UNGA High level Side Event on Sudan
On the precipice: Ensuring collective action for human rights and justice in Sudan
for the People of Darfur and Sudan
Dear Friends and Family of DWAG,
Learn, …Listen and take action!
At DWAG we are pleased to share with you some of our collaborative effort to bring the plight of the people of Sudan to the policymaker’s attention. On September 21st, 2023, a high-level side event, entitled "On the precipice: Ensuring collective action for human rights and justice in Sudan", was organized by the ICC during this year’s United Nations General Assembly week to demand commitment and action for accountability in Sudan.
The event featured a panel with outstanding speakers and experts on human rights, accountability issue, policy advocacy and the crises in Sudan, who dedicated to bringing attention to crisis in Darfur, Sudan, and the need for accountability. High level experts included Alice Nderitu, special advisor of the United Nations Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide; Karim A.A. Khan KC, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court; Radhouane Nouicer, the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights in Sudan; and Niemat Ahmadi, founder of the Darfur Women Action Group. The event was moderated by Amal Clooney, the special advisor to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on the situation in Darfur.
The event was sponsored by the US, UK, Canada, Norway, and Gambia’s missions to the United Nations. The representatives include the US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield; Attorney General of Gambia, Dawda A. Jallo; and the UK Ambassador to the UN, Babra Woodward. Ms. Greenfield detailed the atrocities committed by RSF, including shootings, burning of homes, and sexual violence against women and girls. She emphasized that the current situation is a result of years of impunity for crimes committed in Darfur and urged collective action to demand an end to the violence. She also Announced sanctions against RSF officials and emphasized the US commitment to preventing mass atrocities in Sudan. Mr. Jallo equally highlighted the link between the lack of accountability for past atrocities in Darfur and the ongoing violence. In terms of the crisis resolutions, he stressed the importance of unity and collective action to address human rights accountability crises. In addition, he called on the international community to support the elaboration of draft articles on crimes against humanity. Last, in Ms. Woodward’s opening, she condemned RSF, its related militias, and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) for bringing Sudan back into war. Like Mr. Jallo, she also emphasized the need for accountability as a prerequisite for peace and stability. She then reiterated the UK's support for the ICC investigation and provided examples of UK initiatives to address the crisis.
The rest of the event centered on the four high level experts’ responses and discussions on the current situation in Darfur and Sudan. Starting with Mr. Karim, he emphasized the urgent need for collective action to ensure relevant evidence could reach the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution in a timely manner. Reflecting on past failures, he highlighted the responsibility of all individuals and states to contribute to the pursuit of justice. Khan acknowledged the role of the UN Security Council and stressed the importance of monitoring ongoing activities to gather evidence and urged states with the capacity to do so more closely. He called for a willingness to share information and emphasized the significance of partnerships with regional actors, particularly in the context of African solutions to African problems. Khan expressed gratitude for the presence of the Attorney General Minister of Justice of the Gambia and stressed the need for concrete action over mere talk. He advocated for building partnerships and mentioned the crucial role of civil society in engaging with and providing evidence to the ICC. Khan's impassioned plea underscored the gravity of the situation, urging a collective commitment to prevent further suffering and injustice.
Ms. Nderitu raised concerns about the potential for genocide in Sudan. Despite lacking the authority to make a definitive judgment on whether genocide is occurring, she explained her role in analyzing situations using a framework developed by her office. Nderitu pointed out the existence of risk factors for genocide, particularly in Darfur, and further highlighted the long-term influences of historical injustices and the 20-year-long conflict. She acknowledged the significance of the ICC prosecutor's visit to Sudan but underlined the persistent risk factors that indicated an alarming situation. Through a series of statements and engagements with the African Union and Human Rights Council, Nderitu called the urgency of preventive action, and international support to address the ongoing violence and conflict in Sudan. Despite her continuous warning statements, the risk factors for genocide, as per Nderitu's analysis, persisted in the region, prompting a need for immediate and concerted efforts to prevent further escalation.
