Since the beginning of the rebel insurgency in February 2003, and particularly since the escalation of the conflict in mid-2003, the government of Sudan has pursued a military strategy that has violated fundamental principles of international humanitarian and human rights law. It has failed to distinguish between military targets and civilians or comply with the principle of proportionality in the use of force.16 Its strategy deliberately targets the civilian population through a combination of indiscriminate and deliberate aerial bombardment,17 a scorched earth campaign, and denial of access to humanitarian assistance. The results have been dramatic: within one year, more than 750,000 people displaced in Darfur and more than 110,000 across the border into Chad.18
Sudanese government forces are responsible for hundreds of indiscriminate and targeted attacks on civilians in Darfur amounting to serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.19 In many cases the severity of the crimes committed by government forces and allied militia as well as the widespread and systematic way in which these abuses are carried out amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.20
Since the February 2003 official emergence of the Darfur rebel groups, attacks on civilians have increased in scale, number, and brutality and have been conducted on villages and towns in the absence of rebel presence or military targets. Civilians sharing the ethnicity of the rebel movement, namely the Fur, Masaalit, and Zaghawa and a few small tribes, have become the main targets of government military offensives aimed at destroying any real or perceived support base of the rebel forces. Government forces and janjaweed militias have inflicted a campaign of forcible displacement, murder, pillage, and rape on hundreds of thousands of civilians over the past fourteen months.
Dozens of refugees interviewed by Human Rights Watch and others have described repeated attacks on their villages and towns. Hundreds and hundreds of villages have been destroyed, usually burned, with all property looted. Key village assets, such as water points and mills, have been destroyed in an apparent effort to render the villages uninhabitable. Numerous civilians have been killed and injured by aerial bombardment and militia raids. Hundreds of women have reportedly been raped by militia and government troops. Children have been abducted in large numbers. Once they fled their homes, thousands of civilians have been subjected to systematic attacks, looting, and violence by militias in government-controlled towns and at janjaweed checkpoints that dot the roads. Even when displaced persons have reached the larger towns where they hope to find assistance and at least a refuge from further attacks, they continue to be systematically preyed upon by the janjaweed.
The evidence from Darfur points to a systematic campaign by government forces and allied militias to violently force rural civilians from their homes and render them destitute and corralled in government towns and camps.
It appears that the government and janjaweed attacks throughout Darfur became increasingly violent in 2003, especially after the ceasefire unraveled and hopes for a speedy resolution of the conflict dwindled. Numerous civilians interviewed by Human Rights Watch described fleeing their villages into the hills, known as jebels, or neighboring villages after initial attacks in early or mid-2003, waiting several months for the situation to stabilize, then, hopeful that the ceasefire would bring peace, returning to their homes in September 2003. When the brutality of militia attacks worsened in and after October 2003, many civilians were forced to leave their home areas entirely, moving to larger towns in Darfur or crossing into Chad.
Attacks have varied in nature depending on their location but two broad patterns have emerged to date.
Government attacks on villages and towns in northern Darfur consisted of heavy aerial bombardment followed by ground attacks by Sudanese army troops and the Arab militia janjaweed forces. In mid-January 2004, for example, following Presdient Bashirs pledge to annihilate the hirelings, traitors, agents and renegades,21 the government launched a major aerial bombing offensive in Zaghawa areas of North Darfur, causing the flight of thousands of civilians into Chad later that month. Many who survived the bombing and tried to stay in Darfur were later forced to flee the area due to militia and government ground attacks.
In South and West Darfur, by contrast, there has been far less aerial bombardment. Instead, Arab militias appear to have played the most significant role in ground attacks, sometimes accompanied by army troops, in what has become a spiral of increasing violence, robbery, and destruction aimed mainly at the Fur and Masaalit communities, whose homelands are in these states.
While the government of Sudan may not have planned that events would evolve in quite this manner, they knew or should have known that the military strategy employed would result in forced displacement and massive consequences for civilians. While there are differences in targets and context, similar strategies have been inflicted on civilians in southern Sudan for twenty years.
