Confirming previous reports by the UN refugee agency and local groups, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of killing hundreds of people in Sudan’s West Darfur region in early November.
In a statement published on Sunday, the international non-governmental organisation called on the UN Security Council to act to protect civilians in the war-torn country. It also urged it to sanction culpable commanders of the paramilitary force.
Since April 15, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and RSF have been engaged in a battle in Khartoum, the country’s capital. At least 10,000 people have been killed and 6.3 million have been displaced across the country while others are crossing to South Sudan, Chad, Ethiopia, and Egypt.
Abdulfatah al-Burhan leads the SAF, while Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, otherwise known as Hemedti, heads the paramilitary RSF. Several efforts for a ceasefire in the war between the two generals have failed.
Human Rights Watch said the RSF and its allied militias killed hundreds of civilians in West Darfur in early November. It added that its forces assaulted and unlawfully detained many people in a community in Ardamata, a suburb of El Geneina, that hosted mostly the Massalit.
The Massalit are an agrarian ethnic group typically found in western Sudan and the eastern region of Chad. They were among the rebel forces that fought against the Sudanese government and Janjaweed militia during the 2003 Darfur conflict. The Janjaweed forces would eventually be restructured into what is now the RSF.
“The Rapid Support Forces’ latest episode of ethnically targeted killings in West Darfur has the hallmarks of an organised campaign of atrocities against Massalit civilians,” said HRW Sudan researcher Mohamed Osman.
“The UN Security Council needs to stop ignoring the desperate need to protect Darfur civilians.”
HRW noted that considering the imminent closure of the UN mission in Sudan, which is to be replaced by a special envoy, the UN Security Council should urgently think of how to bolster its presence in the country in order to prevent more human rights violations and safeguard civilians in Darfur.
“It should support monitoring of human rights abuses there and expand the existing arms embargo to cover the entire country and all parties to the ongoing armed conflict. African members of the Security Council, the United Arab Emirates, and other governments on the council should support these and other measures to ensure the UN’s most powerful body is able to fulfil its responsibility to protect civilians in West Darfur and the rest of Sudan,” it said.
The ethnic crisis in Darfur has further worsened the humanitarian situation of the northern African country.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, shared concerns similar to those of the HRW in an earlier statement. It disclosed that over 800 people were reportedly killed by armed groups in Ardamata. Nearly 100 shelters belonging to internally displaced people were destroyed, and materials were looted, including aid from the UNHCR. There were also reports of torture, sexual violence, extortion, and arbitrary killings.
HRW gathered from survivors and local groups that fighting erupted again between RSF and SAF on Nov. 1, which affected the suburb.
“Residents said that some Massalit fighters joined the fight alongside the SAF. From Nov. 4, after the RSF and militia gained control of the SAF base, they went on a rampage through the camp for displaced people, and other residential areas, all largely inhabited by Massalit and other non-Arab groups. Survivors said that the Rapid Support Forces and allied forces shot at civilians as they fled and executed people in their homes, shelters, and in the streets.”
“Survivors said attackers insulted the Massalit, and in some instances said they wanted to ‘kill Massalit.’ The assailants killed primarily Massalit men, but two people interviewed said that people from non-Arab groups, notably ethnic Tama and Eringa, were also killed and injured,” the statement noted.
The HRW called on the European Union, African Union, Intergovernmental Authority for Development, United Kingdom, United States, and others to “immediately impose targeted sanctions” on the most senior RSF commanders who were present during the assaults in Ardamata. RSF leader Hemedti should also be sanctioned, it said, for “grave abuses by forces under his command”.
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