HRW: RSF methodical destruction in West Darfur ‘amounts to genocide’

Refugees arrive in a transit camp in Adré in eastern Chad on June 17 after fleeing violence in El Geneina (Photo: MSF)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report providing new evidence of atrocities committed by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in West Darfur. The 218-page report, published this morning, indicates that the paramilitary RSF and allied militias deliberately targeted non-Arab Masalit people in El Geneina, the state capital, last year.

“The attackers methodically destroyed critical civilian infrastructure, targeting neighbourhoods and sites, including schools, in primarily Masalit displaced communities”, according to the HRW report. “Committing serious violations against [the Masalit] with the apparent objective of at least having them permanently leave the region constitutes ethnic cleansing.

“The particular context in which the widespread killings took place also 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.”

The situation intensified on June 15 with a large-scale massacre, where RSF forces fired upon a convoy of fleeing civilians, the report states. In November, the violence escalated with additional targeted attacks on the Masalit community in the northeastern Ardamata suburb of El Geneina.

The report notably details violence perpetrated by the RSF against children. In one instance, a 17-year-old witness told HRW that RSF forces grabbed children from their parents, shot the parents, and then “piled up the children and shot them” before throwing their bodies into a river along with their belongings.

HRW called for an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into the possibility of genocide in El Geneina. RSF commanders, notably Mohammed ‘Hemedti’ Hamdan Dagalo and his brother Abdel Raheem Hamdan Dagalo, were singled out for bearing command responsibility for these crimes. The report also advocated for the urgent deployment of a mission to safeguard civilians at risk in Sudan.

“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,” warned HRW Executive Director Tirana Hassan.

El Geneina violence

Violence erupted in El Geneina between April and November 2023 when the RSF and allied militias conducted a series of attacks targeting predominantly Masalit neighborhoods, killing thousands of civilians and displacing hundreds of thousands of people. These assaults included reports of torture, rape, and looting.

A full picture of the gravity and scale of the RSF attack on West Darfur has gradually become clearer. A months-long telecommunications blackout further hindered the flow of information from El Geneina.

A testimony by a Native Administration leader for Arab tribes in West Darfur, included in the HRW report, describes an instance where, after burying bodies in a mass grave near the Central Reserve Police (CRP) headquarters in El Geneina, an RSF guard exclaimed, “Don’t share this information with Radio Dabanga!”

Mutasim Ali, who co-authored an independent inquiry on potential breaches of the Genocide Convention in Darfur for the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, acknowledged Dabanga’s role in covering the events in the Darfur region in an interview this week. He said that “Radio Dabanga gained credibility with its original reports, which do not rely on information from other parties, making it a major source of reliable information not only for the Raoul Wallenberg Centre but for everyone searching for news on Sudan”.

*You can read the full report ‘‘The Massalit Will Not Come Home’: Ethnic Cleansing and Crimes Against Humanity in El Geneina, West Darfur, Sudan” on the Human Rights Watch website.