In the initial months of the war, rebel presence and attacks were more concentrated in North Darfur, as were government counterattacks. However, as time passed and the government military campaign failed, it drew increasingly on the allied janjaweed militias to destroy any real or potential support base of the rebelsa strategy of forced displacement of the civilian population. As an incentive, militia were given the opportunity to freely loot and capture the land of communities they had long coveted. The government-backed militiasand armed groups of bandits who took advantage of the conflict to lootdid not confine their attacks to SLA or JEM troops or assets, but went far afield, targeting undefended villages and greatly increasing the numbers of affected civilians.
As the war continued, and particularly following the collapse of ceasefire talks in September 2003, the janjaweed militias grew in size and influence. The patterns of the aerial bombardment and ground attacks, the increasing violence, and the governments clear responsibility for not merely supporting, but encouraging all aspects of the militia activity, point to a brutal and ethnically specific strategy to force the rural Fur, Masaalit and Zaghawa population from their homes.
Article 17 of the Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions of 1977,22 which addresses the protections the warring parties must provide for civilians in non-international armed conflicts, prohibits the forced displacement of civilians for reasons connected with the conflict. It does, however, allow for such displacement if imperative military reasons or the security of the civilians requiresboth of which are facts within the governments control. It has the burden of explaining them, which it has not done.
Here the methods used to accomplish the displacementattacks on civilians, scorched earth destruction of civilian property, and forced movement without warningare in violation of international humanitarian law.
In addition, the destruction of water sources, burning of crops and theft of livestock are a key element in the governments campaign. For obvious reasons, cutting off all sources of food and water to civilians in their homes will inevitably lead to their displacementor starvation. As part of the duty to protect civilians in conflict, the government must not attack, destroy, remove or render useless, for that purpose, objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population Objects considered essential to civilian survival include foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works.23
A campaign of forced displacement and other abuses amounting to crimes against humanity, and no doubt other serious violations, is taking place. While militias have operated as perhaps the principal perpetrator of direct violence, the character and scale of the abuses would not have been possible without pervasive government sanction and support. Government officials have actively supported the militias and disregarded the pleas of the Zaghawa, Masaalit, and Fur for protection. The Sudanese government thereby has condoned the killings, abductions, and forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians.
The Khartoum governments role in arming the militias and condoning attacks on civilians was noted by numerous refugees interviewed by Human Rights Watch as the main reason for their flight. They also cited the governments role as the key difference between the recent militia activity and clashes with Arab militias in prior decades. Commenting on this, an elderly Masaalit refugee told Human Rights Watch:
Another man pointed out, when asked whether his village had requested government protection, Its the government itself coming to attack, how can we ask them to defend us? Why dont they come to help us if theyre not involved?25
North Darfur state, which contains the dar or homeland of the Zaghawa, was the main target of Sudanese government aerial bombing in 2003. The vast majority of refugees interviewed in locations in northeast Chad were Zaghawa who fled their villages and towns and the rural areas in and around Karnoi, Kepkabiya, and Abu Gamra.These refugees described the governments systematic bombing campaign as one of the main reasons for their flight.
Sudanese government aircraft (mainly Antonov aircraft, although MiGs and attack helicopters have also been used) repeatedly bombed towns and villages, at any time of the day or night, inflicting hundreds of injuries and deaths of civilians, often just prior to ground attacks by Sudanese government soldiers and janjaweed militia.
The Sudanese governments use of Antonov bombing is not new. Human rights and humanitarian organizations have documented an overwhelming pattern of Antonov bombing in the conflict in southern Sudan over the past decade or more. Now that the targeting reportedly has improved, with some forward air control capacity supplied by janjaweed in close communication with the Sudanese army and air force, it is clear that villages are deliberately targeted. By the very quantity of bombs dropped, the Antonovs can be sure of inflicting significant casualties and destruction.
Clearly there was SLA presence in certain villages, which provides military justification for the use of force, however the force must be proportional26 to the expected military gain.
The governments bombing campaign in Karnoi, North Darfur, and other towns in January, 2004, for instance, was a disproportionate use of force in that although there was rebel presence in certain locations, the victims were overwhelmingly civilians. In addition, essential civilian installations such as water sources, vital for the survival of the population, were destroyed, an outcome that cannot be justified by any military advantage of the attacks.
In many other villages there was clearly no military presence or installations that warranted the overwhelming bombing of January 2004.
Based on Human Rights Watch interviews with victims and witnesses, the Antonovs dropped hundredsif not thousandsof bombs in North Darfur, sometimes repeatedly bombing the same villages with dozens of bombs in a few days. Some civilians dug holes in the ground to use as bomb shelters and managed to survive the campaign for some months until the January 2004 offensive forced them out. A forty-year-old Zaghawa market woman from Karnoi, a town in North Darfur, told Human Rights Watch,
Witnesses to the attacks gave consistent accounts of a distinct pattern since early 2003: Antonov aircraft heavily bombed villages and water points, followed by ground attacks, often in a matter of minutes. The Antonov bombing was sometimes followed by more precise strikes by MiG planes and attack helicopters on infrastructure, including hospitals, health centers and schools.28 Although most casualties appear to have resulted from Antonov bombing, attacks by MiG planes and attack helicopters have also resulted in civilian death and injuries. Helicopters are used for troop transport as well as targeting civiliansespecially when there are no rebel forces around the civilians to shoot back at the helicopters.
A refugee with a medical background who provided basic first aid to many victims of the bombing in and around Karnoi before fleeing to Chad described the impact of the different aircraft to Human Rights Watch:
While there was aerial bombardment through most of 2003, witnesses describe an increase in the type and patterns of aerial bombardment in North Darfur dating from early December 2003. Aerial attacks appear to have peaked during a government offensive between January 1519, 2004, and Human Rights Watch interviewed more than fifteen victims of aerial bombing from that period. A Zaghawa student from Jorboke, near Karnoi, was injured from shrapnel from a bombing on January 19, 2004:
The bombing forced many people to leave their villages and move into the wadis, the tree-lined riverbeds where people use hand-dug wells to access water under the riverbeds. Even in the wadis, they were continually targeted by air and by ground attacks--indeed, government bombing appears to have specifically targeted the wadis, where people and their livestock are forced to come for water and shelter, given the sparse vegetation and scorching temperatures of the region. A twenty-seven-year-old Zaghawa woman whose four-year-old son lost his feet in one such incident described what happened when her village near Karnoi, North Darfur, was bombed during the January offensive:
The bombing in the wadis appears to have been part of a deliberate strategy to destroy the water sources and other civilian installations, such as schools and hospitals. Witnesses reported numerous accounts of the bombing of wadis, but also of wells. Our wells were broken by the bombing, indeed the whole village was destroyed, said one thirty-eight-year-old Zaghawa man from Fara Wiya, a commercial town and administrative district in North Darfur.32 Another man from Fara Wiya town, which was repeatedly bombed in 2003 and 2004 due to suspected SLA presence, described the bombing in June 2003:
Some refugees allege that the government used some form of tear gas or chemical agent that was thrown out of helicopters in certain of the attacks. One refugee interviewed by Human Rights Watch stated that the Antonovs are coming at night and in the day and sometimes there is poison in the bombing.34 The details of such incidents remain unclear, however, and these allegations have not been verified to date.
In West and South Darfur, militia attacks on Masaalit and Fur villages increased and became increasingly brutal over the six months since October 2003. Human Rights Watch interviewed at least a dozen individuals from different villages in El Geneina and Habila provinces who described a similar pattern of attacks. Initial raids by well-armed Arab militia on camel and horseback took place in mid- and late 2003 but consisted mainly of theft of livestock and verbal threats to the population, with few casualties. The nature of the attacks worsened over time, however, becoming much more numerous and much more violent in early 2004. A typical experience was described by a Masaalit refugee from West Darfur:
Another Masaalit refugee in Chad also reported attacks increasing in severity during the same time: The first time they came was in late December, but it was not so serious. They came on camels and horses and shot in the air and stole some animals, but they didnt kill anyone. When they came back the second time they came with cars and they killed five people and beat people and took everything, all the cows.36
A seventy-year-old Masaalit farmer who saw three sons die at the hands of the militia described the attacks as follows:
Many people said they fled their villages, but remained in the general area. They did this to salvage some belongings, remain close to water sources, and in the hope of returning homeif security permitted. Most returned to the villages between attacks, intending to stay, but were finally forced out altogether by the brutal attacks or when the villages and water points were utterly destroyed.
Villages that were destroyed and emptied of their population were generally selected on the basis of ethnicity. Observers in Darfur in February and March 2004 report that burned Fur, Zaghawa and Maasalit villages are sometimes in close proximity to villages belonging to other ethnicities that have not been touched and in which the population continues to live. The intact villages sometimes belong to Arab and other non-Zaghawa, non-Masaalit, or non-Fur African ethnic groups.
Reportedly, some of the other African villages also suffer from the depredations of the militia, although not to the extent of the targeted ethnicities. Some villages pay large sums of money, up to U.S. $7000 in one such case, to the janjaweed militia to avoid attack.38 Individuals have also been reported to have to pay janjaweed to allow them to farm their own land and return to their home villages. Once returned, however, their villages are attacked again, and in some cases, for instance, these villages have been occupied by settlements of Arab nomads, for instance in the rich agricultural area of Wadi Saleh province.39
Although government forces appear to have had less responsibility for the widespread killings, rape, and assault on civilians during the ground attacks described by these refugees, future investigation may reveal a far greater direct role in abuses. Witnesses overwhelmingly note that government troops regularly participated in joint attacks, and coordinated with militias who plundered civilian property and destroyed infrastructure.
The janjaweed have visibly amassed tens of thousands of heads of Masaalit cattle, held in full view of government authorities in huge cattle camps. The government, by encouraging these reported abuses and by refusing to criminally prosecute any janjaweed, have given the janjaweed militia full impunity.
The Arab militia groups known as janjaweed are but the latest incarnation in a longstanding strategy of militia use by successive Sudanese governments.40 The militias in Darfur are clearly supported by the Sudanese government, which uses them as a counterinsurgency proxy to attack civilians while somewhat hiding the governments hand.
The Sudanese government is reported to have recruited 20,000 janjaweed militia members.41 Most are believed to be from Arab camel-herding tribes from North Darfur and Chad. The tribes and clans most frequently mentioned by refugees and other credible sources are the the Irayqat and Ouled Zed subclans of the camel-herding northern Rizeigat, the Mahariya, and the Beni Hussein.42 Many of the militia members are believed to be Chadian in citizenship and while some have been attracted to the janjaweed by the increasing ethnic polarization in the region, the prospect of loot apparently has been a greater incentive for most.
Some of the janjaweed members are also known to their victims. Witnesses to attacks in Fur areas of West Darfur stated that they knew their attackers.43
Witnesses and victims of the attacks consistently describe militia members as wearing Sudanese government military uniforms, generally green khaki. They sometimes have insignia of a man on horseback, or a red patch on the shoulder, but the ranks displayed are regular government army ranks, and their two main leaders have the rank of general.
The militia members carry new weapons (including Kalashnikovs, G-3s, and Belgique) and communications equipment such as Thuraya satellite phones. In addition, janjaweed militia sometimes travel in Sudanese government vehicles, although they are typically on horseback or camels. They are invariably present in ground attacks and raids, and sometimes accompanied by Sudanese government troops in attacks.
