A photo of damage allegedly caused by a Sudanese government air strike on Natiqa, near the North Darfur border of Sudan on March 16, 2014.

(Nairobi) – Sudan’s rights record deteriorated in 2014, with deepening political repression and a lack of accountability, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2015. Sudanese authorities should immediately end unlawful attacks on civilians and hold those responsible to account. The authorities should release political detainees and stop arresting and using excessive force against peaceful protesters.

“In Darfur, Blue Nile, and Southern Kordofan states, Sudanese military forces are leaving a trail of abuse,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “In Khartoum and elsewhere, national security officials stifle dissent.”

In the 656-page world report, its 25th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth urges governments to recognize that human rights offer an effective moral guide in turbulent times, and that violating rights can spark or aggravate serious security challenges. The short-term gains of undermining core values of freedom and non-discrimination are rarely worth the long-term price.

Starting on October 31, 2014, large numbers of Sudanese forces entered the North Darfur town of Tabit, beating men and raping women and girls over a two-day period. Sudan initially refused to allow the African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) access to the town. When the peacekeepers finally entered to investigate, Sudanese security forces accompanied them during their visit, compromising the integrity of their investigation.

Between February and April 2014, Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) attacked villages in South, Central, and North Darfur. The RSF is a government force consisting largely of former militias and led by Brig. Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagolo (“Hemmeti”), a former Darfuri militia leader. The forces burned homes and shops, looted livestock, killed and robbed civilians in dozens of villages, and forced tens of thousands of residents to flee to towns and camps for displaced people.

Sudanese government forces, including the RSF, also attacked villages in the Nuba Mountains region of Southern Kordofan, displacing tens of thousands of civilians in April. In May and June, government bombing damaged schools, mosques, churches, water sources, and health centers, including a Médecins sans Frontières clinic in Nuba Mountains. Dozens of civilians were killed or injured.

In Blue Nile, civilians who fled government-controlled areas told Human Rights Watch that government forces, again including the RSF, arbitrarily detained residents, raped women and girls, and restricted residents’ movements, farming, and access to food. Sudan indiscriminately bombs rebel-held areas of the state.

Government security forces used violence to disperse protests and arbitrarily arrested and detained protesters and activists. In September, security forces broke up memorial services for the anniversary of the killing of more than 170 protesters in 2013.

The National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) and other security forces arrested opposition party members and activists, despite promises by President Omar al-Bashir to release all “political detainees.”

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has charges pending against five people, including President al-Bashir, for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in connection with atrocities in Darfur. The Sudan government refuses to cooperate with the ICC and has obstructed its work. Human Rights Watch has repeatedly called on the UN Security Council to establish an international commission of inquiry into abuses in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.

“Civilians bear the brunt of Sudan’s brutal counter-insurgency tactics and political repression across the country,” Bekele said. “Without any form of accountability, these patterns of abuse are becoming more entrenched by the year.”