Dangerous to Stay, Dangerous to Move – the Plight of Refugees in Yida

New arrivals crowd together living in makeshift shelter at the Yida refugee camp along the border with North Sudan July 4, 2012 in Yida, South Sudan. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

New arrivals crowd together living in makeshift shelter at the Yida refugee camp along the border with North Sudan July 4, 2012 in Yida, South Sudan. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

By Alex Neve, Amnesty International Canada’s Secretary General and Khairunissa Dhala, South Sudan Researcher

It’s been nine months since we last visited the Yida Refugee Camp in South Sudan and returning now it’s amazing what has changed – it’s also deeply troubling what hasn’t.

Over the past year and a half this camp has been the destination of refugees fleeing massive human rights violations and a humanitarian crisis in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan state.

When we were here in April, there were just over 20,000 refugees at Yida but hundreds more were arriving every day.


5 Steps Forward, 5 Steps Back: Catching and Convicting War Criminals

international justice fugatives

Click image to view full infographic and list of wanted fugatives

Today, supporters of human rights mark the Global Day for International Justice, an anniversary the need for which makes ‘celebration’ difficult, if not impossible.  A cursory look over last year of developments as it relates to securing justice for the most egregious of crimes—war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide—might yield cause for optimism, however.

Five Steps Forward for Justice

  1. Over the last year, following a UN Security Council referral of Libya, the International Criminal Court (ICC) found reasonable grounds for issuing arrest warrants for top Libyan officials, even as conflict was ongoing, demonstrating the ability and importance of the court in active crises.
  2. The ICC saw the first verdict and sentence handed down as Thomas Lubanga answered for conscription of children in devastating conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
  3. Also over the last year, Laurent Gbagbo, the former head of state of Cote d’Ivoire, became the first head of state to be surrendered to the ICC for alleged crimes, only one week after his indictment.
  4. At the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, Ratko Mladic finally faces prosecution for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide for the largest mass murder in Europe since the end of World War II.
  5. The first conviction of a former head of state since the Nuremburg trials, as my colleague Angela Chang describes, was a historic step for international justice.


Getting Over ‘Sudan Fatigue’

The rainy season in Sudan has begun, and for UN and aid agencies operating just across the Sudan border in the dozens of refugee camps housing those who’ve fled from the indiscriminate bombing of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), a logistic and operational nightmare is very present.

For the hundreds of thousands displaced by the bombing campaign, food and (paradoxically) water shortages have reached crisis proportions.

Last night, Amnesty released its newest research findings in ‘We Can Run Away From Bombs, But Not From Hunger,’ documenting the illegal and indiscriminate bombing campaign of the SAF in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, in Sudan.


Happy Birthday South Sudan!

Today, South Sudan becomes the world’s newest country. Back in January 2011, the people of South Sudan voted in a referendum mandated by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and decided to secede from Sudan.

Sadly, South Sudan’s very first birthday is being overshadowed by ongoing conflict in many border areas, fueled by arms shipment from countries such as China, Russia and the USA to volatile regions of Sudan such as Southern Kordofan. For instance, analysis by Amnesty International has linked Russian-made aircraft to indiscriminate airstrikes in the past month that led to civilian deaths and injuries in the regional capital Kadugli and other areas in Southern Kordofan. Satellite imagery acquired by the Satellite Sentinel Project corrobates that analysis, proving that Russian-made aircrafts have been present in many areas where conflict and violence occurs on a regular basis.

In addition, the new Republic of South Sudan will have to overcome many challenges of its own—including its legacy of prolonged civil war and severe underdevelopment—in addition to the immense trials any new state faces. Continued fighting this year has left around 1,400 civilians dead and over 160,000 people displaced. Soldiers of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and other armed forced are continually met with impunity for the crimes they commit. Political opposition is stifled, and weaknesses in the justice system lead to human rights abuses including arbitrary arrests and detentions, prolonged period of pre-trial detention, denial of a fair trial, and poor conditions of detention. Women and girls are subjected to traditional practices that can cause both physical and emotional harm, and have little knowledge of their rights and access to justice. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST