Killings: From January to September, military personnel and paramilitary forces committed numerous killings in Darfur and the Two Areas. In mid-January the government launched an aerial and ground offensive to dislodge the SLA/AW from its strongholds in the mountainous areas of Central, North, and South Darfur.
According to press and NGO reports, RSF personnel under NISS command committed numerous killings, often after barrel bombs were dropped by Antonov An-26 aircraft during government offensives in Darfur and the Two Areas. Human rights groups reported such aerial bombardments disproportionately hurt civilians. Most reports were difficult to verify due to continued prohibited access to conflict areas, particularly Jebel Marra in Darfur and SPLM-N-controlled areas in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States.
In late September, Amnesty International issued a report alleging that, during the first nine months of the year, the government engaged in scorched earth tactics and used chemical weapons in Jebel Marra, Darfur, resulting in deaths. UN monitors were unable to verify the alleged use of chemical weapons, due in part to the lack of access to Jebel Marra from rebel commanders loyal to Abdel Wahid. At year’s end the OPCW had not been presented with sufficient corroborating evidence to conclude chemical weapons had been used.
Clashes between government forces, government-armed militias, and rebel movements, notably the SLA/AW in Darfur and the SPLM-N in the Two Areas, resulted in casualties on all sides. Sudan Liberation Army/Minni Minawi and Justice and Equality Movement/Gibril were generally inactive during the year. Intercommunal conflict and societal violence continued to be the most deadly consequences of the conflict in Darfur. The continued utilization and arming of local militias as proxies and the continued influence of these groups in part due to their heavy armament, coupled with widespread impunity, allowed the conflict to spread systemically as clashes over land, cattle, and other resources intensified. Clashes between heavily armed communal groups, particularly in East, South, and North Darfur, resulted in significant casualties (dead and injured) on all sides.
Many deaths continued to be attributed to the SAF and militia groups. Security deteriorated in North Darfur. Violence in the Jebel Marra area of East Darfur, including indiscriminate SAF aerial and artillery bombardments, continued, although this largely ceased by September.
On May 1, the SAF bombed Heiban, South Kordofan, killing six children. The incident drew widespread protests in Khartoum following the sharing of their pictures via social media. On May 23, during the memorial service for the six children, an SAF jet dropped two bombs in the area, injuring four more children and killing a six-month-old baby. On May 27, two parachute bombs were dropped onto the compound of St. Vincent Primary School in Kauda, injuring a Kenyan teacher and damaging classrooms and a library. Casualties were limited, as the attack did not take place during school hours. Reports of such aerial attacks in South Kordofan and Blue Nile State ceased by September.
SAF air raids resulted in civilian deaths and the destruction of fields and impeded the planting of crops throughout Darfur and the Two Areas. Throughout the year the SAF repeatedly bombed cultivated land, disrupting planting cycles, which, coupled with forced displacements and the denial of humanitarian assistance, resulted in near famine-like conditions. There were also numerous reports of the SAF using cluster bombs in both Darfur and the Two Areas. NGOs accused the government of using the denial of food as a weapon of war.
On June 9, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda reported to the UN Security Council that aerial bombardments had resulted in more than 400 civilian deaths and up to 200 villages destroyed. She also reported that air raids on January 21 on an East Jebel Marra village reportedly killed 48 women and destroyed six houses. The UN Security Council’s Panel of Experts on Darfur stated it had evidence the country’s air force had RBK-500 cluster bombs at the weapon-loading area at the Nyala Forward Operation Base. On March 25, the SAF shelled al-Habel village in Um Dorein County of South Kordofan and injured two girls, 11 and 10 years old.
In April, SAF raids killed five children and injured 22. Multiple schools were reportedly bombed and others closed due to the fighting, particularly those near the front line. The Sudan Social Development Organization (SUDO UK), a UK-based human rights monitoring organization with sources on the ground in conflict areas, also reported that aerial bombardments in Darfur and the Two Areas killed 391 persons and injured 417. Various reports corroborated a minimum of seven aerial bombardments in Darfur in August alone, focused on the Jebel Marra region, Central Darfur, with two raids in North Darfur and one in South Darfur. There were numerous abuses similar to the following example: On August 29, in the North Darfur village of Kator, government-aligned militias attacked a group of displaced civilians, killing three and injuring four. The IDP’s were fleeing earlier bombardments on their home village of Qabas.