The third speaker, Mr. Noucier, strongly highlighted the dire situation in the country, especially from the aspects of ongoing atrocities, human rights violations, and widespread devastation. His collection of numerous testimonies and accounts from victims and their family members, all consistent with his own findings on the scale of brutality in Sudan. While Darfur had experienced severe violations reminiscent of the devastation two decades ago, Nouicer stressed that other conflict-affected regions in Sudan are also witnessing similar atrocities. He praised the ICC’s decision to investigate recent events in Darfur and called for similar investigations into other affected regions. He then expressed deep concern about the alarming prevalence of conflict-related sexual violence in Sudan, with reports indicating 49 cases involving 101 individuals, mainly perpetrated by men in RSF uniform or armed men affiliated with the RSF. He warned against the strength of certain political parties with armed groups that are targeting specific tribes and ethnicities, may potentially lead to a civil war and entrenching tribal and ethnic hostilities. After months of fieldwork, Mr. Noucier concluded that the international community must unite in a coherent position to address the conflict, given the ineffectiveness of the approach of various roadmaps and initiatives. He also highlighted the unique dynamics of the Sudanese conflict, predicting that no party would emerge victorious. In the end he stressed the urgent need to stop impunity, which is a longstanding concern raised by NGOs and human rights defenders in Sudan.
He was followed by Ms. Niemat Ahmadi, whose’ testimonies were more powerful and chilling due to her knowledge, personal connection to the situation and her expertise on the situation. Ms. Ahmadi has delivered a moving account that burst the room into deep silence. She painted a harrowing picture of the atrocities and systematic violence occurring on the ground in Sudan, particularly in Khartoum and El Geneina in West Darfur. She stated that in Khartoum, the RSF were reportedly occupying homes, abducting women, and killing those who resisted eviction, while the government Army refused to help, but was bombing civilian homes and destroying infrastructure at the same time. In Darfur, the violence took a more calculated and ethnically driven form, with RSF precisely entering cities inhabitant by majority of indigenous Africans, isolating civilians from basic survival means, looting markets and organizations, and targeting specific ethnic groups in a systematic manner. The situation was dire, with multiple cities emptied completely of its population, communication cut off for five months in most areas, and people left with the grim choice of dying by bullet or by the lack of essentials.
On the other hand, despite this grim reality and stories of suffering she shared, Ms. Ahmadi praised the outstanding resilience of the Sudanese people, particularly in Darfur, where women, youth and civil society leaders have stepped up to document incidents, provide humanitarian assistance, and maintain hope for justice. She called for international support, urging leaders to intervene robustly to protect civilians and facilitate unhindered humanitarian aid. Niemat stressed again the importance of accountability, claimed that the trial of Ali Kushayb, even though it has come too late, it was a significant step toward justice, and more importantly it’s not about the punishment but about dignity for Darfuri victims. The trial was crucial because it has allowed the victims of the Darfur genocide to tell their stories for the first time in 20 years, especially to tell their stories in a court of justice. She concluded with a plea for the need and a commitment to atrocity prevention approach to Sudan crises and urged a collective effort by the international leaders to be the voice for the oppressed people of Sudan.
In conclusion each panelist provided their answers to questions from the audience. In response to Human Rights Watch's inquiry about the UN's role in crisis prevention, Ms. Nderitu emphasized the practical aspects of the UN's involvement. She outlined a scenario where her issued statements trigger the mobilization of humanitarian agencies on the ground and highlighted the roles of UNHCR and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in identifying and addressing human rights violations. In addition, she acknowledged the significance of the UN Security Council, emphasizing its responsibility to protection and intervention when a state fails to safeguard its citizens. Nderitu called for the expansion of the International Criminal Court's jurisdiction to cover not only specific regions but the entire territory of Sudan. Emphasizing the need to prioritize the suffering of the people in, she urged states to take a firm stand and make serious decisions based on the dire situation in Sudan. At last, Ms. Nderitu recognized the slow pace of justice but underscored the importance of ongoing documentation efforts and the necessity for specific commissions of inquiry tailored to the contextual nuances of each mentioned location.
