22 June 2011 – Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) Military Intelligence today arrested six UNMIS staff at Kadugli Airport as they were being relocated from Southern Kordofan.
The six men – five national staff and an independent contractor – were among 23 Sudanese UN staff who were being taken by UNMIS flight from Kadugli to Wau as part of the mission's relocation plan from the embattled state.
UNMIS protested the detentions, citing agreements made with the government. "UNMIS strongly condemns the arbitrary arrests by the SAF of our staff," said Kouider Zerrouk, the UNMIS spokesperson.
"As per the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and other agreements, UNMIS requests immediate release of the UN staff, until such a time that the authorities present evidence of their alleged illegal activities as claimed by SAF," he said.
The SOFA is an agreement between the Government of Sudan and the United Nations concerning the status of UNMIS, which states that the government shall promptly inform the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) if it considers that any member of the mission has committed a criminal offence and present to the SRSG any evidence available. If the accused is a member of the civilian component or a civilian member of the military component, the Special Representative shall conduct any necessary supplemental inquiry and then agree with the government whether or not criminal proceedings should be instituted.
"The parties to the conflict must uphold their commitment to protect civilians and ensure the freedom of movement of all UN staff, regardless of their origins, or ethnic or political affiliations," Mr. Zerrouk added.
The arrests come soon after SAF soldiers detained and harassed four peacekeepers in Kadugli, subjecting them to a mock execution on 16 June.
"The Sudanese Armed Forces, the Sudan People's Liberation Army and other armed groups must immediately stop intimidating and harassing UN staff, who are critical to provide the necessary humanitarian assistance to the vulnerable populations," UN Spokesperson Martin Nesirky said at the time.
Today was only the second day that the airport, where the arrests took place, had been opened after being closed from 10 June. UNMIS also previously condemned incidents in which SAF dropped bombs near the mission's bases in Kadugli and Kauda last week.
Meanwhile, the government announced that the situation in Kadugli was returning to normal, after two weeks of heavy fighting, and urged internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return home. The protective perimeter that had been set up for civilians near UNMIS headquarters in Kadugli is now empty, as all IDPs have returned to Kadugli town.