Grave rights violations in North, South Sudan: HRW

NAIROBI – A Human Rights Watch (HRW) representative has accused Sudan and South Sudan of committing grave human rights violations amid reports about ill-treatment and torture of detainees.

"The government [of North Sudan] has a lot of blood on its hands," Jehanne Henry, HRW's representative in South and North Sudan, told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview in Nairobi.

Henry said that the Khartoum government has violently cracked down on anti-government protests that rocked several Sudanese cities in September.

"Our research shows that there is strong evidence, strong indication that Sudan's government security forces were responsible for the shooting of protesters, killing 170 of them," Henry said.

Protests had flared up in different Sudanese cities in September after the government had lifted fuel subsidies as part of a raft of controversial austerity measures.

According to the Sudanese government, around 34 people, including police, had been killed in the recent wave of protests.

Global rights watchdog Amnesty International, however, had put the death toll at some 200.

The HRW representative said that many of the protesters were "shot in the back, in the head and even a two-month-old infant was killed and also elderly people".

Heny said that the Sudanese authorities had rounded up hundreds of people, including opposition party members, journalists and students.

"Some were released but dozens still remain in detention," Henry said. "They are being ill-treated and tortured in detention. This is something Sudan is known for."

She went on to say that many of the detainees are being held at National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS)-run detention facilities.

"The NISS is widely known as the organ that detains people for political reasons because of their real or perceived political positions and is widely known as being very abusive," Henry said.

When asked to compare Sudan's human rights record with that of other African countries, Henry said that "It is very pervasive repression and violent tactics."

"The government is still bombing civilian areas. This is a huge violation of international humanitarian law that we have emphasized over and over again," she said.

"It is really and truly a very bad human rights situation in Sudan that I have spent year-in year-out watching. It remains worse. There is no meaningful improvement in recent years."

-S. Sudan abuses-

The HRW representative has also documented massive human rights abuses in neighboring South Sudan.

"We have seen some really horrific abuses of civilian human rights," Henry told AA.

"We have seen ethnic targeting throughout the country, sometime it is retaliatory where you have the opposition forces and their so-called White Army launching large attacks on innocent civilians."

South Sudan has been shaken by violence since last December, when President Salva Kiir accused sacked vice president Riek Machar of trying to overthrow his regime.

The conflict has already claimed more than 10,000 lives, with the U.N. estimating that some one million South Sudanese have been displaced by the recent violence.

Following weeks of peace talks mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Addis Ababa, the two sides signed a cessation of hostilities agreement in January.

They have yet to reach an agreement, however, to resolve the ongoing conflict.

"The situation in South Sudan is very fluid now. We have documented massacres in Juba," Henry said.

"Now the situation in Juba appears to be more normal. However, there are tens of thousands of mostly ethnic Nuer people in IDP camps in UN compounds in Juba and in Bor [Jonglei State] and Bentiu [Unity State] and elsewhere," she said.

"The fighting is continuing even though there was a cessation of hostilities agreement made."

The HRW representative blamed South Sudan's warring parties for the human rights abuses in the world's newest state.

"Both sides must pass the message and instructions to their commanders to stop targeting civilians," she said.

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