Human Rights Watch interviewed a former government soldier in Chad who had been forcibly recruited by the government in eastern Sudan in the beginning of 2003 and later captured by the SLA. His description of joint attacks by government forces and the janjaweed militia was telling and confirmed the many witness accounts of government and militia collaboration:
Human Rights Watch was told by several credible sources that new recruits to the janjaweed militia received an initial fee that could range from U.S. $ 100 to U.S. $ 400 and that relatives were guaranteed continuing support should a militia member be killed in battle.45 Many janjaweed also reportedly receive monthly stipends that exceed the salary of army soldiers (about 100,000 Sudanese pounds or $100). Militia members also receive regular supplies of sugar and oil. In addition to arms, uniforms, salaries, communications equipment, and other forms of support, janjaweed apparently also received identity cards from the government, according to documents captured by the SLA in December 2003.46
The command structures of the janjaweed are less well understood. Several people interviewed by Human Rights Watch mentioned a janajweed leader named Shochortola who was reportedly killed in fighting in North Darfur in January 2004. A Rizeigat leader from Kutum was also mentioned as a prominent force among the janjaweed. Several sources concurred that janjaweed regularly use El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, as a base for operations, that training camps are located outside the town, and that ammunition is regularly distributed to the militia by sources within the governments military intelligence unit.47
As of March 2004, despite the governments announcement that the war was won, there were new reports of government recruitment of combatants.48
Government forces not only participated and supported militia attacks on civilians, they also actively refused to provide security to civilians seeking protection from these militia attacks. Human Rights Watch received testimonies indicating that, when the attacks began in 2003, large numbers of civilians fled to towns and villages which housed military barracks and/or police posts, or sent messages to military units alerting them of the attacks and requesting help. The government forces rarely, if ever, responded.
On the contrary, in some cases when civilians fled to towns where army barracks were located, they were told to leave by Sudanese military and police. An elderly Masaalit refugee described the reaction of Sudanese police in Konga when he and other villagers fled there after a janjaweed attack in late 2003:
Even when displaced people reached a relatively larger town with greater military presence, such as Nyala (capital of South Darfur), El Geneina (capital of West Darfur), or Kepkabiya, there was no guarantee of security. In January 2004, numerous janjaweed militia attacks on displaced communities were reported, even around major towns like El Geneina and Kepkabiya.50 In late January 2004 there were at least three militia attacks on Aramata displaced camp alone, just six kilometers from El Geneina town. Over 500 cattle were looted and an unconfirmed number of civilians were apparently killed in these incidents, three of hundreds of attacks on displaced communities in the region.51
Examples of the governments refusal to provide protection to certain groups of displaced persons abound. In Nyala on January 14, 2003, security forces insisted that the displaced people of Initifadah camp move to another location at least fourteen kilometers away from the town. The majority of the displaced fled the camp before the planned relocation occurred, fearing a lack of security in the new site. Armed police forced persons who remained to move, at gunpoint. Some displaced scattered in panic to escape the forced relocation. Eventually an estimated 600 people were moved, despite their fears of increased vulnerability to attacks and despite the fact that the new site had not been adequately prepared with water and shelter.52
Among the displaced were malnourished children and families who previously fled their burned villages, losing all they possessed only a few weeks earlier. Due to these hardships and the minimal humanitarian assistance available in Nyala town, children under five were estimated to be dying at a rate of 6/10,000 per day in mid-January, a rate that is considered to be alarming in the extreme.53
In yet another telling example of the governments refusal to provide security for civilians, a number of tribal leaders of the Fur, Zaghawa and Masaalit communities reportedly made repeated attempts to inform government authorities of the grave abuses taking place. They appealed to the highest levels of government in Khartoum. They presented documented cases of violations, with no response. In at least one case, the Sudanese government warned the Darfurian representative to stop his appeals.54
Witnesses from dozens of villages report that the janjaweed deliberately assaulted and killed civilians, both those perceived as rebel supporters and others lacking any link to the rebel forces. It is estimated that hundreds of civilians have been killed in the conflict thus far, but given the lack of access to most of rural Darfur, this number could be a serious underestimate.
Refugees interviewed in Chad often noted that although the government troops failed to protect them and were clearly responsible for aerial bombing, it was the janjaweed they most feared because they are uneducated and they dont differentiate between men, women, and children.55 The vast majority of the victims in village attacksindiscriminate and targetedhave been men, many of them between twenty and forty-five years old. An unknown number, perhaps in the hundreds, of women and children have also been killed in direct, deliberate targeting by the militia forces and in crossfire during the attacks.
