CAIRO (AP) — A leading human rights group called Friday on the United States and the United Nations to impose further sanctions on the Sudanese individuals “responsible for the atrocities” in Darfur, as evidence of scorched-earth attacks mount.
The northeast African country plunged into chaos in April when monthslong tensions between the military, led by Abdel Fattah Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, commanded by Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, exploded into open fighting in the capital of Khartoum, and elsewhere. In Darfur, the scene of genocidal war in the early 2000s, the conflict has morphed into ethnic violence, with RSF and allied Arab militias targeting African communities in the western region, U.N. officials say.
In a press release, Human Rights Watch said Washington should impose targeted sanctions to “ensure that the UN Security Council finally acts to protect civilians and to hold those responsible for the atrocities to account.” The U.S. is set to take over the presidency of the U.N. Security Council later this month.
The New York-based watchdog group said at least seven villages and towns have been almost completely burned to the ground or destroyed in West Darfur alone, according to satellite footage and testimonies analyzed by the group. These include Habilla Kanari, Mejmere, Misterei, Molle, Murnei, Gokor, and Sirba.
“The world should not stand by as town after town in West Darfur is burned to the ground, sending tens of thousands of civilians fleeing for their lives,” said Tirana Hassan, executive director at HRW.
In June, the U.S. imposed sanctions against four key companies either linked to or owned by the warring factions. The White House also placed visa restrictions on army and RSF officials, and leaders from the former government led by Omar al-Bashir. It did note specify which individuals were affected.
Last Month, Karim Khan, a prosecutor from the International Criminal Court, told the United Nations that he would be investigating alleged new war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur.
HRW’s call for sanctions comes just days after Amnesty International separately accused both warring parties of committing extensive war crimes including deliberate killings of civilians and mass sexual assault. Amnesty said almost all rape cases were blamed on the RSF and its allied Arab militias.
In its 56-page report, HRW said the RSF abducted 24 women and girls — as young as 12 — and held them “for several days during which they were raped by several RSF members.”
The nearly four month conflict in Sudan has killed more than 3,000 people and wounded more than 6,000 others, Health Minister Haitham Mohammed Ibrahim said in televised comments in June. The true tally is likely much higher, according to doctors and activists.
Meanwhile, the fighting has forced another 4 million people to flee their homes either to safer areas inside Sudan or to neighboring countries, according to figures from the U.N. migration agency.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, said Thursday that 20.3 million people in the country now “face severe hunger,” double what the figure was this time last year.