In Darfur clashes between the government and rebel factions continued, as did attacks by the government’s RSF forces on unarmed civilians in South, North, and East Darfur and in the Two Areas.
Ground attacks targeting civilians were also serious problems in both Darfur and the Two Areas. There were numerous abuses similar to the following example: On June 12, an SAF soldier shot and killed Amna Adam Kuku in Elfaid Um-Abdalla because he reportedly suspected her brother was a sympathizer of the SPLM-N.
The following incident involving NISS is illustrative of abuses taking place in West Darfur: On January 8, the body of a shepherd for the Arab Bani Halba tribe was found near the Massalit village of Moli, approximately six to 12 miles south of El Geneina. According to UNAMID, the Bani Halba demanded compensation, but the Massalit denied involvement and refused. On January 9, Bani Halba tribesmen, many or all of whom served as border guards--supported by fellow border guards from the Arab tribes of Maharia, Awlad Janoub, Awlad Marni, and Sheigerat--attacked Moli with up to 200 men and 20 Toyota Land Cruisers in retaliation. Reportedly five to 10 Massalit were killed, and many IDPs fled to El Geneina. On January 10, the displaced Massalit from Moli protested in front of the governor’s offices. Protests reportedly turned violent when no one acknowledged their complaints. The demonstrators forcefully entered the governor’s office and residence, set afire a tent and offices (reportedly the residence of the governor’s security guards), and burned or upended multiple vehicles.
The protesters put up barricades of burning tires in front of the governor’s compound. Police and NISS subsequently clashed with the protesters and opened fire with live ammunition, killing six. There were also unconfirmed reports that either Arab tribesmen or Massalit protesters killed a NISS officer during the protests, taking his weapon, in addition to seven to eight NISS officers injured. On January 11, while Massalit protesters were still occupying the governor’s compound (although confrontation had ceased), shots were fired into the funeral procession of those who were killed on January 10, killing at least three additional Massalit IDPs and wounding six others. The shots were reportedly fired while the procession was passing NISS offices, and reportedly security forces had mistaken the large group of mourners for protesters. In all, at least 13 persons were killed, while many more were wounded.
There were also numerous abuses of detainees reported similar to the following: On February 16, NISS in Tadamoun locality arrested Elnour Mohammed Elfadeel at his house following accusations he possessed a gun without a license. On February 17, he arrived at Damazine Military Hospital in critical condition and died in the hospital that same day. Medical sources stated the cause of death was fractures to the neck and skull.
According to the ICC prosecutor’s June report, in both Darfur and the Two Areas, there were reported attacks on humanitarian aid workers and peacekeepers, with one peacekeeper killed in Darfur.
In Abyei, the security situation remained unpredictable but generally calm. Most human rights abuses were due to tribal conflict between the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya, with several major security incidents occurring in and around the marketplaces. On May 8, UN Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA) troops disarmed a Misseriya and an Ngok Dinka found with a rifle and hand grenade, respectively, at the Noong common market. On June 21, in the Kolom area, unknown assailants armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades opened fire on a commercial pickup vehicle transporting traders from Twic County in Warrap State, South Sudan, to the common market at Noong. The attack left three persons dead and two seriously wounded. On June 21, UNISFA reported that unknown armed men shot at a civilian vehicle with seven persons on board travelling from Agok to Noog, Abyei, killing three persons and injuring two others.
Abductions: International organizations were unable independently to verify reports of disappearances due to lack of access to the region. Humanitarian actors reported unverified cases of government-aligned forces abducting or detaining civilians, including women, due to their suspected affiliation with the SPLM-N.
There were numerous abuses similar to the following: According to the Human Rights and Development Organization, a monitoring organization with sources on the ground in the Two Areas, Musa Aabdein Ali, a government employee, was found alive but in poor health in military intelligence custody on March 15 after five years of detention. He was abducted in 2011 soon after hostilities erupted in South Kordofan. Ali reportedly had no political affiliation. Military intelligence, NISS, and political authorities denied knowing his whereabouts. Ali reported he was detained incommunicado and faced physical abuse and poor health and sanitary conditions.
SUDO UK reported 86 abductions throughout the conflict areas from January to August, 45 in May alone. UNAMID reported 55 abductions in Darfur from January to September 15. While government or government-aligned entities perpetrated the majority of these abductions, some were carried out by unknown armed criminal groups. One such incident in January included a carjacking, two robberies, and the abduction of a World Food Program (WFP)-contract driver and his truck. The driver was released in the Kutum area several days later.
