Ethnic cleansing in Western Darfur. Human Rights Watch holds militia leaders responsible.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released on Thursday that attacks by the RSF and its allied militias in Geneina, the capital of the Sudan’s Western Darfur State, killed at least thousands of people and left hundreds of thousands of refugees from April to November 2023. Crimes against humanity and large-scale war crimes were committed in the context of a campaign of ethnic cleansing against ethnic Masalit and other non-Arab populations in and around Geneina.

Continuous Attacks

The 218-page report, entitled “Masalit will not return to their homes: ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in El Geneina, Western Darfur”, and the targeting of predominantly Masalit neighbourhoods by the Rapid Support Forces and allied Arab militias, including the “Third Front”, in ongoing attacks between April and June. Violations escalated again in early November. The attackers committed other serious violations such as torture, rape and looting. More than half a million refugees from Western Darfur have fled to Chad since April 2023. As of late October 2023, 75% of them were from El Geneina.

Tirana Hassan, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, said: “While the United Nations Security Council and Governments recognize the looming catastrophe in El Fasher, the widespread atrocities committed in El Geneina should be seen as a reminder of atrocities that could occur in the absence of coordinated action. Governments, the African Union and the United Nations must act now to protect civilians “.

Serious violations

The report indicates that the targeting of the Masalit ethnicity and other non-Arab groups with the assumed aim of causing them to leave the region permanently constitutes racial cleansing. The particular context in which large-scale killings took place also raises the possibility that the RSF and its allies may have an intention to destroy the Masalit in whole or in part in western Darfur at least, suggesting that genocide occurred or occurred there.

Between June 2023 and April 2024, Human Rights Watch met more than 220 people in Chad, Uganda, Kenya and South Sudan, as well as remotely. Researchers also reviewed and analyzed more than 120 images and videos of events, Satellite images and documents shared by humanitarian organizations to support accounts of grave violations.

The violence in El Geneina began nine days after fighting broke out in Khartoum, the capital of the Sudan, between the “Sudanese Armed Forces” and the Rapid Support Forces. On the morning of April 24, the RSF clashed with a Sudanese military convoy crossing El Geneina. RSF and allied groups then attacked predominantly Masalit neighbourhoods, clashing with predominantly Masalit armed groups defending their areas. During the following weeks, even after the Masalit armed groups lost control of their neighbourhoods, the RSF and its allied militias systematically targeted unarmed civilians.

Violence and carnage

The violence culminated in a large massacre on 15 June, when the RSF and its allies shot at a convoy of civilians several kilometres long who were desperately trying to escape, accompanied by Masalit fighters. RSF and militias pursued, arrested and shot at men, women and children who were running in the streets or trying to swim to the other bank of the Kaja River, many of whom drowned. Not even the elderly and wounded were extradited


A 17-year-old boy described the deaths of 12 children and five adults from several families: “Two RSF forces… By taking the children from their parents, and when the parents started screaming, the RSF shot them, killing them. They then gathered the children and shot them. They threw their bodies into the river and their belongings after them. “

That day and in subsequent days, attacks continued on tens of thousands of civilians who attempted to cross into Chad, leaving the countryside full of bodies. Published videos show crowds of civilians running for their lives on the road linking El Geneina to Chad.

According to the report, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and their allied militias stepped up their violations again in November, targeting the Masalit population who had taken refuge in the Ardamta area of El Geneina, arresting men and boys from Masalit and, according to the United Nations, killing at least 1,000 people.

Rape of women

During these violations, women and girls were raped and other forms of sexual violence, and detainees were subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment. Attackers systematically destroyed critical civilian infrastructure, targeting neighbourhoods and sites, including schools, in displaced communities, the majority of which consisted of masalites. looted widely; They burned, bombed and completely demolished the neighbourhoods, having emptied them of their inhabitants.

Human Rights Watch stated that these acts were committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack against Masalit and other non-Arab civilian populations in predominantly Masalit neighbourhoods, and therefore also constitute crimes against humanity of murder, torture, persecution and forced transfer of the civilian population.

The report cited the possibility that genocide in Darfur had occurred or was in the process of being obtained that required urgent action by all Governments and international institutions to protect civilians. It should be ensured that the facts show a specific intention on the part of the RSF leadership and its allies to commit total or partial destruction of Masalit and other non-Arab ethnic groups in Western Darfur, i.e. genocide. If so, it must act to prevent further crimes and ensure that those responsible for planning and committing them are brought to justice.

Global inaction

The international community should support the investigations carried out by the International Criminal Court, and States parties to the Court should ensure that they received the necessary financial resources in their regular budget for the implementation of their mandate in Darfur and all the cases they were working on.

Human Rights Watch identified RSF Commander Mohamed “Hemeti” Hamdan Dagalo, his brother Abdirahim Hamdan Dagalo and RSF Commander in Western Darfur Juma ‘a Blah as those responsible for commanding the forces that carried out these crimes. Human Rights Watch also identified RSF allies, including the commander of the Tamazaj armed group and two Arab tribal leaders, as being responsible for combatants who committed serious crimes.

“The United Nations, in coordination with the African Union, should deploy an emergency new mission to protect civilians at risk in the Sudan. The Security Council should impose sanctions against those responsible for serious crimes in Western Darfur, individuals and corporations that violated or violated the embargo. should extend the existing arms embargo on Darfur to the whole of the Sudan “.

“Global failure to confront atrocities of this magnitude is unacceptable. Governments shall ensure that those responsible are held accountable, including through targeted sanctions and enhanced cooperation with the International Criminal Court “.

Human Rights Watch also said that it had monitored the deaths of Arab residents and the looting of Arab neighbourhoods by the Masali forces

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