BACKGROUND: More than three years since the UNSC adopted Resolution 2046, calling for a negotiated settlement to the conflicts in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and armed rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) continue to engage in hostilities and directly threaten vulnerable civilians. The government continues to prohibit access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile and is systematically preventing aid from reaching populations at risk of starvation. Since June 2011 the conflict has led to the internal displacement of over 1.2 million people, while more than 246,500 have fled to South Sudan and Ethiopia.
The SAF has committed war crimes, including extrajudicial killing, forced displacement and widespread sexual violence against civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. It has also engaged in "scorched earth" tactics, systematically targeting food sources and deliberately destroying civilian infrastructure, including at least 26 health facilities since 2011. The SPLM-N has also perpetrated war crimes, including indiscriminate attacks on civilian-populated areas, alleged recruitment of children and attacks on UN personnel.
The SAF has recently intensified its attacks in both South Kordofan and Blue Nile. This included the reported shelling and aerial bombardment of civilian areas at least 44 times during September and the deliberate targeting of populations in the South Kordofan counties of Dalami, Umdorein and Dilling. The SAF has also reportedly dropped illegal cluster munitions on civilian areas in Kauda, South Kordofan. The SPLM-N claimed to have repelled a major SAF offensive around the strategic area of Jebel Kolgo, Blue Nile, on 30 October.
Sudan has consistently failed to honor African Union (AU)-brokered agreements and UNSC resolutions calling for a cessation of hostilities. This includes the failure to end aerial bombardments, disarm pro-government militias and allow humanitarian access to conflict areas. The most recent talks between the government and the SPLM-N were held a year ago under the auspices of the AU High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) for Sudan. Despite both parties endorsing an AUHIP-proposed draft framework agreement to resolve the conflict, fighting continued. The AUHIP is scheduled to meet in Addis Ababa from 18 to 19 November to again discuss a cessation of hostilities in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
The situation in Darfur also remains dire as civilians face ongoing inter-communal violence, as well as attacks by the SAF and Rapid Support Forces, a pro-government militia with aerial and ground support from the SAF. Meanwhile, fighting between the SAF and rebel groups contributed to the displacement of more than 450,000 people during 2014 and an additional 104,000 so far this year. A total of 2.5 million people are now displaced in Darfur.
On 21 August OHCHR issued a report on the situation in Darfur, revealing that 411 recorded human rights violations affecting 980 individuals took place during 2014. It also noted that the ability of the AU-UN hybrid peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID) to carry out human rights monitoring was hindered by the government's "denial of access to sites and victims of human rights violations and abuses and serious violations of IHL, as well as denial of access by armed opposition movements to areas they control." The UN Secretary-General has condemned the increase in attacks on UNAMID personnel, which include the killing of a UN peacekeeper on 27 September, and called upon the government to respect the status-of-forces agreement.
On 30 September the Justice and Equality Movement, a Darfuri rebel group, announced it would end the recruitment and use of child soldiers.
ANALYSIS: The government has a history of perpetrating atrocities in Darfur and during its civil war with the south. It has consistently defied external pressure to halt mass atrocity crimes. Such crimes are currently being committed in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where patterns of violence targeting civilians for their perceived support of the SPLM-N have been witnessed for over four years.
Both parties have reportedly started mobilizing forces and amassing weapons ahead of the dry season. Possible intensified ground offensives and aerial bombardments will leave civilians at heightened risk of further mass atrocities.
The UNSC and AU have failed to push the government and SPLM-N to honor past agreements on the cessation of hostilities and delivery of humanitarian assistance. Indiscriminate bombings of rebel-held areas by the SAF demonstrate an unwillingness to distinguish between combatants and civilians, actions that violate IHL and may amount to crimes against humanity.
Despite the presence of UNAMID, civilians have not been afforded adequate protection in Darfur. Ongoing inter-communal violence and SAF operations contribute to the risk of further mass atrocity crimes. Attacks on UN peacekeepers also constitute war crimes.
Not only is the government of Sudan manifestly failing to uphold its Responsibility to Protect, it is directly responsible for perpetrating mass atrocity crimes in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur.
INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE: implemented. The response of the international community to mass atrocities in South Kordofan and Blue Nile has been grossly inadequate. [See also, GCR2P's Timeline of International Response to the Situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States.]
Members of the current government, including President Omar al-Bashir, the Defence Minister, Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein, and the current governor of North Kordofan, Ahmad Haroun, were indicted by the ICC in 2007 for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur. President Bashir was also indicted in 2010 for perpetrating genocide in Darfur. The ICC issued an additional arrest warrant during September 2014 against rebel leader Abdallah Banda for war crimes resulting from an attack on AU peacekeepers during 2007 in northern Darfur.
On 12 December 2014 the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC suspended the Court's Darfur investigation due to the failure of the UNSC to meaningfully assist in the arrest of indicted suspects. In her briefing to the UNSC on 29 June 2015, the Chief Prosecutor stated that "innocent civilians continue to bear the brunt of insecurity and instability, in particular as a result of what appears to be an ongoing government campaign to target them." She called upon the UNSC to ensure that Sudan cooperates with the ICC.
On 29 June the UNSC unanimously adopted Resolution 2228, which extended UNAMID's mandate until 30 June 2016. The resolution emphasized that those responsible for violations of IHL and abuses of human rights "must be held accountable and that the Government of Sudan bears the primary responsibility to protect civilians within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction, including protection from crimes against humanity and war crimes."
NECESSARY ACTION: After more than 10 years and 60 resolutions it is time for the UNSC to review its entire approach to endemic conflict and ongoing atrocities in Sudan. The UNSC should immediately expand the arms embargo on Darfur to include South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
The UNSC and AU must ensure the government and SPLM-N facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance, as stipulated in the 2011 Framework Agreement and 2012 cooperation agreements. The UNSC should mandate the establishment of an independent international commission of inquiry for South Kordofan and Blue Nile and actively support efforts to bring ICC indictees to justice.
States with major investments in Sudan, including China, Qatar, Iran and Saudi Arabia, should press the government to fulfill its commitments.
The government and SPLM-N, in accordance with UNSC Resolution 2046, must cease armed hostilities and address the underlying causes of the conflict. The government must stop obstructing UNAMID and allow them to uphold their mandate, including investigating gross human rights violations. Mediation efforts should be facilitated between the government and armed groups operating in Darfur.
Last Updated: 15 November 2015