1. Home
  2. East Africa
  3. Sudan

RSF accused of war crimes, ethnic cleansing in Darfur

The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and allied militias conducted a widespread ethnic cleansing campaign against Masalit and other non-Arab civilians in El Geneina and other parts of West Darfur state in 2023, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch.

The report describes the killings as among “the worst atrocities” committed against civilians since Sudan’s war erupted last year, and calls for governments and international institutions to investigate whether the evidence shows that RSF leadership intended to commit genocide.

Men and adolescent boys were singled out during attacks, but children and women were also targeted, and fighters carried out rapes, according to the report, which is based on interviews with 220 people, and analysis of photographs, videos, satellite imagery and documents.

Malik, a 17-year-old who was injured during an RSF attack in El Geneina in June, described to researchers seeing fighters killing at least 12 children, including infants, as well as several adults.

“Two RSF forces… grabb[ed] the children from their parents and, as the parents started screaming, two other RSF forces shot the parents, killing them. Then they piled up the children and shot them. They threw their bodies into the river and their belongings in after them.”

Though the total number of dead is unknown, UN experts have estimated that up to 15,000 civilians were killed in El Geneina, some while trying to flee to safer places. Over half a million mostly Masalit people have fled to Chad and are now living in refugee camps.

HRW urged the UN and the African Union to deploy a new civilian protection mission to Darfur and called on the UN Security Council to impose targeted sanctions against those most responsible for the crimes described in the report.

Sudan’s war is one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, with nearly 9 million people displaced – including more than 2 million who have escaped to neighbouring countries – and severe hunger gripping large parts of the country.

For more background on RSF crimes in Darfur, and on the plight of the Masalit refugees who are now living in Chad, read through our piece from earlier in the year: Reporter’s diary: Inside Darfur’s neglected refugee crisis

Share this article

Get the day’s top headlines in your inbox every morning

Starting at just $5 a month, you can become a member of The New Humanitarian and receive our premium newsletter, DAWNS Digest.

DAWNS Digest has been the trusted essential morning read for global aid and foreign policy professionals for more than 10 years.

Government, media, global governance organisations, NGOs, academics, and more subscribe to DAWNS to receive the day’s top global headlines of news and analysis in their inboxes every weekday morning.

It’s the perfect way to start your day.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian today and you’ll automatically be subscribed to DAWNS Digest – free of charge.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.