Juba, South Sudan — A group of Sudanese rights and professional bodies has accused both warring parties in Sudan of committing atrocities that could be prosecuted as war crimes and crimes against humanity. In a petition addressed to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the coalition called for an investigation by the International Criminal Court.
More than 30 Sudanese rights groups and professional entities are accusing both the Sudan Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces of committing human rights violations against civilians in Sudan’s Darfur region and elsewhere.
In a joint statement issued Saturday, the rights groups demanded an immediate investigation into the alleged violations and for the referral of the matter to the International Criminal Court through the United Nations Security Council.
Speaking to VOA, Nafisa Hajar, deputy head of the Darfur Bar Association, said her group has documented a series of violations and attacks, including mass killings, ethnic cleansing and forceful displacement, which she said would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
She said, given that the judicial system of Sudan is now paralyzed due to the ongoing war, the international community should take action to bring the perpetrators to a court of law.
Hajar said right now there are continued airstrikes on civilian buildings, civilians are forcefully displaced from their homes, and women are being systematically raped. All these atrocities, she said, should be counted as war crimes.
On July 13, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, announced the opening of a new investigation regarding allegations of war crimes in the context of the war in Sudan, especially in the city of El Geneina in West Darfur state.
Hajar said the motive behind the filed petition is to help the victims and to prevent the continued impunity of the alleged perpetrators.
She said both the army and the RSF deserve to be investigated.
Hajar said at the moment there are serious violations of all treaties and agreements that call for protection of civilians. She said the rights of Sudanese civilians are now being violated by both warring parties.
Sudanese lawyer Abdul Basit Al Haj criticized the Sudan Armed Forces for failing to protect civilians in El Geneina during RSF attacks in the city and elsewhere in Sudan.
Speaking to VOA, Al Haj said the RSF has been attacking hospitals, occupying them, targeting doctors in Khartoum, and committing genocide and ethnic cleansing of non-Arab groups, specifically the Masalit ethnic group in West Darfur state.
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“They are occupying civilians’ houses,” he said. “They occupy hospitals, schools, universities, and destroy all these buildings. … According to the definition of war crimes, these are war crimes or crimes against humanity.”
Sudan Army spokesperson Nabeel Abdallah distanced the military from these atrocities, saying “all” were committed by the RSF.
“They took over the homes of citizens in Khartoum by force and turned them into military barracks,” Abdallah told VOA.
VOA reached out to the RSF commander’s special adviser for foreign affairs, Ibrahim Mukhayer, for a comment, but received no immediate reply.
War broke out between the army and the Rapid Support Forces on April 15. The conflict has since forced some 3.5 million people to flee their homes, including 844,000 who have gone to neighboring countries in search of safety, according to the United Nations.