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1097 The Canadian government on March 8, 2000, through its foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy, condemned the bombing; according to Radio Canada International, Axworthy said the “sustained and intentional bombing of civilian targets” was “reprehensible and shows that Khartoum is not concerned with the security of its population.” “Canadian minister condemns Sudan...,” March 8, 2000; James Rubin, State Department briefing, “US Condemns Civilian Bombings in Sudan,” Washington, D.C., March 8, 2000.
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright condemned the bombing and urged the Sudanese government to refrain from all aerial bombardment of civilian targets. “U.S. says Sudan bombed civilians, two dead,” Reuters, Washington, D.C., March 3, 2000.
1098 U.N. Commission on Human Rights, Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the Sudan, 56th session, E/CN.4/RES/2000/27, April 18, 2000, http://www.unhchr.ch/Huridocda/Huridoca.nsf/(Symbol)/E.CN.4.RES.2000.27.En?Opendocument (accessed July 18, 2002). This resolution was adopted by twenty-eight votes to none, with twenty-four abstentions.
1099 “Rebels ‘Sceptical’ Over Bashir Order To Stop Air Strikes,” IRIN, Nairobi, April 21, 2000; “Sudanese president stops air raids in southern Sudan,” DPA, Khartoum, April 19, 2000.
1100 See Appendix A: Chart Of Bombing Conducted By The Government Of Sudan, 2000-2001; see also SPLM/A Press Release, “Tali Comes Under Another Air Raid...,” April 20, 2000.
1101 “Sudanese president stops air...,”April 19, 2000.
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In May 2000, the European Union issued a belated statement, welcoming the announcement that the Sudanese president “had ordered the cessation of aerial bombing of targets in South Sudan.” The E.U.
said it would “continue to watch closely on the fate of civilian populations in this area.”1102 U.S. Attempts to Obtain an End to Civilian Aerial Bombardment, 2001/2002 Former U.S. Senator John Danforth was appointed U.S. presidential special envoy for peace in Sudan on September 6, 2001. Among the four agreements he initially proposed to the parties, the Sudanese government and the SPLM/A, was a cessation of bombing and artillery attacks on civilians in southern Sudan. Senator Danforth visited Khartoum several times and during his January 2002 visit Ghazi Salah el-Din Atabani, the government’s peace minister, offered what he called “a voluntary, unlitateral cessation of aerial bombing for four weeks as a test.”1103 This offer, however, was contingent on the SPLA laying down its weapons. In response John Garang, the leader of the SPLM/A, stated that “nobody should bomb civilian targets; it’s an insult to human rights.... For a member of the United Nations and Organisation of African Unity to present this as a concession … is laughable.”1104 In the course of negotiations, however, Senator Danforth suggested an agreement banning all targeting of civilians and civilian objects, not just a ban on aerial bombardment of civilians.
By the end of that Danforth trip, the government of Sudan had agreed to all four points proposed by Senator Danforth as indications of the parties’ serious intentions to make peace—except for the point on cessation of attacks on civilians. Danforth expressed regret, saying, “[Ending] the direct, intentional 1102 E.U. press release, “Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union on the bombings of civilian targets by the Sudanese air force,” Brussels, May 5, 2000.
1103 Eli J. Lake, “Sudan offers bombing halt, U.S. skeptical,” UPI, Khartoum, January 14, 2002.
1104 “Danforth Leaves Without Deal On Government Bombings,” IRIN, January 17, 2002; Eli J. Lake, “US Envoy Leaves Sudan Without Deal,” UPI, Khartoum, January 16, 2002.
and egregious [flagrant] attacks on civilians is the key to our proposals…I am sorry to say we have made no real progress on these issues.”1105 The U.S. continued to insist on an end to attacks on civilians as one of the conditions precedent to taking up a formal and active role in any Sudanese peace negotiations. The Sudanese foreign minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail, led a government diplomatic delegation in a visit to Washington, D.C., in early February 2002, and U.S. officials there pushed him to accept a ban on civilian attacks and, in addition, international monitoring of violations of that ban. Ismail, in line with Khartoum policy, continued to resist this proposal.1106 On February 9, Nimne in Western Upper Nile/Unity State was bombed, leaving five dead, including a nurse working for MSF, James Koang Mar. Staff visited Nimne on February 14 and saw that there were three bomb craters in the church compound, where James Koang Mar was at the time of the bombing.
