Report Details New Atrocities in Darfur by Sudanese Force
Rick Gladstone, New York Times
09 September, 2015
Image: Government forces drive through a village in the Darfur region of Sudan, where Human Rights Watch says campaigns of mass killing and rape are again occurring. Credit Abd Raouf/Associated Press
A Sudanese government counterinsurgency force has carried out two campaigns of killings and mass rape in the Darfur region since early 2014, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday in a report that evoked the atrocities committed there by the feared janjaweed militia a decade ago.
The 88-page report, based on interviews with 212 victims and witnesses, describes in detail the accusations against the Sudanese unit, known as the Rapid Support Forces, and says they amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Darfur, the rebellious region in western Sudan, became known in the mid-2000s for systematic killings, rape, forced relocations and other crimes committed against mainly non-Arab tribes by government forces and their nomadic militia allies, known as the janjaweed.
As many as 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur since 2003, according to United Nations estimates, and 2.5 million people have been uprooted in what is widely considered a modern-day genocide.
The worst of the mass killings appears to have eased. But the government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir — who has been indicted in connection with Darfur atrocities, including on charges of genocide, by the International Criminal Court — has escalated attacks against the insurgency there in recent years.
Mr. Bashir’s government has also severely constrained how and where a joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur, known as Unamid, can operate, limiting its ability to investigate abuses and protect civilians.
Daniel Bekele, Human Rights Watch’s executive director for Africa, said the report documented how the Rapid Support Forces, in two campaigns since February 2014, had “killed, raped and tortured civilians in scores of villages in an organized, deliberate and systematic way.”
According to the report, “Many civilians were killed by the R.S.F. when they refused to leave their homes or give up their livestock, or when they tried to stop R.S.F. fighters from raping them or members of their family.”
In one attack, carried out in January in the town of Golo, the report quotes witnesses as saying that they saw killings, rapes, widespread beatings and looting, including the rape of women in the town hospital.
The report also quotes defectors from the Rapid Support Forces and affiliated government units who say commanders ordered them to commit these crimes.
Human Rights Watch called on the Sudanese government to disband the force and prosecute those responsible. It also called for strengthened efforts by the United Nations to prevent such attacks.
Mr. Bashir’s hostility toward United Nations peacekeeping efforts in Darfur is well known — he has long pressed for Unamid to leave.
He has also repeatedly flaunted his defiance of the International Criminal Court’s warrants, although he has been forced to abruptly alter his travel plans from time to time to avoid possible arrest.
He fled an African Union meeting in South Africa in June as judicial authorities there were weighing whether the warrants should be honored. The International Criminal Court criticized South Africa for a delay that essentially allowed Mr. Bashir to escape.
On Friday, the court formally requested that South Africa explain by Oct. 5 why it had failed to arrest Mr. Bashir.
There have also been reports in recent weeks that Mr. Bashir might try to attend the United Nations General Assembly meetings in New York this month. But diplomats have said such a visit is highly unlikely.
Copyright: New York Times 2015
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