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UN Report Accuses Sudan’s Warring Parties of Crimes Against Civilians

FILE - Sudanese refugees gather as Doctors Without Borders teams assist the war-wounded from West Darfur, Sudan, in Adre hospital, Chad, June 16, 2023. (Doctors Without Borders via REUTERS)
FILE - Sudanese refugees gather as Doctors Without Borders teams assist the war-wounded from West Darfur, Sudan, in Adre hospital, Chad, June 16, 2023. (Doctors Without Borders via REUTERS)

A report by the U.N. human rights office accuses both of Sudan’s warring parties of committing horrific violations and abuses against the country’s civilian population, “some of which may amount to war crimes and possibly other serious crimes under international law.”

The 16-page report is based on interviews with 303 victims and witnesses, as well as analysis of photographs, videos and satellite imagery gathered between April 15 and December 2023.

The report holds the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces responsible for the killings of at least 14,600 civilians and the forced displacement of more than 8 million people both inside Sudan and as refugees in five neighboring countries.

Authors of the report say the intensity of hostilities between the armed forces and “the significant lack of adherence to international humanitarian law and international human rights law standards are concerning.”

In a statement Friday, Volker Turk, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said, “For nearly a year now, accounts coming out of Sudan have been of death, suffering and despair, as the senseless conflict and human rights violations and abuses have persisted with no end in sight.”

Since the rival generals plunged Sudan into war on April 15, the report says, armed forces and their allies have indiscriminately attacked civilians in densely populated areas, including sites sheltering internally displaced people, with most attacks occurring in the capital, Khartoum, as well as Kordorfan state and Darfur.

Since April, there have been widespread allegations of sexual and gender-based violence in the conflict-affected hot spots.

As of December 15, the report says, it has received reports that at least 118 people had been subjected to sexual violence, including rape, gang rape and attempted rape, among them 19 children.

The report finds many victims were trafficked “for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced prostitution, by both parties to the conflict and their allied groups, which are prohibited under international law.”

Seif Magango, the U.N. human rights office regional spokesperson, said the warring parties also have looted property, conscripted child soldiers and otherwise violated the human rights of thousands of helpless, destitute people.

Speaking in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, he said his office just this week received credible video evidence that several students traveling by road in North Kordofan State may have been beheaded by men in SAF uniforms in El-Obeid City.

He says the students were likely killed “based on their perceived ethnicity as being RSF supporters.”

He says the video, which was posted on social media on February 15, “shows troops parading with decapitated heads in the street while chanting ethnic slurs.”

In Darfur, the U.N. report says, thousands of people have been killed in RSF attacks, “some of which were ethnically motivated.” For example, between May and November, it says, the RSF and its allied Arab militia carried out at least 10 attacks against civilians in El-Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, “killing thousands of people, most from the African Masalit ethnic community.”

Magango described the situation in Sudan as very concerning and getting worse. He said it is disturbing that the appalling crimes are taking place out of the international limelight, as Sudan risks becoming a forgotten conflict.

Nevertheless, he said the human rights office continues to document and record multiple cases of killings, injury, displacement and growing cases of sexual violence, among other forms of abuse.

“These violations are incredibly serious under international law,” he said. “The high commissioner has stated in response to this report … that these violations would amount to war crimes and should be promptly and thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators brought to account.”

Commanders of the RSF and the Sudanese Armed Forces have previously denied committing war crimes as they battle for control of the country.

In his statement, High Commissioner Turk said the report makes “more painful reading on the tragedy being needlessly inflicted on the Sudanese people since April 2023.”

He underlined “the dire need to end the fighting and to break the cycle of impunity that gave rise to this conflict in the first place.”

“The guns must be silenced, and civilians must be protected,” he said.