Sudan: UN Envoy Demands Immediate Release of Staff Detained in Darfur

NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–19 May 2011.  The head of the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) today called for the immediate and unconditional release of two civilian members of staff arrested by Sudanese authorities.

In a meeting with staff, Ibrahim Gambari, the UN-AU Joint Representative and head of UNAMID, said the arrest of the two national staff contravened the Status of Forces Agreement between UNAMID and the Government of Sudan.

The agreement states that “should the Government consider that any member of UNAMID has committed a criminal offence, it shall promptly inform the Joint Special Representative and present to him any evidence available to it… the JSR shall conduct any necessary supplementary inquiry and then agree with the Government whether or not criminal proceedings should be instituted.”

Mr. Gambari said he has so far received no such information on the staff being held. All UN staff have functional immunity – protection from charges that might be levelled against them for activities related to their official duties.

Meanwhile, a UNAMID team in Kuma, North Darfur state, yesterday met with the town’s residents following an air strike carried out by Government forces in nearby Sukamir village. No casualties were reported, but the team was prevented from marking the sites of two unexploded ordnance for safe disposal.

In a related development, Mr. Gambari and Sudan’s Police Commissioner for North Darfur, Omar al-Amin, today inaugurated a joint security operation centre in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur. The initiative will harmonize efforts to improve security local residents and UNAMID staff.

Mr. Gambari expressed hope that such centres will be established elsewhere in Darfur. “We feel that this spirit of cooperation will be transferred to other aspects of our work,” he said.

Elsewhere in Darfur, a team of aid workers today embarked on a field mission to Kuma Garadayat, northwest of El Fasher, in a humanitarian initiative of the UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and UNAMID.

The team conferred with the village leaders and assed humanitarian needs, while distributing school items and enough veterinary drugs for more than 5,000 livestock. A Nepalese UNAMID team provided medical assistance to residents.