STORY: Sudan - " Five months of futile suffering, death, loss and destruction " Volker Türk at the 54th HRC
SOURCE: UNTV / OHCHR
ASPECT RATIO: 16:9
DATELINE: 12-09-2023 GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
UN Human Rights travelled to Chad and Ethiopia in June and July to gather first-hand information from people who had fled the violence in Sudan. Their testimonies underscore the information my Office has obtained on the scale and brutality of this conflict.
“We heard stories of family members being killed or raped. Stories of their relatives being arrested, without reason. Of disappeared loved ones. Of piles of abandoned bodies. Of desperate, lingering hunger. Stories of a level of fear and uncertainty for their future unfelt before, despite the decades of turmoil in which Sudan has been embroiled,” the high commissioner stated.
“The unbearable story of a fifteen-year-old girl attacked and raped, and taken away from her family. “My entire body aches; my head aches,” she said. “I am not rested because I do not know what happened to my family. I have no appetite to eat. At night, I cannot sleep thinking about my family,” Türk said.
At least 1500 civilians have been killed, according to the Ministry of Health. The actual figure is likely much higher. More than 5.1 million are 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.
The High Commissioner stated that despite repeated promises by both sides to investigate the serious human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law, the silence has been deafening, with nobody held to account.
“I deplore the widespread arbitrary detention of civilians by both parties. Hundreds – and likely thousands – are being held incommunicado in appalling conditions. From political activists to courageous human rights defenders, to members of the Resistance Committees, their so-called crime is support or perceived support of the opposing party, opposing the war, or simply to be providing humanitarian assistance to those in need. Many have been tortured, ” he said.
At least 500 people are reported to have disappeared in Khartoum alone.
“And in West Darfur, ethnically motivated attacks perpetrated by the RSF and allied Arab militia have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of “non-Arab” civilians primarily from Masalit communities,” Türk said. This has mainly occurred in the capital, El Geneina, but also in at least eight other locations. The RSF now controls all but two localities in West Darfur.
“Such developments echo a horrific past that must not be repeated,” the high commissioner stated.
In other areas of Darfur, civilian casualties continue to mount, as does destruction of civilian infrastructure, including in Nyala, South Darfur. On 21 August, more than 39 civilians, mostly women and children, were killed there by shells that exploded close to their hiding place under a bridge. And throughout the Darfur region, people have been unable to access their farmlands because of the fighting, further compounding an already desperate food security situation.
“I am deeply concerned by the calls made by SAF officials to arm civilians, including by Major-General Al-Burhan. Similar calls have been made by community leaders, including most recently the Sultan of Massalit. Civilians should not be encouraged to take part in hostilities, nor should they be exposed to the impact of the military operations,” Türk said.
“I am repulsed to hear of the ongoing epidemic of conflict-related sexual violence. As of 10 September, my Office has received credible reports of 45 incidents, involving at least 95 victims, including 75 women, one man and 19 children,” he said. This is likely to be the tip of the iceberg. Reports are mainly coming from Khartoum State, and the Darfur and Kordofan regions. The majority of perpetrators – around 78% - have been men in RSF uniform or armed men affiliated with the RSF. UN Human Rights have also received increasing allegations against both parties, some supported by video evidence, of the torture and killing of people who were hors de combat.
Compounding the crisis, the humanitarian effort to alleviate the suffering has been callously blocked, denied – and directly attacked. The World Health Organisation has documented 56 attacks on health care facilities. Atleast 19 humanitarian workers have been killed and several are missing, making Sudan one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a humanitarian. These attacks must stop, today, and to avoid further tragedy, the authorities must allow humanitarian aid to be delivered, unimpeded.
“The people of Sudan have endured immense suffering and sacrifice in their long pursuit of peace and justice. This pointless conflict, and the decades of military dictatorship before it, have shown us beyond a shadow of doubt that military rule will not bring stability to Sudan. It will not improve its governance, nor advance human rights, and nor will it improve the economy. What it will do, however, is generate more unrest, and incredible suffering. It is time for the two generals to cease the violence, to return to political talks, and to comply at once with their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law,” Türk stated.
The High Commissioner adding that it is time that the perpetrators of these gross violations are identified, investigated and held to account. It is time to break the cycle of impunity. Failure to hold those responsible for past crimes and violations to account has been a major contributor to the decades-long instability in Sudan, and it has ultimately fueled the current hostilities.
He added the need to coordinate political will, engagement and cooperation from those with influence in the international community to bring an end to this tragedy. “And in the meantime, we need a massive increase in financial support to the humanitarian agencies who are doing all they possibly can to reach the millions of people in need. This horrific conflict must stop before it is too late to pull Sudan back from disaster,” the high commissioner stated.
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