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Civilians bear devastating brunt of fighting in Sudan: UN experts

11 May 2023

GENEVA (11 May 2023) – All parties to hostilities in Sudan must immediately end the fighting, cease targeting the civilian population and infrastructure and resume negotiations towards a civilian-led government, UN experts said today. Civilians are bearing the devastating brunt of hostilities between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces, the experts said, pointing to an unfolding humanitarian crisis and urging all parties to ensure unimpeded and inclusive access to life-saving assistance and humanitarian aid. They issued the following statement:

“It has been over three weeks since the eruption of fighting in Sudan between the Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese Armed Forces.

Hundreds of civilians have been killed and thousands injured, including women and children, since the fighting began. The crisis has also resulted in hundreds of thousands of people being forcibly displaced from their homes in search of safety. Reports have indicated that civilians of all ages are experiencing various human rights abuses, including sexual assault and gender-based violence, as well as looting and shortages of food, water, healthcare, including reproductive healthcare, fuel and other basic goods and services, and collapse in communication channels. Densely populated residential areas of Khartoum, Bahri, Omdurman and towns in Darfur and North Kordofan are facing electricity cuts, a lack of healthcare and basic services, while running out of food, water and medicines. Some infrastructure and services, including 11 hospitals that have been attacked, have collapsed. We are alarmed that a shelter for girls with disabilities in Khartoum was shelled leading to the death of a girl and injuring another. A shelter for older women in Khartoum was reportedly also damaged.

Local and international humanitarian personnel, including healthcare workers and facilities providing health care, food assistance, protection and other life-saving services have been the victims of what appear to be both targeted and indiscriminate attacks. We are pleased to learn that humanitarian organisations are working to expand operations, with food distributions restarting in eastern Sudan and response underway in many other areas, though the risks for humanitarian workers remain severe.

We are deeply disturbed by reports of violence against those working tirelessly to address the unprecedented scale of human suffering in Sudan, as well as those working to shed light on the situation. The targeting of journalists and intimidation and threatening of human rights defenders, including women human rights defenders in Darfur and Khartoum, has impinged their ability to monitor and document the situation on the ground, contributing to an information blackout. This situation increases the risk of them being subjected to gross human rights violations, including enforced disappearances.
We are concerned about the safety and well-being of women and children - who are at an increased risk of trafficking, people with disabilities and older persons as families are being separated while fleeing escalating hostilities.

Before the crisis, Sudan already had 3.7 million internally displaced persons in the country, in addition to hosting over 1 million refugees. Due to the violent outbreak, about 334,000 people are estimated to have been newly displaced within Sudan, and over 120,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries, according to UNHCR.

There is an urgent need for an immediate and sustained ceasefire followed by a resumption of political negotiations to move toward a civilian-led government. We call on all parties to the conflict to immediately halt hostilities, de-escalate the situation and allow for unimpeded access, inclusive and extensive humanitarian operations to relieve suffering and provide life-saving protection and a pathway to sustainable peace and development.

Parties to the conflict must respect their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure including schools and hospitals, and publicly commit to protect humanitarian personnel, premises and assets. We also urge businesses to exercise heightened human rights due diligence to identify and address any potential adverse impacts on human rights and on the conflict.

We recognise the efforts of neighbouring countries and urge all States to keep their borders open to receive those seeking refuge and not to return any Sudanese persons presently abroad, and ensure the provision of adequate protection and humanitarian assistance, including medical health care to those fleeing Sudan. We call on all States to provide humanitarian support and resources to surrounding countries to provide assistance and protection to people fleeing the conflict in Sudan.
We are also concerned by the financial and economic implications of the continued conflict not only for the welfare and standards of living of the people of Sudan but also its spill over implications across the region.

We welcome the Human Rights Council’s decision to hold a special session on 11 May 2023, to address the human rights impact of the conflict in Sudan.

Prompt, thorough, impartial and independent investigations must be established into the death and injury, as well as any allegations of harassment, torture or ill-treatment and other gross human rights violations against civilians, humanitarian and health workers, human rights defenders and journalists; as well as on attacks on civilian infrastructure. We call for robust investigative and accountability mechanisms at national and international levels to monitor, document, investigate and prosecute violations, prevent further human rights violations and ensure accountability.

We have previously discussed these matters with the country concerned.” 


The experts: Paula Gaviria Betancur, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Surya Deva, Special Rapporteur on the right to development;Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Alice Cruz, Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members; Aua Baldé (Chair-Rapporteur), Gabriella Citroni (Vice-Chair), Angkhana Neelapaijit, Grażyna Baranowska, Ana Lorena Delgadillo Perez, Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances; Ian Fry, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change; Isha Dyfan, Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Somalia; Mama Fatima Singhateh, Special Rapporteur on the sale, sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children; Livingstone Sewanyana, Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order; Alexandra Xanthaki, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; Tlaleng Mofokeng,Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; Ravindran Daniel (Chair-Rapporteur), Jelena Aparac, Sorcha MacLeod, Chris Kwaja, Carlos Salazar CoutoWorking Group on the use of mercenaries; Pichamon Yeophantong (Chairperson), Damilola Olawuyi (Vice-Chairperson), Fernanda Hopenhaym, Elżbieta Karska, and Mr. Robert McCorquodale, Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises; Dorothy Estrada Tanck (Chair), Elizabeth Broderick, Ivana Radačić, Meskerem Geset Techane and Melissa Upreti, Working Group on discrimination against women and girls; Alice Jill Edwards, Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Tomoya Obokata, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences; Fabián Salvioli, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence; Obiora C. Okafor, Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity; Michael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on the right to food; Ashwini K.P., Special Rapporteur on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Gerard QuinnSpecial Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities; Claudia Mahler, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons; Siobhán Mullally, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children; Farida Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on the right to education ; Irene KhanSpecial Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression; Attiya Waris, Independent Expert on foreign debt, other international financial obligations and human rights; Reem Alsalem,Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences; Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism; Clément Nyaletsossi Voule,Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Margaret Satterthwaite, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers; Muluka-Anne Miti-DrummondIndependent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism; Priya Gopalan (Chair-Rapporteur), Matthew Gillett(Vice-Chair on Communications), Ganna Yudkivska (Vice-Chair on Follow-Up), Miriam Estrada-Castillo, and Mumba Malila, Working Group on arbitrary detention; Barbara G. Reynolds (Chair), Bina D’Costa, Catherine Namakula, Dominique Day Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent | OHCHR.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights Country Page: Sudan

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