The church was forty meters from the MSF compound. MSF had maintained a permanent presence in Nimne, a center for displaced persons, since September 2001. These attacks did not generate much attention.1107 Also on February 9, 2002, a Sudanese government Antonov dropped six bombs on Akuem, Bahr El Ghazal, at about 5:00 pm. The WFP team had just completed a food drop at 2:00 pm for 18,000 people and had returned by plane to their nearby base. Three bombs landed in the WFP food drop zone and the other three bombs landed nearby. A twelve-year-old girl standing under a tree was killed, as was another 1105 Ibid.
1106 “U.S. presses Sudan on monitors,” UPI, Washington, February 5, 2002.
1107 MSF press release, “Medical supplies and village deliberately looted in Nimne, Western Upper Nile,” Nairobi, February 11, 2002;
MSF press release, “MSF Denounces Killing of Aid Worker and Civilians in Southern Sudan,” Nairobi/New York, February 15, 2002;
MSF-Holland, “Summary of Events: Nimne, Western Upper Nile,” Nairobi, February 2002. The MSF press releases were only picked up by the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network in Nairobi: “Sudan: Medical team flee troop movements in Bentiu area,” IRIN, Nairobi, February 7, 2002; “Sudan: Medical center in Bentiu area ‘systematically looted,’” IRIN, Nairobi, February 12, 2002;
“Sudan: MSF worker and four civilians killed in Bentiu area,” IRIN, Nairobi, February 18, 2002.
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child, and there were some ten to twelve casualties, including patients inside an MSF-France clinic.1108 This time, the attack attracted broader attention, including a forceful denunciation by the U.S.: “The United States is outraged by the [Sudanese government’s] aerial strike against a civilian target.... They have broken Khartoum’s pledge to the U.S. Special Envoy for Peace in Sudan... to end bombings of civilian targets for a period of four weeks.”1109 The Sudanese government, for the first time ever, said that it regretted the incident and promised to investigate.1110 Then, on February 20, two government helicopters attacked the village of Bieh, north of Ler in the Lundin Block 5A concessionin Western Upper Nile/Unity State, during a WFP food distribution. The two helicopters hovered over the WFP compound and fired five rockets into the surrounding area where the food distribution was in progress, at about 1:20 pm. The attack resulted in at least twenty-four civilian deaths in the presence of two U.N. personnel; seventeen died immediately and the rest died shortly thereafter of their injuries. Dozens were injured. Those killed and injured were waiting for food rations.1111
The WFP condemnation, by its executive director Catherine Bertini, of the attack on Bieh was scathing:
“Such attacks, deliberately targeting civilians about to receive humanitarian aid, are absolutely and utterly unacceptable.... This attack—the second of this kind in less than two weeks—is an intolerable affront to human life and humanitarian work.” 1112 1108 WFP press release, “WFP Condemns Air Attack At Food Distribution Site In Southern Sudan,” Nairobi, February 13, 2002. The WFP noted that this was the fourth attack on Akuem since May 2001.
1109 Richard Boucher, spokesman, State Department press statement, “Aerial Attacks in Southern Sudan,” Washington, D.C., February 12, 2002, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2002/7966.htm (accessed June 20, 2002).
1110 WFP press release, “WFP Condemns Attack on Civilians at Food Distribution in Southern Sudan,” New York/Nairobi, February 21, 2002; “Sudan: Peace talks suspended after alarming gunship attack,” IRIN, Nairobi, February 22, 2002 (“Khartoum subsequently expressed its ‘profound regrets’ over the attack at Akuem, saying it was the result of a technical error and not a premeditated act.”).
1111 “WFP Condemns Attack... at Food Distribution,” February 21, 2002; “Sudan Army Helicopter Rockets Civilians at UN Food Center,” AP, Nairobi, February 21, 2002; “NGO urges concerted action against civilian attacks,” IRIN, Nairobi, March 1, 2002.
1112 “WFP Condemns Attack... at Food Distribution,” February 21, 2002.
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On February 21, the U.S. State Department denounced the attack. It demanded “an explanation of how one part of the government can negotiate with the United States an agreement to end attacks against civilians while another part of the government is deliberately targeting civilians.”1113 The U.S. suspended all negotiations with Sudan on the Danforth initiative until the explanation was forthcoming.1114 Khartoum attempted to evade responsibility for the bombing, blaming the incident on a local commander who allegedly acted without sanction from Khartoum.1115 Many others, including WFP, the U.N. at a high level, many European countries, the E.U., international NGOs, and even Talisman (privately),1116 denounced the attack.