UNAMID reported that abduction remained a coercive method adopted by the various tribes in Darfur to obtain the payment of diya (“blood money” ransom) claimed from other communities.
Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Human rights organizations accused government forces and rebel groups in Darfur and the Two Areas of perpetrating torture and other human rights violations and abuses. Government forces abused persons detained in connection with armed conflict as well as IDPs suspected of having links to rebel groups. There were continuing reports that government security forces, progovernment and antigovernment militias, and other armed persons raped women and children.
In Darfur, fighting involved government forces, rebels, and ethnic militias, and it was often along communal lines. These armed groups, including the RSF, which NISS controlled, killed and injured civilians, raped women and children, looted properties, targeted IDP camps, and burned villages in all of Darfur’s five states. Multiple sources reported the RSF also destroyed and plundered water wells, food stores, and community resources, including livestock. A September Amnesty International report alleged the government used chemical weapons to target civilian areas in Jebel Marra, Darfur from January to September. UN monitors were unable to verify the alleged use of chemical weapons, due in part to lack of access to Jebel Marra and insufficient corroborating evidence. The report that also alleged the government engaged in scorched earth tactics was corroborated by multiple sources from Darfur.
These acts resulted in approximately 80,600 newly displaced persons by September, but, nevertheless, a decrease from 243,000 reported during the same period the previous year. An increase in criminality and banditry also contributed to a deterioration of overall security in Darfur. UNAMID continued to document hundreds of cases of human rights abuses, including unlawful killings, other abuses of the right to physical integrity, and arbitrary arrest and detention.
Sexual and gender-based violence continued throughout Darfur and the Two Areas. The ICC prosecutor in her June report to the UN Security Council noted 107 reported incidents of sexual crimes affecting 225 victims, indicating that 70 per cent of these incidents involved gang rape, of which 19 per cent victimized minors. Authorities often obstructed access to justice for rape victims. IDPs reported perpetrators of such violence were often government armed force or militia members. SUDO UK reported the confirmed rape by RSF agents of 125 persons, mostly IDP’s, including 32 minors, from January to August in both Darfur and the Two Areas.
Widespread impunity remained a major challenge, aggravated by government’s limited capacity, the absence of a security environment conducive to civilian safety across Darfur, and use of excess force by security forces. For example, on March 24, NISS agents reportedly arrested a female student on her way to the University of El Geneina and assaulted her. Seven students from Nyala University who were arrested on April 26 for demonstrating against the increase in public transport fees reported having been similarly beaten in detention. Neither case had been investigated by year’s end.
The government prosecuted some crimes involving government officials. Although rare, prosecutions were most common in cases involving violations against minors. On May 10, a court in El Geneina convicted and sentenced a soldier to 20 years’ imprisonment for the rape of a seven-year-old girl. The UN Independent Expert for the human rights situation in Sudan expressed concern about nine rapes of women from the Zam camp in April, when they were outside the camp engaged in livelihood activities.
The SAF and government-aligned forces also reportedly burned and looted villages in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. There were reports of physical abuse and violent interrogations of SPLM-N-affiliated individuals in Kadugli Prison and military installations.
Human rights groups continued to report that government forces and allied militias raped, detained, tortured, and arbitrarily killed civilians in government-controlled areas of Blue Nile. SUDO UK reported 269 cases of arbitrary arrest, 56 of which involved civilians detained in containers in Damazine, Blue Nile.
On March 31, Radio Tamazuj reported shelling by the SPLM-N of civilian areas in Kadugli town, specifically Sama, Saraf, and Um Bataha neighborhoods. Reported claims by “local sources” that “nobody was hurt” were difficult to verify.
In July and August, the government accused the SPLM-N of attacking a Chinese-run gold mine bordering South and North Kordofan. The attacks were difficult to verify due to lack of access.
There were varying reports in July of violence that affected civilians in Lima, Southern Kordofan, including reports that eight Misseriya tribesmen were killed during an altercation with an SPLM-N soldier over a reported cattle theft. It was unclear, however, whether the Misseriya killed were civilians or part of the government-aligned militia Popular Defense Forces.