Some of the casualties in certain attacks are no doubt SLA combatants. Others, especially the young and middle-aged men from the Fur, Zaghawa and Masaalit communities56 organized self-defense committees in their villages, taking up arms in the attempt to defend their families and property, and have died in the fighting with the janjaweed. According to the information available to Human Rights Watch, these self-defense groups are a longstanding strategy of deterring Arab attacks on villages that dates from the early 1990s, and they were only lightly armed, rarely possessing more than five or six rifles or non-automatic guns per village.57 In almost all cases they were no match in 2003-2004 for the more numerous janjaweed, armed by the government with many modern automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenades and mortars. As one elderly Masaalit man noted, [My village] is a big village, there were more than 1,000 men there. If we had had arms, we could have defended ourselves, but we had no arms and they are expensive to buy.58
In many cases documented by Human Rights Watch and other credible sources such as Amnesty International, the dead were unarmed civiliansmen, women and childrenwho were killed by fires set to the homes, and by bullets while trying to defend their livestock. The numbers of civilian casualties vary widely from village to village, often depending on whether the village had been previously attacked. For instance, in a typical attack on a village where most residents had already fled, the main casualties incuded those too old or sick to flee, and those who resisted livestock looting. A thirty-five-year-old Zaghawa man from Adar told Human Rights Watch what happened in his village:
In cases where the attacks came by surprise or there were larger numbers of people still present in the village, men tended to be the most heavily targeted, but in some cases, the militia members killed most of the civilians they found, regardless of age or sexincluding some hiding in mosques. An eighteen-year-old Zaghawa man from Goz Naim who survived the janjaweed destruction of his village told Human Rights Watch:
These are not the only reports Human Rights Watch has received of janjaweed murders of those hiding or praying in mosques.
Human Rights Watch has also received several allegations that cannot be confirmed that in some towns where displaced Fur have fled in Darfur, janjaweed militia are targeting unarmed, displaced civilians and possibly executing them. These reports have not been confirmed to date. There are reports that the janjaweed rounded up civilian men, including community leaders, in groups of a few individuals to dozens or persons, and take them away--never to be seen again. To date, their whereabouts are unknown and it is widely believed that they have been killed by the militia.61 Similar reports of targeted roundups of community leaderswho are never seen againhave been received from Masaalit areas as well, suggesting there may be a plan for disposing of local leadership.62
There have also been clear reprisal actions against or collective punishment of certain villages in which janjaweed militia summarily executed, assaulted, and committed other acts of violence against whole communities perceived as SLA supporters. Human Rights Watch received information regarding several such incidents, including one in early January 2004 in which, following an SLA attack on a militia position, the government and janajweed forces jointly attacked the village and killed more than one hundred people. Men were systematically killed, as were some women and children, and some women had their breasts cut with knives. Parents reportedly were given the choice whether they would prefer their children were shot or thrown in the fire.63
There have been numerous reports of rape by janjaweed militias throughout Darfur, but those reports received by Human Rights Watch came particularly from Zaghawa areas of North Darfur. Given the type of trauma involved and the social stigma attached to rape in the Sudanese and Chadian cultures, many women are reluctant to be identified as survivors of rape and of sexual attacks. Many do not recognize the need for medical care following an assault, and even if they do, confidential health care is rarely available in the Darfur context. It is likely that hundreds of women have suffered from rape during the past year of the conflict. Incidents of rape appear to have increased over the past six months, part of the ever-increasing brutality of attacks. Women have sometimes been abducted by the militias either before or after a rape.
