood
supported this evidence and photographic evidence was taken,” the report added,
concluding that the presence of empty cartridges and bullet holes supported
claims that high-velocity rifles and machineguns had been employed during the
attack and that the attackers wanted to destroy the village as well as kill some
of the inhabitants.

Yesterday, the group Human Rights Watch, which is
campaigning for an enlarged AU force to be sent to Darfur, warned that attacks
continued to take place.

“There is a lot of insecurity on the ground and
it is still far too dangerous for people to return home,” said a
spokeswoman.