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Aerial military attacks on civilians and humanitarians in Sudan, 1999 – 2011


Research and Analysis by Eric Reeves

May 2011

Research and Analysis by Eric Reeves

Executive Summary

At various moments during the past two decades, partially in response to the Rwandan genocide and other large-scale atrocity crimes, the international community has expressed its collective commitment to the idea of a “responsibility to protect” civilians—civilians who cannot be protected by their government, or indeed are being attacked by their government. Yet despite this professed commitment to universal human rights and to the principles of humanitarian law, for more than a decade the Government of Sudan (the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime) has engaged in a relentless campaign of deliberate aerial assaults on its own civilians and international humanitarian relief efforts.

This military campaign is unique, presently and historically: never has a recognized government and member of the United Nations, over many years, deliberately and extensively bombed, strafed, and rocketed its own citizens—with almost complete impunity. These attacks continue today in Darfur on a large scale, and occasionally are reported in South Sudan, which was the primary target through 2002.

This report attempts to provide context for a large archive of data representing aerial attacks on civilian and humanitarian targets that have been reported and confirmed over the past twelve years. It offers a substantial framing introduction that discusses the nature, motives, and consequences of such attacks, as well as a schematic history, organized by year from 1999 to 2011. More than 1,400 incidents have been sufficiently confirmed to be included in the Excel data spreadsheet that represents the heart of these research efforts. Although numbers of casualties for particular attacks are provided where they are known, in the vast majority of cases—even when the fact of civilian casualties is explicitly noted by the source—there is no figure available, and I have been obliged to indicate simply “unknown.” It is thus not possible to quantify with any precision the numbers of casualties in the attacks, except to say that they are many, many thousands.

The methodology for data collection and use (from a great many data sets and reports) is included in a separate section. There I discuss, among other issues, efforts to eliminate redundancy, establish precise geographic location, and provide evidence of the intent to attack civilian noncombatants and humanitarian operations. This preface also offers a bibliography with a wide range of individual sources, data sets, reports, research tools (including maps), and basic bibliographic information for contemporaneous news wire reports.

Without an end to the climate of impunity that reigns in Darfur—an ongoing catastrophe largely ignored as international attention has swung to North/South issues—these barbaric attacks will continue and the chances of bringing perpetrators to justice will diminish.

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