UNITED NATIONS (IPS) - The UN has only limited access to Jebel Marra, the location in Sudan where Amnesty International alleges that Sudanese government forces have used chemical weapons, UN Peacekeeping Chief Herve Ladsous said here Tuesday.
“We have not come across any evidence regarding the use of chemical weapons in Jebel Marra,” Ladsous told the UN Security Council, noting that UN mission’s consistently restricted access into Jebel Marra has hindered effective monitoring and reporting.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has also assessed that no conclusions regarding Amnesty’s conclusions can be made without further investigation.
In a report released on September 30, Amnesty pointed to the alleged use of chemical weapons by Sudanese government forces against civilians in Darfur, resulting in an estimated 200-250 deaths since January 2016.
Amnesty alleges that chemical weapons have been deliberately targeted towards civilians in the remote region of Jebel Marra in Darfur at least 30 times in the past eight months.
Identifying the specific chemical agents requires collecting samples from those allegedly exposed, from the environment and from weapon remnants used during the attacks.
Sudan is currently a member of the Chemical Weapons Convention that bans the use of chemical weapons.
The Sudanese government has refuted the allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Jebel Marra and said that it will cooperate with the OPCW investigation.
In a letter dated 27 September 2016, Sudan’s Minister of Justice, Awad Hassan Elnour, said that the evidence in the report is “unreliable, contradictory and unsubstantiated” and alleged that “the survivors and witnesses in the report were either members of the opposition or influenced under fear.”
Elnour questioned whether the satellite imaging relied on in the report showed government forces wearing protective suits and helmets against chemical weapons as they stood on the very ground supposed to be targeted with such weapons. He additionally questioned the alleged death toll of 200 people, considering no such information was available in any health centers in the country.