UN Human Rights Council to discuss accountability for Sudan war

UN Human Rights Council chief Volker Türk calls for "the horrific conflict to stop before it is too late to pull Sudan back from disaster" on September 12 (Source: OHCHR)

Intensive consultations take place at the UN Human Rights Council (OHCHR) on the formation of an investigative mission on Sudan, which aims to determine responsibility for crimes and hold those responsible to account.

Members of the OHCHR are meeting in Geneva today for consultations on a draft resolution submitted by the USA, UK, Norway, and Germany on the demand for a three-member investigation mission on violations and crimes during the war in Sudan. Several countries, including Saudi Arabia, have refused to support the project. 

Abdelbagi Jibril, head of the Darfur Centre for Aid and Documentation, said that the draft resolution is appropriate to the Sudanese situation. In an interview with Radio Dabanga yesterday, he said it responds appropriately to human rights challenges in Sudan, noting that it was submitted by a group of “key countries” in the OHCHR. 

The draft resolution will determine responsibility for crimes, identify those responsible, and prepare to hold them accountable in the near future. 

The “independent international fact-finding mission” will consist of three members with expertise in international human rights law and international humanitarian law, appointed as soon as possible by the President of the OHCHR for an initial term of one session. 

The Council, which consists of 47 member states and examines the human rights situation in various countries of the world, is in session from September 11 to October 13.  

The draft was circulated among member countries on Friday, according to Reuters. “It has not yet been formally submitted to the Council, whose debates bring heightened scrutiny to issues and whose investigations are sometimes used by international prosecutors.” 

In a press statement yesterday, the human rights defenders Non-Governmental Organisation Defend Defenders said that “this mechanism will not by itself stop the war, but it will send the right message to tho­se invol­ved and thus contribute to efforts to establish peace and a return to the democratic transition.” 

The meeting being held today aims to crystallise the Council’s position according to those countries which are supportive of the project. Jibril expects the resolution to begin formal discussion next week and for a vote to be held by the end of the OHCHR session. He also said that the four countries have made significant efforts to mobilise support for the investigation “from a large number of countries.” 

“The decision to not be supportive of the draft resolution is not based on convincing fundamental reasons,” said Jibril. Countries such as Saudi Arabia “have nothing to do with people suffering or the mitigation of war, but rather on political positioning.” 

Mission tasks 

The draft resolution stipulated that the mission’s tasks would include investigating and establishing all alleged violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, including those committed against refugees, and related crimes in the context of the ongoing armed conflict that began on 15 April 2023, between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), and to establish such violations, abuses, and the root cause of violations, as well as other warring parties. 

The mission of inquiry also includes collecting, consolidating, and analysing evidence of such violations and abuses, including violations and abuses affecting women and children, and systematically recording and preserving all information, documents, and evidence, including interviews, witness statements and forensic materials, consistent with international best practices, in the light of any future legal action. 

According to the draft resolution, one of the tasks of the Mission would be to identify individuals and entities responsible for violations or abuses of human rights, violations of international human rights law or other related crimes in the Sudan, to ensure that those responsible are held accountable. 

The draft resolution stressed the need to focus the work of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) on Khartoum and Darfur in particular.  

Impact of war 

There is no reliable information on the total number of casualties due to the circumstances of the ongoing war and the difficulty of monitoring by independent actors. 

Reports from West Darfur say that more than 5,000 people have been killed and 8,000 wounded in El Geneina alone because of attacks by the RSF and allied militant tribesmen since the war began on April 15. 

In its overview report on Thursday, the Emergency Lawyers reported 160 artillery and air bombardments in Khartoum, El Obeid in North Kordofan, and Nyala in South Darfur between April 16 and September 19, killing 954 civilians and the number of injuries reaching 2,434. 

The attacks included 129 artillery shelling and 31 airstrikes by fighter jets in Khartoum, Omdurman, El Obeid, and Nyala. 

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) Volker Türk in his speech at the session of September 12, underlined that “more than 5.1 million have been uprooted from their homes. More than one million are seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.

The conflict has paralysed the economy, pushing millions to the brink of poverty. It has brought essential services in areas affected by fighting, such as education and healthcare, almost to a halt. More than 7.4 million children are without safe drinking water and at least 700,000 are at risk of severe acute malnutrition.” 

Epidemic of sexual violence 

Türk also denounced the outbreak of what he described as an epidemic of conflict-related sexual violence. His office has received credible reports of 45 incidents, involving at least 95 victims, including 75 women, one man and 19 children.  

The cases of sexual violence are likely to be much higher than those documented, and the figures recorded do therefore not represent the severity of the real situation, according to the Combating Violence Against Women Unit at the Sudanese Ministry of Social Affairs.  

In most cases, victims said that the perpetrators were members of the RSF, said Seleima Ishag, head of the unit. The number of recorded cases do not represent “even two per cent of the total number,” she told Radio Dabanga in July. 


The USA on Thursday imposed new sanctions on Ali Karti, head of the Islamic Movement in Sudan, and two companies affiliated with the RSF. The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control on September 6 imposed sanctions on RSF Deputy Commander Abdelrahim Dagalo for alleged human rights abuses in Sudan. 

In mid-July, the UK sanctioned six companies they say belong to the leaders of the SAF or the RSF. British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said this was an effort to directly target “those whose actions have destroyed the lives of millions”. 

A US executive order imposed sanctions on individuals destabilising Sudan on May 4, but did not mention any names. Later that month, experts called for broader targeted sanctions to limit the humanitarian disaster caused by the SAF-RSF war that broke out on April 15.