Skip to main content

Statements and speeches Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

High Commissioner outlines ‘insidious disregard for human life’ in Sudan

01 March 2024

A view of makeshift shelters of Sudanese people who fled the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region and were previously internally displaced in Sudan, near the border between Sudan and Chad, in Borota, Chad, May 13, 2023 © REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Delivered by

Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights


55th Session of the Human Rights Council - Enhanced Interactive dialogue on Sudan

Madame Vice-President,
Distinguished delegates,

The crisis in Sudan is a tragedy that appears to have slipped into the fog of global amnesia.

For nearly eleven months now, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), as well as their affiliates, have been fighting a ruthless, senseless conflict.

They have killed thousands, seemingly without remorse.

They have manufactured a climate of sheer terror, forcing millions to flee.

They have let the people who could not - or would not - escape, suffer, destroying medical services and blocking humanitarian aid.

And they have consistently acted with impunity and a distinct lack of accountability for the multiple violations that have been committed, continuing to stagnate on any talks and negotiations which would achieve much-needed peace, safety and dignity for the people of Sudan.

The report before the Council highlights a range of gross violations and abuses of international human rights law committed by the warring parties in Sudan between April and December 2023. It also details serious violations of international humanitarian law, which demand investigation and accountability – many of these violations may amount to war crimes, or other atrocity crimes.

The crisis in Sudan today continues to be marked by an insidious disregard for human life.

In the space of eleven months, at least 14,600 people have been killed, and 26,000 others injured. Actual figures are undoubtedly much higher. The toll encompasses thousands of civilians, including many children and women. Many humanitarian and health workers have also lost their lives as they worked under fire to help people in need.

The aggressive tactics have been well-documented.

Multiple, indiscriminate attacks striking residential areas and buildings.

The use of weapons with wide-area effects, even in urban areas that are densely populated, fired from fighter jets, drones and tanks.

The destruction of civilian infrastructure critical for daily survival, such as hospitals and schools, with lasting effects for years to come on access to health and education.

Madame Vice-President,

In the war in Sudan, heavy artillery forms just one part of the weaponry.

Sexual violence as a weapon of war, including rape, has been a defining – and despicable – characteristic of this crisis since the beginning.

Since the start of the conflict last April, my Office has documented 60 incidents of conflict-related sexual violence, involving at least 120 victims across the country, the vast majority women and girls. These figures are sadly a vast underrepresentation of the reality. Men in RSF uniform and armed men affiliated with the RSF, were reported to be responsible for 81% of the documented incidents.

My Office has received disturbing reports of ethnically motivated killings, including beheadings in North Kordofan, and incidents in various areas, including Khartoum State, West Darfur, and Al Jazirah State. My Office will follow up with the Sudanese authorities to ensure investigation into these allegations and that perpetrators are held to account.

I am also deeply worried for the fate of thousands of civilians held by both parties and their affiliates in arbitrary detention, and for the hundreds who have been disappeared. They include political activists, human rights defenders, members of the Resistance Committees, alleged supporters of one of the fighting parties, and many others. Many have been allegedly tortured, and many have died from their wounds.

I am appalled by the rising call to arm civilians, including children. My Office has recently received reports of the RSF recruiting hundreds of children as fighters in Darfur, and the SAF doing likewise in eastern Sudan. These practices are in blatant breach of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, by which Sudan is bound.

Also troubling are the reports of civilians themselves mobilizing under the new Popular Armed Resistance movement. There are real fears this may result in the formation of an armed civil militia with no defined control, increasing the chances of Sudan sliding into a spiral of protracted civil war.

Madame Vice-President,

Sudan has become a living nightmare.

Almost half of the population – 25 million people – are in urgent need of food and medical aid. Some 80% of hospitals have been put out of service.

The apparently deliberate denial of safe and unimpeded access for humanitarian agencies within Sudan itself constitutes a serious violation of international law, and may amount to a war crime. I call - again - on the warring parties to meet their legal obligations by opening humanitarian corridors without delay before more lives are lost.

With more than eight million forced to flee within Sudan and to neighbouring countries, this crisis is upending the country and profoundly threatening peace, security and humanitarian conditions throughout the entire region.

Madame Vice-President,

As I have stated before, this is a war characterized by generalised impunity and very little accountability for the violations and abuses committed.

To date, the RSF has not delivered on its promise to cooperate with the International Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on Sudan established by this Council in October last year, and the Sudanese authorities continue to oppose any collaboration. I urge all parties to the conflict to take immediate steps to cooperate with the FFM, and for Member States, particularly Sudan’s neighbouring countries, to support the FFM’s vital work.

Right now, I am afraid to say there is a gaping hole in effective dialogue towards ending this war. I encourage all States with influence to increase pressure on the two parties and their affiliates to negotiate a peaceful solution to this catastrophe, and to pursue and sustain a ceasefire.

The international community also has a critical role to play to alleviate the intense scale of human suffering endured by the people of Sudan. I regret that less than 4% of Sudan’s Humanitarian Response Plan has so far been funded, which seriously affects the ability of humanitarian agencies to respond to this crisis. I urge Member States immediately to fulfil their financial commitments.

I went to Sudan in November 2022, my first country visit as High Commissioner. I heard stories of loss and grief, but I also heard many stories of hope.

I fear this hope has been broken.

Decades of turmoil and repression in Sudan preceded this crisis, but nothing has prepared the people of Sudan for the level of suffering they face today.

The fighting parties must agree to return to peace, without delay. Perpetrators of the horrific human rights violations and abuses must be held to account, without delay. And without delay, the international community must refocus its attention on this deplorable crisis before it descends even further into chaos.

The future of the people of Sudan depends on it.

Thank you.

For more information and media requests, please contact:

In Geneva
Ravina Shamdasani - + 41 22 917 9169 / [email protected] 
Liz Throssell - + 41 22 917 9296 / [email protected]

In Nairobi
Seif Magango - +254 788 343 897 / [email protected]

Tag and share

Twitter @UNHumanRights
Facebook unitednationshumanrights
Instagram @unitednationshumanrights