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May 9, 2011

from a piece in Dissent by Eric Reeves

-- In the years since August 15, 2000, there have been more than 1,000 aerial attacks on civilians and humanitarian operations in Sudan. Altogether, the data spreadsheet contains more than 1,400 such incidents; individual entries provide locations, sources, dates, casualties, and observational notes. A great many of these attacks involved not only retrofitted cargo planes but helicopter gunships and advanced jet aircraft; these have been reported as well. 


There have been many thousands of casualties, and human displacement has been in the hundreds of thousands. Agriculture has suffered badly, as the attacks have deeply demoralized farmers in both the South and Darfur. Water points and livestock herds have also been bombed, strafed, and rocketed. The assault has been not simply on civilians and humanitarians but on a way of life.


These attacks are all violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Individually, they are war crimes; collectively they come within the legal ambit of "crimes against humanity." Moreover, the figures for attacks and casualties that I have confirmed vastly understate the actual numbers, perhaps by an order of magnitude. As one human rights report noted, "There are reports of frequent bombing in Blue Nile…but local people are so accustomed to it that they see no point in keeping records."


Revealingly, most entries for "number of casualties" simply read "unknown."  The international community has no way of investigating reported attacks, despite the presence of a UN-authorized peacekeeping force in Darfur. Nominally guaranteed"freedom of movement," the UN/African Union "hybrid" force (UNAMID) has been virtually paralyzed by Khartoum and its security forces. It conducts exceedingly few investigations, and only very rarely publishes its findings.


- I have already recorded more than eighty aerial attacks in 2011. Khartoum still faces no serious pressure to halt aerial attacks on civilians, and will persevere in this savagery until the world community specifies—explicitly and credibly—intolerable consequences. Tragically, international actors of consequence, especially the U.S., see normalizing relations with this brutal regime as the more important basis for Sudan policy going forward. And so the bombs will continue to fall.


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