Human Rights Watch asks US to stem ongoing atrocities in Sudan

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Human Rights Watch urged the United States on Friday to stem “ongoing atrocities” in Sudan’s Darfur region as it holds the presidency of the UN Security Council during August.

“The world should not stand by as town after town in West Darfur is burned to the ground, sending tens of thousands of civilians fleeing for their lives,” said HRW executive director Tirana Hassan.

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“The United States government needs to put words into action and ensure that the UN Security Council finally acts to protect civilians and to hold those responsible for the atrocities to account.”

Sudan’s regular army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has been locked in a war with his former deputy, the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, since April 15.

The fighting -- concentrated in the capital Khartoum and the western region of Darfur -- has killed more than 3,900 people, according to the NGO ACLED, and displaced more than 3.3 million, according to the UN.

Human Rights Watch said the US, which on Tuesday took over the Security Council’s rotating presidency for August, must “ensure that the council takes robust measures to stem ongoing atrocities in Darfur, including by imposing targeted sanctions against those responsible for ongoing abuses.”

The watchdog said there had been “repeated deliberate attacks on civilians, most by RSF forces and allied militia targeting the ethnic Masalit population.”

At least seven towns and villages in West Darfur have been largely or wholly destroyed since April, HRW said, most recently Sirba where at least 200 people were killed, according to the Darfur Bar Association.

Darfur is home to around a quarter of Sudan’s 48 million people.

The RSF traces its origins to the Janjaweed militia, which was unleashed against ethnic minority villages suspected of supporting a rebellion in Darfur in the early 2000s.

That conflict killed more than 300,000 people and displaced 2.5 million, the UN estimates.

Atrocities committed during the conflict led the International Criminal Court to charge then dictator Omar al-Bashir with offences including genocide.

The court’s chief prosecutor has launched a new investigation into suspected war crimes in the current fighting, including sexual violence and civilians being targeted for their ethnicity.

“Given the council’s responsibility for the premature withdrawal of peacekeeping forces from Darfur in late 2020, the council should consider ramping up civilian protection there,” HRW said.

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