A Joint letter from Sudanese civil society organizations on the human rights situation in Sudan,Sep

20 September 2023

To the members of the United Nations Human Rights’ Council (UNHRC) and the African Commission

on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR)

We, the undersigned Sudanese civil society organizations, call for the HRC to adopt a resolution on Sudan

setting up an international commission of inquiry into all violations of international humanitarian and

human rights laws and related crimes committed in Sudan since 15 April 2023.

We draw the attention of the regional and international community, through the HRC and the ACHPR, to

the deteriorating human rights situation in Sudan by highlighting some of the serious human rights

violations that have occurred since the eruption of war between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the

Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on 15 April 2023. The war is marred with large-scale violations, especially in

Khartoum State, the main theater of military operations in addition to most parts of Darfur states, where

fighting has spread parallelly. The war also expanded to North and South Kordofan in the west, and Blue

Nile state in the south. The human rights situation has worsened significantly across the country due to

the lack of rule of law, absence of functioning state institutions, collapse of judicial and law enforcement

institutions and taking public facilities, and services (such as health and education services and fuel, water

and electricity supplies) out of service. Furthermore, economic collapse in most sectors because of the

war and disruption of production and commercial activity affected the lives of millions of people and put

the entire country on the brink of total collapse. The two warring parties have shown extreme disregard

for the applicable international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law opening the

door wide to systematic violations, some of which can be classified as war crimes or crimes against


Some reports reveal that hundreds of citizens, including women and minors, have been illegally

incommunicado detained by the RSF and SAF. Many of those arrested have been subjected to torture and

ill-treatment, in addition to rape and sexual violence. Also, some human rights activists, politicians, and

members of the Resistance Committees are intimidated and harassed, while others were subjected to

detention for varying periods by both parties in their areas of control.

We, the undersigned organizations, while pointing out some of the violations that have been committed

by the two warring parties, call on Sudanese public opinion and regional, and international actorsto make

every effort to stop this dreadful war. Until an end to the war is achieved, the warring parties must adhere

closely to the guidelines of IHL and that they should be held accountable by the international community

for international crimes and gross violations of human rights. Below are some examples of these


First, violations of IHL and international human rights law

Since the outbreak of this war, both parties have committed multiple serious violations of IHL and

international human rights law that can be classified as war crimes or crimes against humanity. Part of

these violations emanated from the situation of lawlessness imposed on Khartoum State by the RSF, which

they have controlled since the start of the war. Over the past five months, RSF have committed multiple

crimes, some of which can amount to crimes against humanity, such as rape, sexual violence, and torture.

According to some reports, the RSF killed hundreds of civilians, carried out extensive looting of citizens’

homes and property, intimidated the civilian population, occupied homes, robbed cars, and searched

vehicles in a provocative and humiliating manner and at gunpoint. RSF also looted, destroyed, and burned

many public and private facilities, including factories, warehouses, banks, government institutions and

markets. Furthermore, in clear violation of IHL, RSF deployed troops in the heart of residential areas,


occupied hospitals and converted them into military barracks, which resulted in taking many of them out

of service. RSF also paraded prisoners of war to the media in a humiliating manner and published their

pictures and videos on social media.

On its part, SAF has carried out indiscriminate shelling of civilian residential areas and facilities. In most

cases this indiscriminate shelling damaged civilian objects resulting in civilian casualties and destruction

of many houses and public facilities, including hospitals, air bombardment, rocket raids or shelling. The

United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) documented at least 327

killings of civilians and 294 injury cases due to airstrikes between 7 May and 20 August. On 12 and 13

September, deadly airstrikes by SAF in Khartoum, Khartoum North and Omdurman killed nearly 140

civilians. The Sudanese Defenders Center for Legal Aid has documented about 118 incidents of shelling

since the beginning of the war, which left at least 533 people dead in the various localities of Khartoum

State. The de facto government, under the leadership of the army Commander General and the head of

the Sovereign Council, has been unable to provide the needed protection to citizens, with the police force

completely disappeared in Greater Khartoum since the outbreak of war. Overall, SAF failed to comply with

the guidelines on the observance of IHL in conducting this warin a manner that minimizes harm to civilians

and civilian facilities.

