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“Reign of terror” seen in Sudan’s Darfur-UN report

By Robert Evans

GENEVA, April 21 (Reuters) – United Nations human rights investigators have concluded that government troops and Arab militias appear to have launched a “reign of terror” against black Africans in Sudan’s western Darfur region.

In a report obtained by Reuters on Wednesday, the five- member team said that interviews in neighbouring Chad with hundreds of refugees indicated that crimes against humanity had been committed and that many people had been killed.

“According to information collected from the refugees, it appears that there is a reign of terror in Darfur…” the report declared.

“The patterns of violence point to an intent on the part of the Sudanese authorities to force the population to disperse,” said the report, drawn up for the world body’s Human Rights Commission but not yet released.

The report cites widespread allegations among refugees in camps inside Chad of rape, pillage, torture, murder and arson in villages and towns across Darfur, as well as attacks by helicopter gunships and by aircraft dropping bombs.

It recommends that the 53-member Commission tell the Sudanese government that it must put in place “measures to ensure that such human rights abuses, war crimes and crimes against humanity are not repeated in the future.”

Diplomats say the 13-page report was to have been presented to the Commission on Tuesday but was held back when Sudan told U.N. officials it would let the team, previously barred from entering the country, go to Darfur.

WAITING IN KENYA

The team, led by Bacre Waly Ndiaye of the U.N. human rights office in New York, is now in Nairobi waiting for formal clearance from Khartoum, according to the diplomats.

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR estimates that some 700,000 people driven from their homes are still inside Darfur — a vast, arid region along the border with Chad — and says at least 110,000 have fled across the frontier so far.

The situation is turning into one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters, according to the agency.

Another high-level U.N. team has been due to go to Darfur for the past month to assess the food and medical needs of the internally displaced people, but its visit has also been postponed — at least twice, according to the diplomats.

Sudan has denied any official involvement in the violence, which it says is the result of the activities of rebel groups. It insists it has no link with the so-called Janjaweed militias that refugees say operate with the Sudanese army.

Some diplomats say the Sudanese pledge late on Monday to let the rights team in may have been intended to delay presentation of the report and influence the outcome of a vote on Sudan in the Commission, due on Thursday.

A resolution proposed by the 25 current and incoming European Union member countries and backed by many other states would enable a U.N. human rights office in Khartoum to monitor Sudan’s human rights performance.

It would also re-establish the decade-old post of special rights investigator for Sudan, abolished last year when the Commission rejected a similar motion by majority vote.

Presentation of the report as first planned before the 2004 vote might have helped sway African countries on the Commission, which have been reluctant to offend the continent’s largest country, diplomats say.

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