Unexploded ordinance killed and injured many innocent civilians in the country’s conflict zones. There were numerous examples similar to the following: On November 27, in Singa, north of Damazine, Blue Nile, the explosion of an undetonated remnant of war injured five children.
On March 27, the Radio Dabanga online newspaper reported six gold miners died in an explosion in Tawila locality of Darfur when their vehicle drove over and detonated unexploded ordinance. Apart from the six miners who were killed, three others were reportedly seriously injured.
Child Soldiers: The law prohibits the recruitment of children and provides criminal penalties for perpetrators. Allegations persisted, however, that armed movements, government forces, and government-aligned militias had child soldiers within their ranks.
According to several reports, the government provided material and logistical support in the country to the South Sudan opposition group, Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition, which was widely reported to recruit and use child soldiers.
Many children lacked documents verifying their age. Children’s rights organizations believed armed groups exploited this lack of documentation to recruit or retain children. Due to problems of access, particularly in conflict zones, reports of child soldiers were limited and often difficult to verify. The government denied allegations it recruited or used child soldiers within its armed forces. During the March 27 to 30 visit of the UN special representative for children and armed conflict, the government signed an action plan to end and prevent recruitment and use of children by its security forces. The special representative documented 21 children detained by NISS since April and August 2015 for their alleged association with the rebel group JEM. The children had allegedly been recruited in South Kordofan and South Sudan and used in combat in Darfur and South Sudan. In September the government pardoned and released the children to a reintegration program. JEM representatives claimed the children did not belong to their faction. In addition, the United Nations documented the recruitment of six children by JEM from refugee settlements in Unity State, South Sudan. In September the country’s Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) Commission reported that 169 child soldiers, all from the Liberation and Justice Movement, had been assembled in South Darfur for DDR procedures.
In September, UNAMID reported that concerted efforts to curb the recruitment of child soldiers in Darfur had led to significant progress, but the potential use of children in ethnic clashes remained a major concern.
Representatives of armed groups reported they did not actively recruit child soldiers. They did not prevent children who volunteered from joining their movements. The armed groups stated the children were stationed primarily in training camps and were not used in combat.
There were reports of the use of child soldiers by the SPLM-N, but numbers could not be verified, in part due to lack of access to SPLM-N-controlled territories. On November 23, in Geneva, Malik Agar of the SPLM-N and Leila Zerrougui, the representative of the UN secretary-general on children and armed conflict, signed an action plan to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers. In her remarks, Zerrougui said the government, nonstate actors, and everyone involved in armed conflict must cooperate and acknowledge that the rules of law “apply to children two times over.” She noted that Sudan ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990 and is party to other international agreements, meaning the legal framework is in place and the main focus should be implementation.
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Other Conflict-related Abuse: All parties to the conflict in Darfur obstructed the work of humanitarian organizations, UNAMID, and other UN agencies, increasing the displacement of civilians and abuse of IDPs. The government also continued to deny access to humanitarian organizations and UN agencies in Darfur, the Jebel Marra region in particular, and all government-controlled areas of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile (the SPLM-N also denied access to areas in their control), isolating an estimated 800,000 IDPs and severely limiting access to life-saving humanitarian assistance. Violence, insecurity, the delay and denial of visas and travel permits, and refusal of access to international organizations reduced the ability of humanitarian organizations to provide needed services. As of December 20, 30 visas requested in January by UNAMID remained pending.
Government forces frequently harassed NGOs that received international assistance. The government restricted or denied permission for humanitarian assessments, refused to approve technical agreements, changed operational procedures, copied NGO files, confiscated NGO property, questioned humanitarian workers at length and monitored their personal correspondence, restricted travel, and publicly accused humanitarian workers of aiding rebel groups. Unidentified armed groups also targeted humanitarian workers for kidnapping and ransom.
Fighting, insecurity, bureaucratic obstacles, and government and rebel restrictions reduced the ability of peacekeepers and humanitarian workers to access conflict-affected areas. Armed persons attacked, killed, injured, and kidnapped peacekeepers and aid workers. Humanitarian organizations often were not able to deliver humanitarian assistance in conflict areas, particularly in Jebel Marra, South Darfur. According to the UN secretary-general’s report on UNAMID on March 22, the SLA/AW faction attacked UNAMID forces with heavy weapons near Kutum on January 1, injuring one South African peacekeeper. In November armed men abducted three staffers of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): two Nepalese and one a Sudanese national. During the same week, five armed masked men in a Land Cruiser without license plates abducted three Sudanese employees of UNAMID in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, while they were traveling to the mission’s headquarters, which is 13 miles southeast of Nyala.
