Entrenching Impunity
Government Responsibility for International Crimes in Darfur

I. Summary

Since July 2003, Sudanese government forces and militia forces, known as “Janjaweed”, have committed crimes against humanity and war crimes on a massive scale during counterinsurgency operations in Darfur, Sudan’s western region bordering Chad. Civilians have suffered direct attack from land and air, summary execution, rape, torture, and the pillaging of their property.

Military services participating in the attacks on the civilian population in Darfur include the air force, army, security and intelligence services, and the paramilitary Popular Defense Forces (PDF) under the command and supervision of the army.  These forces have conducted military operations in close cooperation with the Janjaweed militia, which the government recruited through informal networks of ruling party insiders, former military personnel, and leaders of nomadic tribes.

The Sudanese government at the highest levels is responsible for widespread and systematic abuses in Darfur.  Based on eyewitness accounts, on-the-ground investigations in Darfur, government documents, and secondary sources, Human Rights Watch believes that President Omar El Bashir and other senior government officials, the regional administrative officials in Darfur, military commanders, and militia leaders should be investigated for crimes against humanity and war crimes, either as a matter of individual criminal responsibility or command responsibility.

The Sudanese government has failed to prosecute serious crimes committed in Darfur. Instead of pursuing accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by government officials and Janjaweed members, it has made no genuine effort to investigate—much less discipline or prosecute—any of the individuals responsible.  Instead, it has created a facade of accountability through sham prosecutions and created ad hoc government committees that produce nothing. 

Human Rights Watch calls upon the International Criminal Court to investigate current and former state governors of Darfur such as Adam Hamid Musa, provincial commissioners such as Abdallah Ali Torshain, military commanders such as Brig. Gen. Ahmed Al Hajir Mohammed, and militia leaders such as Musa Hilal.  The impunity of senior civilian and military officials, and militia leaders has fueled continuing abuses against the civilian population.

The unwillingness of the Sudanese government to prosecute serious abuses reflects a broader failing to reverse “ethnic cleansing” in Darfur. Instead of disarming the militias, Khartoum has incorporated them into security, police and military forces. Instead of acknowledging state responsibility for the scale and gravity of the crimes committed in Darfur, senior Sudanese officials continue to obfuscate, deny, and evade responsibility for the atrocities and scorched earth campaign against civilians in Darfur. While it appears to have suspended offensive military operations for the moment, the Sudanese leadership continues to implement policies that permit continuing attacks on civilians, and perpetuate a climate of fear and intimidation through structural and institutional abuse.

As of December 2005, more than half of Darfur’s six million people—Arabs and non-Arabs, pastoralists and farmers—now suffer the effects of a collapsed economy, little or no freedom of movement, and the loss of livelihoods from looted and destroyed property. More than two million displaced victims of “ethnic cleansing” in Darfur remain confined in camps, some for more than two years, where they are almost entirely dependent on foreign assistance and remain vulnerable to violence. Most displaced persons are unable to return to their rural homes due to the insecurity created by government forces and Janjaweed. Where individuals have attempted to return, they face continuing harassment and deadly attacks from growing numbers of armed groups, including the rebel movements, in some cases at the hands of the same persons who forcibly displaced them.

African Union (A.U.) forces have an important role to play in improving security and increasing freedom of movement for the civilians of Darfur.  But this unacceptable situation will prevail indefinitely, or worse, will spiral out of control unless the Sudan government takes serious action to reverse the results of its policies.  The proliferation and impunity of armed groups on all sides has contributed not only to the deterioration of security in Darfur but also has important regional implications, including for neighboring Chad, where stability is increasingly precarious.

Yet the Sudanese leadership has shown no sign that it is prepared to fundamentally change its policies.  If the ongoing abuses in Darfur are to be stopped, and if ethnic cleansing is to be reversed then the United Nations (U.N.) Security Council, regional bodies, and other governments must sharply increase their sanctions on the Sudanese government for human rights crimes.

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