Since the outbreak of hostilities between SAF and RSF, at least 4,000 people, in some estimations, were

killed by both parties, and tens of thousands injured. However, the real number may be much higher.

Across the country, hundreds of women were subjected to sexual violence. Regrettably, the escalation of

sexual violence since 15 April is an integral part of the current war. The Unit for Combating Violence

against Women and Children under Sudan’s Ministry of Social Development verified 132 cases of rape

since the beginning of the conflict until 11 September 2023. The UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO)

also documented 73 cases of sexual violence during the previous period. Survivor stories indicate

systematic use of sexual violence as a weapon in this war, particularly by the RSF. Further, sexual assaults

by SAF were also reported.

According to the Sudanese Defenders Center for Legal Aid, a force from the RSF attacked Dabak area,

north of Khartoum North on September 15, killed two persons and arrested 40 people, while 17 people

are still missing. The attack resulted in the displacement of about 6,000 people. Since the outbreak of war,

more than 4 million people have been forced to flee their homes. The ongoing war jeopardizesthe stability

of the entire region with hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled into neighboring countries according

to the UNHCR. The majority of those who crossed the border sought refuge in Egypt, South Sudan, Chad,

the Republic of Central Africa, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya.

Both warring parties turned a deaf ear to all calls by internal, regional, or international actors to end the

war. Further, they did not respond to the repeated calls to identify safe corridors, or allow delivery of

relief to those affected, especially in Khartoum State. Rather, short truces concluded during the past

months were used to achieve military gains on the ground. Truces were often used to carry out more

armed robberies and plunder private property, a systematic conduct of the RSF.

Second: Escalation of violence in Darfur

Darfur region, which has been ridden by armed conflicts for more than two decades, suffers in most of its

states from deteriorating humanitarian and security conditions as well as serious human rights violations.

In West Darfur state, where grave violations and systematic ethnic targeting took place, the Governor,

Khamis Abdullah Abbakar, was killed on June 14 after he was arrested by the RSF, or their allies, in El

Geneina, the capital of the state. Reports indicate that thousands of people were killed in West Darfur

and hundreds of thousands were displaced, most of whom crossed the border into Chad. Violations of

last June in El Geneina may amount to genocide, which requires an independent inquiry by the

International Criminal Court (ICC).

According to Darfur Bar Association, hundreds of civilians have been killed in Nyala in South Darfur since

April 15 due to the clashes between SAF and RSF. IDP camps in the area were also attacked by RSF. It is


important to note that civilians lack access to basic services and suffer acute shortage of basic goods, and

power outages. The latter made drinking water inaccessible. The war in Darfur has taken on a serious

nature that amounts to genocide and ethnic cleansing, as is the case in West Darfur. RSF and their allied

militias bear the primary responsibility of these crimes. The legacy of impunity in Sudan continues but

lasting peace cannot be achieved without holding all perpetrators accountable and achieving justice and

reparations for the victims.

Third: detention, enforced disappearance and torture

Both warring parties arrested hundreds of people, sometimes under the allegation of collaboration with

the other side, and sometimes without bringing specific charges. According to UNITAMS report, there are

471 arrest cases. However, the actual number may be much higher. RSF has arrested individuals and

groups and detained them in harsh and inhuman conditions, according to the survivor testimonies.

Mostly, detention takes place in unknown places. The Military Intelligence of SAF also arrested activists

from Resistance Committees and civil society organizations, and journalists. They are detained

incommunicado for extended periods in unknown locations. The Military Intelligence practiced systematic

racial profiling againstsome civilians because they belong to western Sudan, while RSF also used the same

approach. In a recent report, Emergency Lawyers documented hundreds of cases of unlawful arrest and

detention by the RSF and SAF. The report listed 44 detention centers controlled by RSF in Greater

Khartoum as well as eight detention centers managed by SAF. The report documented frequent use of

torture and other forms of inhumane, degrading and ill-treatment. It also pointed to the cases of rape and

sexual assaults on both females and males. In general, several reports indicated that detention, especially

by RSF, takes place in harsh, degrading and inhuman conditions. In addition, there have been reports of

cases of enforced disappearance of hundreds of people, including women and minors.

