ADDIS ABABA –
An emerging pattern of large-scale targeted attacks against civilians in Darfur, based on their ethnic identities, allegedly committed by Arab militias and some armed men in Rapid Support Force (RSF)’s uniform, are deeply worrying and, if verified, could amount to crimes against humanity, says Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), Volker Perthes.
In a statement yesterday on the situation is Sudan, Perthes pointed out that: “Since the eruption of conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on 15 April 2023, the security, human rights and humanitarian situation continue to rapidly deteriorate across the country, particularly in the greater Khartoum, Darfur and Kordofan areas.”
Perthes said that while the UN is at this stage unable to verify all alleged violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, “information received from multiple civil society entities and human rights defenders’ networks, paint a clear picture of the devastating scale of impact on the civilian population.
‘Allegations of sexual violence against women and girls are deeply alarming’
“In addition to the killing and injury of thousands of civilians, communities continue to grapple with severe shortages of food, access to medical supplies and restricted movement out of conflict areas. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced, including populations that had already been displaced following decades of conflict. Allegations of sexual violence against women and girls are deeply alarming.
“As the situation in Darfur continues to deteriorate, I am particularly alarmed by the situation in El Geneina (West Darfur) following various waves of violence since late April which took on ethnic dimensions. While the United Nations continues to gather additional details regarding these reports, there is an emerging pattern of large-scale targeted attacks against civilians based on their ethnic identities, allegedly committed by Arab militias and some armed men in RSF uniform. These reports are deeply worrying and, if verified, could amount to crimes against humanity,” Perthes stated.
He underlines that the United Nations condemns in the strongest terms all attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, “whatever the form and whoever the alleged perpetrators are. It is imperative that security forces and non-state armed actors uphold their duty under international humanitarian law to respect the right to life and refrain from attacks against civilians”.
Perthes says that while he is encouraged that in some areas, local communities and state authorities have taken proactive measures to help de-escalate and mediate, “it is important to ensure that all violations are documented and protected for accountability purposes.
He concludes that “UNITAMS will continue its efforts to monitor the situation and avail its resources to engage with all parties to reach a peaceful resolution to the conflict, in coordination with regional and international partners”.
The relationship with the UNITAMS head and the Sudanese government has been tenuous recently, after the Sudanese Foreign Ministry informed UN Secretary-General António Guterres last week, that Perthes has been declared persona non grata in Sudan. The UN says this is contrary to the obligations of States under the Charter of the United Nations.
UNITAMS is part of the AU-IGAD-UN Trilateral Mechanism. IGAD held a summit in Djibouti on Monday, and proposed a meeting between Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, Commander-in-Chief of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) leader Lt Gen Mohamed ‘Hemedti’ Dagalo Burhan in one of the IGAD countries, for a new ceasefire and the delivery of humanitarian aid.