Sudan: New wave of mass ethnic killings and pillage in Darfur

In early November 2023, Sudan's Rapid Support Forces (RSF) unleashed a brutal campaign of violence against civilians in West Darfur, targeting primarily members of the Massalit ethnic group. The attacks, which continued for weeks, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians, the destruction of entire villages, and the displacement of thousands more.

The RSF's actions bear the hallmarks of a systematic campaign of atrocities, including extrajudicial killings, forced displacement, looting, and rape. These acts constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity under international law.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that at least 800 people were killed in the November attacks in Ardamata, a suburb of West Darfur's capital, El Geneina. The RSF also carried out widespread looting and assaults against the predominantly Massalit population in Ardamata. Ongoing Human Rights Watch research and media reports indicate that the RSF's atrocities in Ardamata are not isolated incidents.

With the UN mission in Sudan set to close and be replaced by a special envoy, the United Nations Security Council must take urgent action to strengthen the UN's presence in Sudan and protect civilians in Darfur. This includes supporting monitoring of human rights abuses, expanding the existing arms embargo to cover the entire country and all parties to the ongoing armed conflict, and imposing targeted sanctions on those responsible for atrocities.

African members of the Security Council, the United Arab Emirates, and other governments on the council must use their influence to ensure that the UN takes decisive action to protect civilians in Darfur and the rest of Sudan. The UN Security Council has a moral and legal obligation to prevent further atrocities in Darfur and to hold those responsible accountable.

“The Rapid Support Forces’ latest episode of ethnically targeted killings in West Darfur, has the hallmarks of an organized campaign of atrocities against Massalit civilians,” said Mohamed Osman, Sudan researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The UN Security Council needs to stop ignoring the desperate need to protect Darfur civilians.”