Fourth: targeting human rights defenders and political activists

RSF and SAF have arrested hundreds of activists and humanitarian volunteers since the outbreak of war.

Human rights defenders, journalists and anti-war politicians have been systematically targeted by the de

facto government, military, and security authorities in several states. Freedom of expression, freedom of

association, the right to peaceful assembly as well as right to liberty and personal security were restricted

with many activists, both male and female, arrested and detained. For example, a security team raided

an anti-war protest organized by the Sudan Mothers’ Initiative at Al-Mawlid Square in Al-Damazin, the

capital of Blue Nile State [on 30 August]. Eight female attendees were detained for hours. In Kassala, east

Sudan, representatives of political parties and civil society organizations met on Saturday, 12 August 2023,

to discuss ways of coordination to stop the war were threatened. Several of the attendees were

interrogated for several hours at the offices of the Security Service. On August 8, a forum organized by

the “No to Oppression Against Women” initiative in Madani, Gezira State was canceled due to threatens

directed to the organizers. On the other hand, RSF destroyed and looted the offices of civil society

organizations, restricted freedoms, threatened and intimidated activists, and arrested dozens of them in

the areas under their control. A recent report from the Democratic Front for Lawyers stated that on

September 12, RSF arrested about 50 people from a mosque in the Al-Shaqla area in Haj Youssef locality.

Later, RSF personnel killed 4 of the detainees upon their release, including a human rights lawyer after

robbing their money and phones.

Fifth: Recommendations

To SAF and RSF

• The war must be stopped immediately and a political solution to the crisis must be sought.

• Prevent all violations of IHL and human rights laws in areas under the respective control of


• Investigate all allegations of torture, ill-treatment, and deaths in custody, and take measures

to bring suspected perpetrators to justice.

• Initiate impartial and effective investigations into all violations of IHL and human rights law

including extra-judicial killings that took place since the eruption of war on 15 April 2023.


• Immediately end indiscriminate bombing of civilian-populated areas and civilian objects by

both SAF and RSF.

• Facilitate access to urgent humanitarian relief across Sudan, especially to those affected by

the war.

To the UNHRC

• Setup an international commission of inquiry into all violations and abuses of international

humanitarian and human rights laws and related crimes in Sudan since 15 April 2023.

• Conduct an independent investigation into the suspected violations including war crimes,

crimes against humanity, and crimes amounting to genocide in West Darfur state.

To the ACHPR

• Urge Sudan authorities to conduct a transparent and independent investigation into all war

crimes, crimes against humanity, and other human rights violations that have occurred since

15 April 2023.

• Undertake a visit to Sudan at the soonest possible time to assess the situation in Sudan, par-

ticularly the serious violations of IHL and human rights law since 15 April 2023.


1. Access to Justice and Legal Services.

2. African Center for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS).

3. African Organization for Rights and Development.

4. Al Khatim Adlan Centre for Enlightenment and Human Development (KACE).

5. Confederation of Sudanese Civil Society Organizations.

6. Darfur Network for Human Rights (DNHR).

7. Justice Africa Sudan.

8. National Religious Freedom Association.

9. No to the Women’s Oppression Initiative.

10. Noura for combating violence against women and girls.

11. Nuba Mountains Lawyers Association.

12. Nuba Women Association for Education and Development (NuWEDA).

13. People’s Legal Aid Center (PLACE).

14. Sudanese Defenders Center for Legal Aid.

15. Sudanese Human Rights Initiative (SHERI).

16. Sudanese Human Rights Monitor (SHRM)

17. The Network of women journalists-Sudan.

18. The Strategic Initiative for Women of the Horn of Africa (SIHA).

19. Women of Sudanese Civil and Political Groups (Mansam).

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