UN rights chief: blocking aid to Sudan could be a war crime

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations human rights chief on Friday said that the apparent deliberate denial of safe access for humanitarian agencies within war-torn Sudan could amount to a war crime.

Sudan's paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has been fighting Sudan's army for control of the country since April last year in a war that has killed thousands, displaced millions of people inside and outside the country and sparked warnings of famine.

Addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Volker Turk, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said Sudan had become a "living nightmare."

"The apparently deliberate denial of safe and unimpeded access for humanitarian agencies within Sudan itself constitutes a serious violation of international law, and may amount to a war crime," he said.

"I call - again - on the warring parties to meet their legal obligations by opening humanitarian corridors without delay before more lives are lost."

Aid supplies have been looted and humanitarian workers attacked, while international agencies and NGOs have complained about bureaucratic obstacles to get into the army-controlled hub of Port Sudan to get humanitarian assistance into the country.

Millions of people in Sudan's Darfur region are at risk of dying of hunger after a decision by the Sudanese government to prohibit aid deliveries through Chad, an advocacy group for internally displaced people said on Tuesday.

The order effectively shuts down a crucial route for supplies to Darfur, which is controlled by RSF.

Half of Sudan's population - around 25 million people - need humanitarian assistance and protection, while millions of people have fled to the Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia and South Sudan, according to the United Nations.

"With more than eight million forced to flee within Sudan and to neighbouring countries, this crisis is upending the country and profoundly threatening peace, security and humanitarian conditions throughout the entire region," Turk said.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Alex Richardson)