Sudan genocide a possibility says new report into ongoing violence

  • Post last modified:May 10, 2024
  • Reading time:5 mins read

A series of attacks by Sudanese paramilitary forces in the western region of Darfur raise the possibility of “genocide” against non-Arab ethnic communities in Sudan, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said. The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), along with allied militias, have been widely accused of ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in their war with the regular army, which began in April 2023.The war has killed tens of thousands. That includes up to 15,000 people dead in the West Darfur town of El-Geneina, according to UN experts.

Sudan’s Massalit community

The area is the focus of the 186-page HRW report “‘The Massalit Will Not Come Home’: Ethnic Cleansing and Crimes Against Humanity in El-Geneina, West Darfur, Sudan.”

It describes:

an ethnic cleansing campaign against the ethnic Massalit and other non-Arab populations.

According to HRW, from late April early November of last year, the RSF and allied militias:

conducted a systematic campaign to remove, including by killing, ethnic Massalit residents.

HRW found that:

During the course of these abuses, women and girls were raped and subjected to other forms of sexual violence, and detainees were tortured and otherwise ill-treated. The attackers methodically destroyed critical civilian infrastructure, targeting neighborhoods and sites, including schools, in primarily Massalit displaced communities. They looted on a grand scale; and burned, shelled, and razed neighborhoods to the ground, after emptying them of residents.

Local human rights lawyers said they had tracked a pattern where fighters targeted “prominent members of the Massalit community.” This included doctors, human rights defenders, local leaders and government officials.

HRW spoke to one 17-year-old boy who described the killing of a number of adults and children:

Two RSF forces … grabb[ed] the children from their parents and, as the parents started screaming, two other RSF forces shot the parents, killing them. Then they piled up the children and shot them. They threw their bodies into the river and their belongings in after them.

‘Ethnic cleansing’

HRW added that the attackers “methodically destroyed critical civilian infrastructure”, primarily in communities consisting of displaced Massalit.

The report found that satellite imagery showed that since June predominantly Massalit neighbourhoods in El-Geneina have been:

systematically dismantled, many with bulldozers, preventing civilians who fled from returning to their homes.

According to HRW, these attacks constitute “ethnic cleansing” as they appeared to be aimed at “at least having them permanently leave the region”.

They concluded that the context of the killings further:

raises the possibility that the RSF and their allies have the intent to destroy in whole or in part the Massalit in at least West Darfur, which would indicate that genocide has been and/or is being committed there.

HRW had strong words for the international community over the potential genocide, writing that:

Despite the magnitude of events documented in this report, the international and regional responses have been shockingly inadequate. The global community has failed to act to prevent further atrocities or to provide an adequate humanitarian response.

In particular, they said the UN security council had been “largely paralyzed.”

‘Large-scale atrocities’

HRW have called for an investigation into genocidal intent, targeted sanctions on those responsible and urged the UN to “widen the existing arms embargo on Darfur to cover all of Sudan”.

The International Criminal Court, currently investigating ethnic-based killings in Darfur, says it has “grounds to believe” that both the paramilitaries and the army are committing “Rome Statute crimes”, which include war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

Over half a million Sudanese people have fled the violence from Darfur into Chad, according to the latest UN figures. HRW found that by late October, 75% of those crossing the border were from El-Geneina.

Around 400 kilometres (250 miles) east of El-Geneina, all eyes are currently on El-Fasher in North Darfur, the only state capital not under RSF control.

HRW executive director Tirana Hassan said:

As the UN Security Council and governments wake up to the looming disaster in El-Fasher, the large-scale atrocities committed in El-Geneina should be seen as a reminder of the atrocities that could come in the absence of concerted action.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

Featured image via YouTube screenshot/Al Jazeera English

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