All states in Darfur were under varying states of emergency. Between December 2015 and September, there were 1,626 cases of criminality and banditry, which included 384 killings. The attacks included rape, armed robbery, abduction, ambush, livestock theft, assault/harassment, arson, and burglary and were allegedly carried out primarily by Arab militias, but also by government forces, unknown assailants, and rebel elements.
Security in Darfur continued to deteriorate due to the rise in criminal activity and intercommunal conflict. The independent expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan noted with concern that, during the year, the size and scale of intercommunal clashes over cattle rustling and control of natural resources in Eastern Darfur had been unprecedented, as were the sophisticated firearms used by the combatants.
Large-scale displacement continued to be a severe problem in Darfur and the Two Areas, and government restrictions and security constraints continued to limit access to affected populations and impeded the delivery of humanitarian services (see section 2.d.).
Throughout the year the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) obstructed the work of NGOs and international humanitarian actors in the country’s conflict zones (see section 5).
Following meetings between UNAMID and the government, food-ration containers were released from Port Sudan, while, as of September, 59 shipments (101 containers) were still pending clearance. A total of 367 shipments of UN-owned and contingent-owned equipment, some of which had been there since April 2015, remained at Port Sudan and Khartoum, pending Ministry of Finance approval and customs clearance. The resulting shortages severely hampered the ability of UNAMID troops to communicate, conduct robust patrols, and protect civilians; they incurred demurrage charges and additional costs for troop- and police-contributing countries and the United Nations.
Attacks on humanitarian and UNAMID convoys continued. Bandits obstructed humanitarian assistance, regularly attacked the compounds of humanitarian organizations, and seized humanitarian aid and other assets, including vehicles. Instability forced many international aid organizations to reduce their operations in Darfur. The UN secretary-general stated, however, that the number of attacks against UN agencies and humanitarian organizations continued to decline. On March 27, a national staff member of the WFP was robbed in Nyala, South Darfur. On April 5, three local staff members of an international nongovernmental organization were robbed near El Geneina, West Darfur. Humanitarian organizations regularly reported encountering challenges in their humanitarian action and protection activities owing to access restrictions, interference with program administration and implementation by authorities, and the negative effects of continuing hostilities and incidents of violence and intimidation.
There were several reports of government forces, and armed militias and individuals, raiding IDP camps. On April 18, IDPs at the North camp, Central Darfur, reported that authorities had instructed them not to release any information to UNAMID. Moreover, the government did not allow civil society groups operating health-care centers to deal with cases involving conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence, especially in Central Darfur.
Largely unregulated artisanal gold-mining activities continued to expand in all of the Darfur states and to be a source of tension between communities. Claims to land rights continued to be mostly ethnic and tribal in nature. Clashes sometimes resulted from conflicts over land rights, mineral ownership, and use of gold-mining areas, particularly in the Jebel Amer area in North Darfur. Observers believed those clashes resulted in significant numbers of deaths and displacement.
Although the government made public statements encouraging the return of IDPs to their homes and the closure of camps in Darfur since “peace” had come to Darfur, IDPs expressed reluctance to return due to lack of security and justice in their areas of origin or elsewhere.
In the Two Areas there continued to be reports that SAF air raids destroyed homes, schools, churches, mosques, other civilian structures, and farms, and that humanitarian aid workers and centers, including hospitals, were targeted (see section 1.g.).
Restrictions imposed by the government in Abyei on NGOs limited the implementation capacity of humanitarian and development actors, especially in the northern parts of Abyei. Additional problems included inadequate funds, high implementation costs owing to security and logistical constraints, delays in the issuance of travel permits, and government restrictions on the movement of personnel and supplies.
The United Nations reported that during the year it received two allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by a civilian and by a UN volunteer deployed to UNISFA. One incident allegedly took place in 2015; the date of the other alleged incident was unknown. Because the allegations were against a UN civilian staff member and volunteer, the United Nations did not provide the nationalities of the accused. Both allegations were being investigated by the United Nations at year’s end.
UNISFA regularly conducted sensitization and awareness raising activities with staff members of all components. UN personnel carried out similar campaigns with the local population during which they highlighted and explained the UN policy on zero tolerance of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel.