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.
According to OCHA, since June 2011 the conflict has resulted in over 1.2 million people "internally displaced or severely affected and in need of humanitarian assistance," while more than 246,500 have fled to South Sudan and Ethiopia. The recent collapse of the tenth round of peace talks, held between 19 and 23 November under the auspices of the African Union (AU) High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) for Sudan, resulted in both parties reportedly mobilizing forces and amassing weapons ahead of the dry season.
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.
Despite President Omar al-Bashir declaring a one-month ceasefire on 31 December, the SPLM-N has accused the SAF of renewed attacks in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Between 1 and 10 January the SAF bombed villages in Kurmuk county, Blue Nile, leading to widespread destruction. Ground offensives were also reported on 4 January near Mazlagan, South Kordofan. According to Human Rights Watch, the SAF has also dropped illegal cluster munitions on civilian areas in Kauda, South Kordofan.
Sudan has consistently failed to honor 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 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 233,000 people during 2015. 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, including the killing of a peacekeeper on 7 January, and called upon the government to respect the status-of-forces agreement.
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.
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: The UNSC has adopted 60 resolutions on Sudan since 2004, most of which have not been fully 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. None of the Sudanese indictees have been surrendered to the ICC.
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.
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 UNSC should ensure that violators of the arms embargo are held to account.
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: 20 January 2016