Amnesty accuses Sudan army of \'war crimes\' in South Kordofan
KHARTOUM - Amnesty International said on Tuesday that the Sudanese army had committed war crimes in the conflict-hit South Kordofan region, including bombing and shelling civilian areas and infrastructure.
Government forces have been facing a rebellion in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states by the Sudan People's Liberation Army-North since 2011.
"Sudanese Armed Forces have been raining down bombs and shells indiscriminately on civilian populations, destroying lives and livelihoods and triggering a major humanitarian crisis," Amnesty's Deputy Regional Director Michelle Kagari said in a statement.
The rights watchdog said a team of its researchers had visited rebel-occupied parts of South Kordofan in May, where they found evidence that government forces had used cluster munitions and targeted civilian buildings, including schools and medical facilities.
The watchdog said between January and April this year, at least 35 civilians were killed in aerial bombardments and artillery shelling.
The research team did not visit government-controlled areas of the region because Khartoum regularly denies foreign rights groups access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile, as well as to Darfur where it has faced another insurgency since 2003.
"Targeting civilian infrastructure and civilian areas which have no legitimate military objective, using prohibited weapons and other weapons in an indiscriminate way are war crimes," Kagari said.
An army spokesman could not be reached for comment on the report.
The conflict in South Kordofan was fuelled by complaints from non-Arab groups of marginalisation by President Omar al-Bashir's Arab-dominated government.
Bashir is already wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes connected to the 12-year insurgency in the western Darfur region.
The African Union's chief mediator Thabo Mbeki is in Khartoum, where he is set to discuss the conflict in South Kordofan with officials, among other issues.
Sudan's first vice president said Monday the government would suspend convictions and sentences against rebel leaders who wanted to travel to Khartoum for peace talks.