Geneva – The UN human rights chief Navi Pillay voiced alarm on Tuesday over armed groups targeting civilians in Sudan's conflict-ridden Darfur region and urged an "immediate" end to the violence.
"There has been a disproportionate use of force by armed groups in areas in South Darfur that are not military targets," Pillay said in a statement, calling for "an immediate halt to attacks on unarmed civilians".
"I urge the authorities to protect civilians and hold to account those who have committed grave breaches of human rights and humanitarian laws," she said.
Since the end of February, armed groups have attacked some 45 villages in the Um Gunya area, just south of the South Darfur state capital Nyala, the statement said, citing witness testimony.
"While it is difficult to ascertain the number of people killed, an estimated 50 000 civilians have been displaced amid looting and arson," it said.
That adds to the nearly two million people already displaced in Darfur, where an 11-year-old rebellion has been compounded by worsening inter-communal violence and criminality.
At least 200 000 internally displaced people were already huddled in camps within South Darfur before the latest attacks, and Pillay said the new arrivals were "having an overwhelming impact on the already limited water, food and healthcare available in the camps."
Pillay also voiced concern that peacekeepers from the UN-African Union mission in Darfur, Unamid, as well as human rights and humanitarian agencies had been prevented from reaching areas affected by the attacks.
"The Sudanese government must allow Unamid to fulfil its mandate to protect civilians and grant access to populations in need," she said.
The Unamid's six-year-old mission is, with more than 19 000 soldiers and police, one of the world's largest peacekeeping operations.