Mr. Khan emphasized the importance of shared responsibilities in addressing African issues. He discussed the concept of "African solutions to African problems," stressing that the United Nations, the Security Council, and the region should work collaboratively. Regarding the expansion of the ICC's mandate, Khan highlighted the crucial role of the African group in supporting or opposing such initiatives, given the dysfunction and divisions within the Security Council. On the matter of human rights, Khan underscored the imposition of sanctions by both permanent and non-permanent members of the Security Council. Khan further urged for increased engagement to ensure that voices are heard and accountability are secured. Lastly, he addressed the importance of technology, particularly the erosion of internet coverage in Sudan. Khan suggested exploring technical solutions such as creating hotspots or providing devices to affected communities to enable real-time information uploads. He stressed the significance of empowering communities and suggested using secure platforms like OTP link for communication in areas with limited internet access. Overall, Khan called for a focus on tangible deliverables and greater attention to the living realities of those affected in Darfur.
To end the discussion session, Ms. Ahmadi expressed gratitude to the attending states and emphasized the importance of holding them accountable for their obligations in addressing international crimes such as genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. She underscored the need for continued demands for justice, asserting that it won't materialize without persistent effort. Ms. Ahmadi acknowledged that crimes were committed by both sides in Darfur, stressing that the International Criminal Court already had jurisdiction over the region. Rather than seeking another referral, she advocated for supporting the existing ICC efforts. She encouraged to expand the mandate of the prosecutor to cover crimes in both Darfur and Khartoum, emphasizing that accountability is both sustainable and efficient in ending the current crises and prevent future crimes. It will further alleviate the suffering of the people in camps. With accountability being secured, they can begin to heal and foster a brighter future.
Following the panel of experts the event also included statements by ministerial representative of Sierra Leone, Uganda , Norway and the Canada, who have expressed concern about the situation in Sudan, with special focus on the plight and the long suffering of the people of Darfur while reiterating their commitment to follow through the footsteps of the US in imposing sanctions, and providing financial and political support for the ICC.
Darfur Women Action Group would like to thank all the sponsoring governments and the expert speakers, particularly Mr. Karim Khan for his commitment to justice and expanding the mandate of the court to include the current crimes committed in Darfur.
The event was particularly important as it has spotlighted serious reality Sudan, the accountability issue for the Darfur crimes, and the outstanding commitment and promises made by all sponsoring government. Now it’s particularly important for us and our supporters to continue to remind them that we’re grateful for their commitment and that they must meet the promise by turning their word into action.
We believe in the good work for the ICC and its ability to deliver justice to those desperately need it. It would be even better If we can get states to follow through their legal and moral obligations toward the ICC.
At DWAG we firmly believe these policy makers do care and they can take effective action if we can mobilize the masses and speak to them from the position of power.
While the side event demonstrated strong commitment to justice and accountability, gaps in humanitarian response continue to exist. Therefore, we urge you to continue to speak up and demand action and intervention on the humanitarian front. Without protection and humanitarian access millions of people will die in silence in Sudan before they can see justice. We believe the situation in Sudan today needs a robust atrocity prevention approach rather than a prolonged peace negotiation and exchange of political interests. The people in Darfur need more direct and instant humanitarian assistance. More importantly, those actors responsible for the mass atrocities in Darfur and Sudan need to be held accountable for their crimes before peace can be achieved. DWAG will continue to bring the voice of the victims to the forefront of our advocacy effort and will empower survivors to fight for justice and life with dignity.
To listen to the entire recording of the panel and the remarks please click here: LIVE: Amal Clooney moderates event on human rights in Sudan
Niemat Ahmadi, Founder and President, and Darfur Women Action Group Team