Sudan: New Deadly Attacks in West Darfur
NNN: New armed Arab attacks on civilians in western Darfur since April 2022 have left hundreds dead, thousands displaced, and hundreds of civilian homes burned and property looted, Human Rights Watch said today.
Large-scale violence has been carried out particularly against civilians in Kerenik and Kulbus. It underlines the failure of the Sudanese government to fulfill its duty to protect civilians and the urgent need for the United Nations to increase vigilance, protection through its presence and public information on developments in Darfur.
“The last two months have clearly shown the devastating dividends of withdrawing peacekeepers and ignoring the continuing need to protect civilians in Darfur,” said Mohamed Osman, Sudan researcher at Human Rights Watch. “It is hard not to feel that the international community, which has watched Darfur with eagle eyes for years, has completely abandoned these victims of ethnic cleansing.”
The joint human rights office in Sudan of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) should give priority to ensuring access regulate Darfur to investigate and publicly report abuses; all parts of the UN mission, the UN system and member states must support their work and increase protection monitoring and reporting capacity, including by deploying a stronger monitoring presence in Darfur.
The UN reported that the latest attack on civilians in the town of Kulbus and neighboring villages in West Darfur between June 6 and 11 left at least 125 dead, including five children, more than 100 injured and 33,000 displaced. According to reports, most of the victims are from the non-Arab Gimir community. The attackers reportedly burned houses and farms and looted livestock.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has reported that more than two dozen villages in Gimir were burned down over the course of five days, allegedly by armed members of the Rizeigat and Abbala Arab communities, who they had mobilized against the Gimir community following a dispute between two individuals.
In 2008, according to the then prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, the town of Kulbus was the scene of indiscriminate aerial bombardment, murder, rape, torture and forcible transfer by the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Janjaweed forces. United Nations peacekeepers maintained a presence in Kulbus until 2013. In December 2020, the United Nations Security Council rescinded the mandate of a joint United Nations peacekeeping force and the African Union.
The violence in Kulbus follows patterns of attacks on civilians by heavily armed Arab militias between April 22 and 24 in the West Darfur town of Kerenik, which killed at least 165 people, displaced 98,000 and destroyed important civil infrastructure. The UN said these attacks also followed a dispute between individuals related to a cattle rustling incident.
Survivors told Human Rights Watch that the assailants pulled civilians, including children, out of houses and shot them. They also burned others inside their homes or on the streets as they fled. The violence from Kerenik spread to the town of al-Genaina, where witnesses described clashes between the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the Sudanese Coalition Forces, a peace-signing rebel group currently led by the governor of Western Darfur.
The International Organization for Migration reported in May that nearly 60,000 people remained displaced in Kerenik, most sheltering in open areas, schools or other public buildings, and only seven percent of them said they intended to return home, which indicating that security issues persist.
At least 75,000 people were recently displaced in Darfur and South Kordofan between January and May, while another 11,000 fled to Chad as refugees, according to the UN. Western Darfur has suffered several large-scale attacks following the end of the mandate of the United Nations/African Union peacekeeping force.
In 2021, the regional capital of al-Genaina experienced two major episodes of violence, including an attack in January in which armed Arab militiamen, backed by RSF forces, attacked Kirindig, a camp for ethnic Massalit IDPs. In March 2022, 48 people were reportedly killed and 12,000 displaced in Jebel Mun in attacks involving “community-level mobilizations” by Sudanese state security forces.
Hospitals and medical staff have come under repeated attack during the violence in West Darfur, making access to medical care difficult for the injured, and reportedly including the killing of four medical staff during the violence of late April 2022 in Al Genaina.
The RSF, which has a long history of serious violations in Darfur, has sometimes sided with Arab militias in attacks against civilians, most notably in Al Genaina in April 2021. Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that members of the RSF RSF also participated alongside Arab militias in the recent April attacks on Kerenik.
