Populations at Risk Serious Concern


Populations in Sudan face a risk of mass atrocity crimes due to violence against civilians committed by the security forces, affiliated militias and armed rebel groups.
Since December mass demonstrations have taken place across Sudan against the removal of bread subsidies, fuel and cash shortages, high inflation in Sudan, and President Omar al-Bashir's dictatorial regime. The demonstrations came to a climax on 6 April, when demonstrators reached the Army Headquarters and organized a sit-in and demanded Bashir to resign. On 11 April the Sudanese military overthrew and arrested Bashir, installing a Transitional Military Council (TMC) in place of the government for a period of two years.

Despite Bashir's removal, demonstrations continue as people demand the transfer of power from the TMC to a civilian-led government. On 13 May protesters and the Transitional Military Council agreed on the creation of a sovereign council, a cabinet and a legislative body that would govern the country during the transition. That same day, the prosecutor general announced that former President Omar al-Bashir and others have been charged with inciting and participating in the killing of protesters.

Since December at least 50 people have been killed and thousands arrested during the demonstrations. Security forces were implicated in using excessive force against protesters. Since 6 April, Sudan's security forces have fractured, with low-ranking army officers protecting the protesters against the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) and paramilitary units that include former Janjaweed fighters responsible for past atrocities in Darfur.

During his 30-year rule, Bashir and other government officials allegedly committed crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide against civilians in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, Darfur and elsewhere. Between 2011-2016 the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and armed rebels from the Sudan People's Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) engaged in armed hostilities in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that between 90,000-545,000 IDPs were spread across the two states, while nearly 690,000 people fled to neighboring countries. Since 2003, under the leadership of Bashir, government forces in Darfur allegedly killed thousands of civilians, burned villages and forcibly transferred hundreds of thousands of people, and raped thousands of women. To date, 1.6 million people are registered as living in camps in Darfur.

During 2016 the Sudanese government and some armed groups signed the African Union (AU) High Level Implementation Panel's Roadmap agreement aimed at ending the conflicts in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur, but failed to agree on a permanent cessation of hostilities.

Following the overthrow of Bashir, the political situation and unpredictable response of security forces to ongoing protests continue to pose a risk of human rights violations and atrocity crimes to protesters. On 23 April the Sudanese Professionals' Association (SPA), the main organizers of the protests, suspended talks with the TMC following deepening disagreement of handover of power to a civilian government. The TMC has threatened the protestors with forcible removal and warned against people blocking roads and limiting the movement of citizens.

Some members of the TMC are implicated in alleged atrocity crimes committed in Sudan since 2003. Former head of the TMC, Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf, who resigned one day after Bashir's removal, allegedly coordinated operations of the Janjaweed.

The impact of the recent events on the situation in Darfur remains unclear. While violence has decreased in Sudan, clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid (SLA-AW) faction have continued in the Jebel Marra area of Darfur, which requires a continued robust posture of peacekeepers in order to protect civilians. However, the current political situation may affect how the AU-UN hybrid peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID) is able to implement its mandate.

International pressure is necessary to ensure that the TMC upholds its Responsibility to Protect and will hold perpetrators of past atrocity crimes, including Bashir and Haroun, accountable.

The UN Security Council (UNSC) has adopted at least 58 resolutions on Sudan since 2004, most of which have not been fully implemented. On 29 June the UNSC adopted Resolution 2429, which extended UNAMID's mandate until 30 June 2019 and mandated the continuation of a phased reduction of UNAMID.

Following a UNSC referral, between 2007-2014 the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for three Sudanese government officials, including multiple warrants for Omar al-Bashir and Ahmed Haroun, and two anti-government militia leaders, for atrocities perpetrated in Darfur, including war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

The UNSC has imposed an arms embargo on Darfur since 2004 and travel ban and asset freeze against six individuals since 2006. During October 2017 the United States lifted sanctions against Sudan.

Since the demonstrations started in December, multiple states and regional organizations publicly called upon the Sudanese authorities to respect human rights and to ensure a peaceful political transfer and inclusive dialogue.

The TMC should avoid violence and must stop threatening the forcible removal of protestors. The TMC should create a conducive environment for inclusive dialogue and accommodate the people's desire for democratic reform. It should also immediately release all individuals detained for peacefully demonstrating.

Following the reconfiguration of UNAMID and the recent developments in the country, the UNSC must closely monitor the precarious security situation in Darfur. Given the current political insecurities and the possible impact on Darfur, the UNSC should request to pause the further drawdown of the mission.

The TMC, with the support of the UNSC and the international community, should also actively support efforts to bring ICC indictees to justice.

Last Updated: 15 May 2019

The most recent issues of R2P Monitor and Atrocity Alert are available in the side-bar. To see previous assessments of this country, please see R2P Monitor and Atrocity Alert on our Publications page. Sudan was previously featured in the R2P Monitor from January 2012 through January 2018.