A medical student who had been in North Darfur until late February 2004 told Human Rights Watch that he had treated more than fifty women and girls who had been raped by janjaweed and soldiers around Karnoi. In a particularly brutal incident with clear racial overtones, an eighteen-year-old woman was assaulted by janjaweed who inserted a knife in her vagina, saying, You get this because you are black.64
Human Rights Watch also received at least eight credible reports of rape of women and girls in the Um Barou and Abu Gamra areas in January 2004. There were additional, unconfirmed allegations that ten young boys of karda age (shepherds) had also been abducted from Abu Gamra by janjaweed, allegedly for sexual use and domestic labor.
More recently, United Nations and other humanitarian staff in North Darfur reported widespread rape in the Tawila area following janjaweed attacks on the town on February 27, 2004. According to these sources, residents of the town stated that sixty-seven people were killed and forty-one schoolgirls and female teachers were raped by the militia. Some were raped by up to fourteen men and in front of their families. The same reports stated that some women had been branded on the hand following the rapes, apparently in an effort to permanently stigmatize them.65
Rapes have also been reported in the displaced camps in Darfur, in the context of continuing militia attacks, although few details are available about specific cases.
Refugees testimonies have also noted an alarming number of abductions of young girls and boys. It is not possible at this time to obtain an accurate number of children who have been abducted. Access to all the displaced and refugees remains limited, and many families have been separated by the conflict and are unsure whether children and other family members are lost, dead, or kidnapped by the attackers. At a minimum the numbers of abducted children are likely in the hundreds, ranging in age from infants to adolescents.
Children were sometimes taken directly from their parents, who were then killed if they protested. In an attack on Goz Naim in late January, for instance, a twenty-year old Zaghawa woman named Mecca Hissab was shot to death by janjaweed when she cried and tried to stop the militia from taking her three-year-old son.66
Older children were also abducted and sometimes risked death if they resisted. A young man from Jirai, a village some forty-five kilometers from Kepkabiya, saw the bodies of three young boys he knew; they had been shot by the militia during the attack on the village. The boys were aged ten, twelve, and thirteen. All three had been herding their animals on the outskirts of the village when the janjaweed tried to steal the animals and kidnap the boys, who resisted. A twelve-year-old girl who was in the same area at the time of the attack has since disappeared and is believed to have been abducted.
Adults have also been taken away by the janjaweed according to several witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch describe men and women of all ages being taken away by the militias after raids on villages. During the government offensive around Tine, on the Chad border, in January and February 2004, government and janjaweed forces abducted as well as killed many civilians. Witnesses provided several dozen names of individuals. One, a Zaghawa woman from Damanic, a small village in North Darfur just kilometers from the Chadian border town of Tine, said that up to fifteen people from her village were taken away by the janjaweed in early February 2004, and gave Human Rights Watch the names of three women aged fifteen to sixty, and six men and boys aged seventeen to seventy who were abducted.67
The janjaweed militias active in Darfur have systematically looted villages of civilian property. Some looting and accompanying violence is due to economic opportunismDarfurian and Chadian armed robbers who have long been active in the area take advantage of the current conflict to carry out their own attacks, marauding, looting, and raping. Refugees interviewed in Chad sometimes referred to this second group as peshmarga and described them as looters who come in to steal after the government has come in.68 In some areas they reportedly engage in highway robbery. It is unclear how large a group this and how much overlap there is with janjaweed.
Typically though it is the janjaweed who carry out what has become a campaign of systematic pillage and related violence which occurs particularly if they encounter resistance. Janjaweed even beat and abuse elderly women caught digging up hidden assetsunderground grain stocks in their abandoned villagesif they refuse to comply.
The primary target in most cases has been livestockthousands of camels, cattle, sheep, and goats belonging to Fur, Masaalit, and Zaghawa villagers have been stolen from their owners. Throughout much of the region, pastoral populations count their wealth in the head of livestock they possess. Livestock are also trade and used for family consumption. Internal trade and export of livestock is one of the economic mainstays of the region. The impact of the theft of livestock on the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in the region cannot be overstated. Without restitution or compensation for their losses, thousands of families have already been rendered destitute.