The Sudanese government protested the U.S. suspension of peace talks and denied that it deliberately targeted civilians.1117 The government announced that its ministry of defense had set up a high level commission of inquiry to investigate the Bieh “incident” and would present its report and 1113 Richard Boucher, spokesman, State Department press statement, “Aerial Attacks on Feeding Site in Sudan,” Washington, D.C., February 21, 2002.
1114 Eli J. Lake, “U.S. suspends talks with Sudan,” UPI, Washington, D.C., February 21, 2002.
1115 Julie Flint, “Fuels Flames of War in Sudan,” Guardian (London), Ngop, Southern Sudan, March 7, 2002.
1116 WFP press release, “WFP condemns attack on civilians at food distribution in Southern Sudan,” New York/Nairobi, February 21, 2002; OCHA press release, “Statement Attributable to ERC [U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator], WFP Executive Director and UNICEF Executive Director on Attacks on Civilians in Sudan,” February 21, 2002; Government of Norway press release, “Norway condemns attack by Sudan government on civilians,” February 21, 2002; “UK angry as civilians in Sudan killed,” Birmingham [U.K.] Post, February 23, 2002; E.U. press release, “Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union on bombings of civilian targets in Sudan,” February 28, 2002; CARE press release, “Humanitarian agencies condemn government attacks on civilians,” Atlanta, March 4, 2002, All Africa Global Media, March 4, 2002; HRW press release, “Sudan: Investigage Helicopter Killings,” New York, March 1, 2002, http://hrw.org/press/2002/03/sudan0301.htm (accessed September 23, 2003); Letter, Jim Buckee, Talisman CEO, to Mustafa Osman Ismail and Awad Ahmed El Jazz, Sudanese government ministers of foreign affairs and energy and mining, respectively, February 26, 2002, provided by Reg Manhas of Talisman, email to Human Rights Watch, March 6,
2002. Buckee criticized the government for its statement that the Sudanese army was protecting oil wells against rebel attack, noting that the Lundin oil wells are not operational and that the nearest oil wells are those of Talisman and GNPOC, some one hundred to 150 kilometers north of Bieh, where civilians were killed while gathered at a WFP food distribution point. “This linkage of defense of the oilfields with attacks on noncombatants is improper and outrageous,” he stated.
1117 “Sudan criticizes US suspension of peace efforts, probes civilian killings,” AFP, Khartoum, February 25, 2002.
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recommendations to the competent authorities as soon as possible. It also said that a number of measures had been taken to ensure strict coordination among the concerned authorities in the area, referring to the fact that it had pre-approved the WFP delivery of food at Bieh for February 20, the day of the bombing.1118 The results of the Sudanese government investigation of what occurred at Bieh were not made public, but on February 28 the government’s peace minister, Ghazi Salah Eddin Atabani, said, in a statement issued by the Sudanese embassy in London, that a government helicopter “mistakenly opened fire on a (UN) World Food Programme aid delivery.” The minister also said,“We deeply regret this appalling event.”1119 WFP spokesperson Laura Melo said that she found it “‘highly unlikely’” the troops aboard the helicopter thought they were attacking a military target.1120 Following the international outrage at the attack, the Sudanese government signed the “no attacks on civilians or civilian objects” agreement proposed by Danforth, on March 10, 2002. The SPLM/A signed on March 25.1121 Oil remained central to the parties’ concern about this “no-targeting civilians” agreement. The Sudanese government sought language stating that oil installations were “civilian objects” and the SPLM/A sought the reverse language. The agreement was silent on this point, leaving it to the monitors to be deployed in 1118 Embassy of the Republic of Sudan to Germany, press release, February 24, 2002, translation provided by Sudan Focal PointEurope.
1119 “Sudan voices regret over ‘mistaken’ bombing of civilians,” AFP, Cairo, February 28, 2002; see “Sudan says its helicopter fired on civilians receiving U.N. aid,” AP, Cairo, February 28, 2002. The statement of regret carried in AP was hedged with references to U.S. armed forces mistakes in Afghanistan and blame of the SPLM/A for not signing a ceasefire.