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United Nations and human rights groups condemn Sudan atrocities

Amnesty, UN, and Human Rights Watch all detail violations on both sides, as local groups petition international bodies
An internally displaced child stands outside a tent pitched at the Hasahisa secondary school, in Sudan on 10 July 2023 (AFP)

International human rights groups and the United Nations have condemned the atrocities committed in Sudan since the war between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) broke out on 15 April.

Dozens of human rights organisations, activists, lawyers, doctors, and others have called on the UN Security Council to refer the violations committed by the two warring parties to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In a statement released on Thursday, the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) condemned atrocities committed by both the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the RSF, which is supported by Arab militias in Darfur.

The statement condemned the indiscriminate targeting of civilian populations and public facilities by the RSF and allied militias, particularly in the locality of Sirba, which is 45kms north of West Darfur's capital el-Geneina, between 24 and 26 July.

UNITAMS believes war crimes have been committed especially in Darfur, the vast region made up of five states in western Sudan.

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Eyewitnesses who have escaped Darfur have told Middle East Eye that the RSF is targeting members of the local non-Arab Masalit group. On the streets of el-Geneina, the unburied bodies of the dead are piling up.

The UN mission said it was concerned by similar incidents in Nyala, South Darfur, and Zalingei, Central Darfur.

“I am alarmed by reports indicating that civilians are being prevented from leaving for safer areas, resulting in numerous casualties. These reports are reminiscent of the violations committed in el-Geneina, West Darfur, last June”, said Volker Perthes, the UN special representative who was declared persona non grata by the Sudanese army in June.

Amnesty accusations

In a report also released on Thursday, Amnesty International accused Sudan's warring parties of committing widespread violations against civilians, including targeted killings, rape, abductions, random bombardments, random shelling, looting, and occupation of houses.

"Both the SAF and the RSF have shown utter disregard for the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law, which forbid the deliberate targeting of civilians; and prohibit attacks which fail to distinguish between civilians and combatants and between civilian and military objects," the report said. 

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“In other incidents documented by Amnesty International, civilians were deliberately killed or injured in targeted attacks. In these incidents, survivors and other witnesses identified armed RSF members and allied militias as the perpetrators."

Several witnesses told Amnesty that on the evening of 13 May, RSF fighters broke into a Coptic church in the Bahri area of Khartoum, shooting and injuring five members of the clergy before stealing large sums of money and a golden cross. 

The report referred to "scores of women and girls (as young as 12) in and around the capital and in the Darfur region" who have been "abducted and subjected to sexual violence - including rape - by members of the warring sides".

In May, MEE reported on the rape and sexual assault of 24 women by men wearing uniforms similar to those of the RSF in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur.

A 25-year-old woman from el-Geneina told Amnesty she had been abducted by "three armed Arab men in civilian clothes", who took her to the civil records office building in al-Jamarik neighbourhood, where they "took turns raping her".

An RSF source, who spoke to MEE on condition of anonymity, denied Amnesty's claims, adding that the report was based on false information.

West Darfur massacre

On Friday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that satellite data "shows massive fire destruction in the town of Sirba in Sudan’s West Darfur state, in late July 2023".

Sirba is the "seventh village or town that has been nearly destroyed or burned completely to the ground in West Darfur since April," according to HRW.

Middle East Eye has previously reported on satellite imagery showing the widespread destruction of villages across Darfur. 

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The US-based group has previously accused the RSF of committing a massacre in the village of Mestri, West Darfur, in May. 

"The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and allied Arab militias summarily executed at least 28 ethnic Masalit and killed and injured dozens of civilians on 28 May 2023, in Sudan’s West Darfur state," HRW said in a July report.

The US-based group described the paramilitary's actions as war crimes and called for an independent investigation by the ICC.

On its official social media pages, the RSF has denounced the accusations, describing them as inaccurate. 

Local groups call for justice

Local Sudanese groups are also pushing for international attention and justice, as many fear the atrocities of war will continue as attention on the conflict flickers. 

In an open letter to the UN Secretary General, the Sudanese Lawyers Democratic Front and other organisations called for the referral of the Sudan case to the ICC in order to investigate violations committed by the warring parties.

In a memo seen by MEE, the groups refer to "horrific and documented violations" and urge the UN Security Council to address "crimes and violations against civilian victims". 

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