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Investigators: Disregard for human rights, law drives crisis in Sudan

By Lisa Schlein

June 20, 2024

Credits @FFHR.CZ

GENEVA — Independent investigators have accused Sudan’s warring parties of driving the country into a humanitarian abyss by blatantly disregarding fundamental human rights and international humanitarian law.

The three-member International Fact-Finding Mission for Sudan presented its first oral update Tuesday and Wednesday at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The investigators told the council that the lack of concern for the suffering of millions of Sudanese civilians by the warring parties has led to killings, looting, mass displacement, rape and other forms of sexual violence, “and resulted in a grave humanitarian crisis.”

They accused the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of preventing humanitarian aid from reaching millions of people who are at risk of famine.

Citing the World Food Program, they warned that around 18 million people deprived of sufficient food will face acute hunger, with 5 million on the brink of starvation.

The U.N. reports that rampant violations and abuses, along with the deprivation of essential lifesaving aid, have led to the mass displacement of nearly 9 million people inside Sudan, as well as to more than 1.8 million people fleeing to neighboring countries.

Since the conflict began in April 2023, other armed groups have sprung up to support the two main military forces. Fact-finding mission chair Mohamed Chande Othman said the deadly conflict “now involves multiple actors within and outside Sudan and has spread from Khartoum and Darfur to most of the country.”

“We are deeply concerned that the fighting persists with tragic consequences and enormous suffering of the civilian population,” he said.

“We have received credible accounts of indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian objects, including through airstrikes and shelling in heavily populated residential areas, as well as ground attacks against civilians in their homes and villages,” he said. He added that in the capital, Khartoum, and in nearby towns, killings, looting and sexual violence have “forced many to leave their homes and property to seek refuge in other locations.”

The investigators expressed particular concern about the situation in the Darfur region, especially the siege of the capital, El Fasher — the last stronghold of the SAF, where 1.5 million inhabitants and some 800,000 internally displaced people are in great danger.

“Already, heavy fighting between the warring parties in different parts of the city has led to significant civilian casualties, damaged homes and caused mass displacement,” Othman said. “The attack on one of the main and last functioning hospitals in the city on June 8 led to its closure, leaving the civilian population without access to lifesaving medical care.”

The fact-finding mission said it is investigating earlier large-scale attacks against civilians based on their ethnicity in other areas of Darfur. These, said Othman, “have included killings, rape and other forms of sexual violence, torture, forced displacement and looting.”

The investigators said they also have received credible reports of rampant sexual violence, including rape and gang rape, and that they are investigating reports “of sexual slavery and sexualized torture in detention facilities, including against men and boys.”

Othman said the mission has received worrying reports about the “widespread recruitment and use of children at checkpoints to gather intelligence, as well as to participate in direct combat and commit violent crimes,” thereby putting the lives and future of many children at risk.

A June 3 report from U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on children and armed conflict ranks Sudan among the countries with the highest number of “grave violations against children” in the world.

The fact-finding mission to Sudan is calling for an immediate cease-fire, without which, it said, "it is hard to see the human rights and humanitarian situation in Sudan improving.”

Following the presentation of the report, Yassir Bashir Elbukhari Suliman, the chief prosecutor of Sudan, spoke as the representative of the concerned country. He accused the RSF of multiple crimes and atrocities against unarmed civilians, without assigning any blame to the SAF for the commission of similar acts.

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

Commenting on the situation in Sudan last month, Guterres accused both warring factions of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.



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