Government forces have failed to protect civilians during attacks. Two survivors from Kerenik said that the Sudanese Armed Forces fired to warn the attackers not to approach their garrison, where many people were sheltering, but did not intervene to deter the attackers or protect civilians who could not reach the village. Garrison. The OHCHR reported that the joint security forces “reportedly withdrew in the face of another large-scale attack on Kerenik by Rezeigat assailants on April 24.”
On June 14, the UN warned that the violence in Kulbus was impeding humanitarian access to communities in need, including those recently displaced by the violence. This comes at a critical time, as the World Food Program (WFP) reported in June that West Darfur is the state with the highest level of food insecurity in Sudan, with 65 percent of the population currently insecure. food. If the current situation continues, this could hinder the growing season that is scheduled to start.
In 2020, the now deposed transitional government of Sudan signed the Juba Peace Agreement (JPA) with Darfur rebel groups. The security arrangements provided for in the agreement, including the disarmament and reintegration of forces, and the deployment of joint security maintenance forces, have been delayed. The UN reported in May that a first batch of 2,000 joint forces was being trained.
Neither the Sudanese transitional government nor the current military rulers have meaningfully addressed the underlying causes of the violence in Darfur, including marginalization, disputes over control and access to land and natural resources, and lack of justice for past and current abuses. Nor have they provided meaningful protection to civilians through the deployment of well-trained, vetted and rights-respecting forces. These failures have once again contributed to the escalation of violence and harm to civilians, Human Rights Watch said.
Impunity for abuses remains the norm. Although Ali Mohammed Abd-Al-Rahman, known as Ali Kosheib, commander of the Janjaweed militias, is currently on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes related to the campaign of ethnic cleansing against civilians in Darfur, that is the exception. . ICC arrest warrants for former President Omar al-Bashir and two other officials who are in Sudanese custody are pending.
Human Rights Watch documented intimidation and attacks against people who filed complaints following the attacks in al-Genaina, including those who attempted to file complaints against RSF officials. Survivors of the Kerenik attacks said logistical, security and bureaucratic hurdles were hampering their ability to even file complaints.
The protection of civilians is multifaceted and requires genuine efforts aimed at addressing the root causes of potential conflicts, addressing the fears of communities, and holding officials and security forces accountable for their crimes. Sudanese authorities should not only investigate government forces, particularly the RSF’s involvement in abuses, but also the lack of response by other government forces during attacks, as well as crimes committed by armed militias, Human Rights said. Watch.
The 2021 UN Security Council resolution renewing the transitional mission in Sudan also underscored the mission’s role in monitoring ceasefire violations in Darfur. On May 24, 2022, the special representative of the secretary-general told the Security Council that following formal complaints from parties, the Ceasefire Standing Committee had opened an investigation into the events in Kerenik related to his mandate. The findings of this investigation should be included in public UN reports on events in Darfur, Human Rights Watch said.
In May 2020, the Sudanese transitional government committed under a new national plan to protect civilians in Darfur by deploying joint security forces and strengthening accountability. The national mechanism that was supposed to carry out the plan largely suspended its activities after the coup on October 25, 2021.
The UN mission must prioritize strengthening its capacity to fulfill its monitoring mandate before the situation in Darfur deteriorates further, Human Rights Watch said.
The UN Security Council Panel of Experts on Darfur, which is expected to present its interim report to the Council in July, is due to report publicly to the Council and the Council’s 1591 Committee, formed to monitor sanctions imposed over the situation in Darfur. , on the dynamics underpinning violence against civilians in West Darfur. While such a briefing is not common as such, UN Security Council expert panels rarely make public presentations, the rules of procedure do not exclude it, and the seriousness of the situation justifies it. The designated expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan, in carrying out his mandate, should monitor the abuses in Darfur and promptly visit the region, particularly West Darfur. Sudan’s leaders should facilitate his work.
“Given the international community’s decision to prematurely withdraw protection forces from Darfur, they must ensure that the UN system has the means and political backing to improve its reporting on attacks against civilians in the region,” Osman said. . “Hope for stability in Darfur depends on efforts to ensure that countless bereaved families and people who have lost everything can obtain protection and justice.”
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