Photo Source: © Dan Kitwood via Getty Images
Photo Source: © Dan Kitwood via Getty Images

Atrocity Alert No. 392: Sudan, Central African Republic and Ukraine

24 April 2024

Atrocity Alert is a weekly publication by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect highlighting situations where populations are at risk of, or are enduring, mass atrocity crimes.


Following weeks of rising tensions between the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), violence is dramatically escalating across North Darfur, posing an imminent threat of atrocities to civilian populations. Of particular concern are the indiscriminate airstrikes and deliberate targeting of communities in and around El Fasher, the only capital in Darfur not controlled by the RSF and an area home to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDP), including large Zaghawa, Masalit, Fur and other non-Arab populations. Violent clashes have already been reported at the Mellit Gate, north of El Fasher, spilling over into the Abu Shouk IDP camp. Various casualties have been reported in El Fasher, Kutum, Naivasha and Abu Shouk.

Since the outbreak of violence in April 2023, civilians in Darfur, particularly those from non-Arab communities, have faced increased risk of ethnic cleansing and genocide as a result of a systematic campaign and large-scale attacks launched by the RSF and allied Arab militias. On 16 and 19 April the Humanitarian Research Lab (HRL) at the Yale School of Public Health published evidence – through cross-corroborating open source and remote sensing data, including satellite imagery and thermal sensor data – of nine recent arson attacks by the RSF, as well as artillery bombardments and one airstrike by the SAF in and around El Fasher. The analysis indicates that the SAF have “significantly hardened their positions” inside El Fasher and anticipates “a ground assault and prolonged siege by RSF from multiple directions in the near future.”

Reports claim that the RSF is currently encircling the city and controlling major roads and junctions surrounding El Fasher, making it hard for civilians to flee and seek refuge. On 15 April the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Alice Nderitu, expressed concern regarding an imminent attack on El Fasher and reiterated that the risk factors for genocide and related crimes remain present. The HRL warned that “a ground assault by RSF or sustained combat in civilian areas or IDP camps will result in a humanitarian emergency and highly likely widespread mass atrocities including mass killings, sexual and gender-based violence, and razing communities.”

Ahead of the resumption of the so-called Jeddah Talks in the coming weeks, states should use their leverage to ensure that the SAF and RSF agree to a permanent cessation of hostilities and ensure adherence to international humanitarian and human rights law by all forces under their command. All member states must uphold the arms embargo imposed by the UN Security Council (UNSC) in Darfur and refrain from providing military supplies to the warring parties. UNSC members should publicly identify and call out those states violating the arms embargo and consider expanding the embargo to the rest of Sudan.


Since the start of April, dozens of civilians have been killed in attacks by armed groups in several regions of the Central African Republic (CAR), including more than 30 killed between 2-13 April alone. On 2 April suspected combatants from the 3R (Retour, Réclamation et Réhabilitation) armed group massacred 24 civilians, including women and children, in the town of Lime in northwest Ouham-Pendé prefecture. In southeast Mbomou prefecture, UN peacekeepers from the mission in CAR (MINUSCA) discovered the bodies of over a dozen civilians, including some burned, and houses destroyed by alleged fighters from the Unité pour la paix en Centrafrique (UPC) on 13 April. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, an ambulance evacuating an injured civilian in the same area was assaulted and looted. The patient succumbed to their injuries before reaching the hospital. In neighboring Haut-Mbomou prefecture, the UPC reportedly killed three civilians, including a child, that same day.

Mohamed Ag Ayoya, the Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in CAR, said, “I am deeply dismayed and strongly condemn the recent armed attacks… Civilian populations and humanitarian workers must never be targeted.” MINUSCA is conducting daily patrols in Haut-Mbomou and established a temporary operating base in Ouham-Pendé to protect civilians.

Since the start of 2024, civilians in rural and border areas of the country have faced growing protection risks. In Haut-Mbomou, two armed groups – the Azande Ani Kpi Gbe, a predominantly ethnic Azande armed group, and the UPC, a predominantly Fulani armed group – have launched renewed attacks since February that directly target civilians along ethnic and religious lines. These have heightened inter-communal tensions and resulted in the spread of hate speech. Amid the escalating ethnic violence, civilians are remaining within their communities out of fear of being targeted.

Consequently, clashes with the Central African Armed Forces (FACA) have also increased in Haut-Mbomou. At the end of March “Russian instructors” were deployed to support FACA in Obo, an isolated town in Haut-Mbomou, raising fears among community members of possible abuses. In March Russian mercenaries carried out several attacks on mining sites in Ouham, allegedly killing 60 civilians. According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, civilian targeting by mercenaries in March reached the deadliest level recorded since February 2022. The UN has previously recorded several instances in which these Russian-linked forces were implicated in human rights abuses and International Humanitarian Law violations during field deployments with near-complete impunity.

CAR authorities should work with local civil society to strengthen existing social cohesion and peacebuilding initiatives to prevent any further escalation of violence and reduce tensions between the Azande and Fulani communities in the southeast. All armed actors must cease their senseless attacks and retaliatory violence against civilian populations.


On 17 April Russian missiles struck the city center of Chernihiv, Ukraine, killing at least 18 civilians and injuring 78 others, including children. The strikes also damaged civilian infrastructure, including a hospital and education facility. Two days after this attack, on 19 April the UN Security Council held a briefing during which Ian Borg, current chair of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and Malta’s Minister for Foreign, Trade and European Affairs, said, “I saw the devastation caused by this war first hand… Thousands of civilian lives lost, families torn apart and millions forced to flee their homes. These are the real consequences of war. The ongoing attacks must stop. This war must come to an end.”

The latest report by the UN Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Ukraine documented the repeated use of explosive weapons by Russian forces on Ukrainian civilians, civilian infrastructure and cultural heritage. The CoI and UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) have also documented the widespread and systematic use of torture against Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs), including the use of sexual violence as torture. The Head of the HRMMU, Danielle Bell, said that nearly every Ukrainian POW interviewed detailed how “Russian [forces] tortured them during their captivity, using repeated beatings, electric shocks, threats of execution, prolonged stress positions and mock execution.” According to the CoI, former male detainees reported threats of rape and torture, including one victim’s testimony of perpetrators’ attempts to cut his genitals to “prevent him from having more children.”

The Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) also released a report last month, documenting abuses by Russian forces in occupied areas of Ukraine that have created a “climate of fear.” The report also detailed measures taken by Russian forces to impose Russian language, citizenship, laws, court system and education while suppressing Ukrainian culture and identity. In a press statement OHCHR characterized these abuses as having “ruptured the social fabric of communities and left individuals isolated, with profound and long-lasting consequences for Ukrainian society as a whole.”

Both indiscriminate and targeted attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, the use of torture and the abuses against civilians in occupied areas may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity under international law. As the conflict in Ukraine shows no signs of abating, the international community must continue to pursue all avenues to protect civilians, including by providing Ukraine with support to defend and aid its populations. The international community must ensure that perpetrators of atrocities in Ukraine are brought to justice.

Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect


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Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

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