News and Information

UN refugee head makes Darfur plea
September 27, 2004
The UN refugee head has urged all sides in the Darfur conflict to work for a solution, amid reports of new militia movements in the region.
Ruud Lubbers spoke as he began touring western Sudan, following a trip to Chad, where he had met some of the million-plus people forced from Darfur.

Militiamen entered a border area on Sunday, where refugees are attempting to return home, a UN official said.

Sabir Mughal said a team would assess the risk they posed to the refugees.

Up to 50,000 people have been killed since the conflict began in early 2003.

'Refugees returning'

Mr Lubbers, the UN's high commissioner for refugees, said as he arrived in the region: "The time has come for the parties really to sit down at the negotiating table and sort things out."

Sudanese government officials meeting Mr Lubbers in West Darfur told him they were getting grips with the blood-letting in the region.

Non-Arab villagers and international leaders say the pro-government Arab militias known as Janjaweed are mostly to blame for the crisis, which the United States has described as genocide.

The government, however, blames two rebel groups for taking up arms in Darfur in February.

The government accuses the rebels of killing two policemen at Kilma refugee camp in South Darfur on Sunday.

Social Affairs Minister Habib Mouktoun said some of the refugees who had fled to Chad had already started to return home.


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"We are welcoming them," Mr Mouktoun said.

Sudan may face UN sanctions if the situation does not improve quickly.

According to the pro-government Sudanese Media Centre in Darfur, three militiamen have been sentenced to death and six others to up to five years in prison for murder and pillage.

"The three militiamen were sentenced to death by hanging after they were found guilty of murder, pillage, arson and illegal possession of arms in South Darfur state," the news agency said.

It said that six others were sentenced to prison terms of between three and five years for involvement in the same crimes.

Forty more people are due to be tried this week for similar crimes at the special court in the state capital of Nyala, the news agency added.

In July, 200 militiamen accused of ethnic cleansing in Darfur were tried by the same court with some receiving the death penalty.

The government established the court to try members of the pro-government militia accused of crimes in Darfur, after pledging in June to disarm the militias and bring those responsible for human rights violations to justice.

However, UN officials say the recent militia movements around the border village of Abu Surug are a worrying development.

"A few" refugees from Chad returned to the Abu Surug area a few days ago, and the unidentified militia moved in after them, the UN's Mr Mughal said.


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