Sudan: More than 5 months of continuous war and heavy suffering for women - protection, support and UN resolution urgently needed

At the 54th session of the Human Rights Council, during the debate on Sudan, Nahlla Yousif, woman human rights defender from Darfur, delivered a joint statement on behalf of ISHR, Sudanese Women Rights Action, Future for Enlightenment and Development Organization and WHRDMENA Coalition.

The joint statement by ISHR, Sudanese Women Rights Action, Future for Enlightenment and Development Organization and WHRDMENA Coalition highlighted the grave violations against civilians including women and girls, and defenders. Read the full statement below:

‘I haven’t been able to talk to my family in Nyala, South Darfur, for more than three weeks now. I don’t know if they are alive, dead or have fled to other areas. I am a WHRD from Darfur who fled the war there two months ago through a journey that lasted for more than 7 days until I reached a safer place. Millions of women in Sudan are still trapped in combat zones, without any safe pathways, and without any evacuation plans to protect them. WHRDs in these areas are increasingly in danger. After more than 5 months of continuous war in Sudan, women are living in hell under heavy artillery shells, plane fire and sexual violence.’

On 22 August 2023, at least 40 civilians, including women and children, were killed when an artillery shell fell on a bridge under which they were sheltering from the bombing of their homes. Dozens have been killed in Khartoum as a result of fighting in residential neighbourhoods. In North Kordofan, the city of El-Obeid is living in a state of panic, with the continuation of fighting and the siege of the city for four months. The city of El Geneina has become a ghost town after tens of thousands fled because of the ethnic violence in which hundreds were killed and dozens of women were raped during May and June.

Women are subjected to systematic kidnapping and rape, with reports of women being sold, or a ransom demanded for their release by kidnappers belonging to the Rapid Support Forces. Women human rights defenders (WHRDs) face increasing threats, with the closure of civic space for their work. On 7 August 2023, the security forces prevented a symposium from taking place in Al-Jazeera, and the women organisers were threatened. Moreover, the security forces arrested a group of women in Blue Nile for organising a protest calling for an end to the war.

We urge the international community to provide urgent protection and support for women peace activists and peace groups in Sudan; strongly condemn Sudanese authorities’ attacks on peace activists and civil society groups; and shed more light and widely disseminate the crimes committed against women and girls, and mobilise international human rights and feminist movements to call for and place pressure on the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to immediately end the war.

We urge the Council to adopt a resolution establishing, without fur­ther delay, an independent mechanism with a mandate, among other ele­ments, to:

  • Undertake a thorough investigation into all alleged violations and abuses of international hu­man rights law, violations of international humanitarian law and related crimes in Sudan, inclu­ding those constituting crimes under international law
  • Establish the facts, circumstances, and root causes of any such violations and abuses
  • Collect, consolidate, analyse and preserve evidence, including of sexual and gender-based vio­lence and eth­nic vio­lence, with the objective of ending impunity and supporting future legal proceedings
  • Identify, where possible, those individuals and entities responsible
  • Provide guidance on justice, inc­lu­ding criminal accountability, reparations, and guarantees of non-recurrence.

During the debate,  the High Commissioner and designated expert alerted the Council to the dire situation where ‘the people of Sudan have been caught up in an endless cycle of violence generated by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). There is no reprieve in sight.’ The High Commissioner highlighted the unbearable story of a fifteen-year-old girl, attacked and raped, and taken away from her family.

‘My entire body aches; my head aches,’ she said. ‘I am not rested because I do not know what happened to my family. I have no appetite to eat. At night, I cannot sleep thinking about my family.’

Several States, such as Australia, Costa Rica, Nordic and Baltic countries, Senegal, BelgiumCanada, and Japan, expressed concern over the grave violations including attacks against civilians, the ongoing violence in Darfur, sexual and gender-based violence, the humanitarian situation and attacks against defenders.

Watch the full debate here.

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