Dozens of witnesses also described militia members looting goods from houses before setting the homes ablaze. Some stolen goods were sold in government towns. Civilians from Tine (Sudan) told Human Rights Watch, The janjaweed, when they came to Tine, they took all our things, they carried them to El Geneina and people in El Geneina saw our things in the market.69
Civilians who made any attempt to stop the militia from looting their property risked serious injury or death. A Masaalit farmer from a village near Misterei, West Darfur, told Human Rights Watch about the deaths of his wife and one-year-old twin sons during a janjaweed attack in January 2004:
The above account of looting and violence by militia members has been echoed in numerous refugee testimonies and accounts of displaced persons and eyewitnesses within Darfur.
Tens of thousands of families have lost their homes and all assets in these raids, in addition to the deaths and injuries inflicted by the attackers.
Displaced civilians in Darfur and refugees in Chad have continued to be attacked and looted even once they fled their villagesespecially if they managed to salvage some livestock and household goods. Civilians en route to Chad have been intercepted by janjaweed patrolling to prevent their escape, and looted of their livestock and belongings . A seventeen-year-old Zaghawa girl who left Fara Wiya, a village in North Darfur, in early February, told Human Rights Watch:
Reports from the few humanitarian workers and other observers able to access Darfur in February and March 2004 describe constant attacks on displaced communities in camps and near towns throughout the region.72 These raids not only targeted the remaining livestock of the displaced, they also looted blankets, food, and other items that had been distributed to the displaced by humanitarian agencies. In some areas, displaced communities even requested that no humanitarian assistance be distributed for fear that the food and goods would draw new attacks upon them, a poignant indication of how little protection the displaced receive from any government or agency.73
The accounts of refugees and displaced persons, and the observations of the few international journalists, diplomats, and others who have managed to enter Darfur universally describe scores of empty, burned villages off the main roads of Darfur. No one has accurate figures for the total number of villages that have been destroyed, but even a conservative estimate would be in the hundreds. One eyewitness stated that between the larger towns, everything you see is burned. In some places there are some walls left, but everything is gone.
Small details of the destruction indicate a wholescale policy to forcibly displace the original residents. Witnesses describe destroyed granaries, even the underground sites where villagers had stored grain, which were searched for, dug up, and destroyed. Village mango trees were reportedly cut down and the fruit fed to the janjaweeds camels. Janjaweed also allowed the camels into the fields where they quickly consumed the crops.74
Most alarming, given the arid environment, has been the systematic destruction of wells and other water sources, both in bombing and militia raids. Some refugees noted that militia threw bodies in the wells specifically to contaminate the water source and render return impossible.75
Between October 2003 and January 2004, the Sudanese government almost entirely obstructed international humanitarian assistance to displaced civilians in Darfurand provided virtually no aid from its own coffers to hundreds of thousands of displaced victims. In addition, for four months, the government sorely restricted the entry permits and movement of international aid workers into and around the region. Almost all humanitarian workers were restricted to the pre-existing locations in which they were present by October 2003.
While the Khartoum government cited insecurity as the rationale for barring access, some state government officialscontradicting this rationaleapparently declared large areas accessible and secure for humanitarian access by late December 2003.76 The more likely reason for the immoveable restrictions is that government officials wished to restrict international accessand witnessesand further weaken potential civilian support for the SLA by rendering the entire Fur, Masaalit, and Zaghawa populations destitute.
Under increasing international pressure to improve humanitarian access, the government declared in mid-February 2004 that nine locations would be open to relief workers,77 but progress was slow. Aid workers were still forced to wait up to six weeks for visas and travel permits in March 2004. On March 6, 2004, in an unusually pointed public statement to the government of Sudan, the president of the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) noted the fact that the ICRC, under present constraints, is not in a position to carry out a meaningful humanitarian operation [in Darfur].78
When some of these few newly accessible areas were accessed in March 2004, aid workers typically found thousands of newly displaced people in towns along the roads. These people fled attacks in December 2003 and January 2004 and were since been cut off from food, medical, and any other humanitarian aid. Hundreds more surged into small towns and villages, living in the open air without shelter, health care, already traumatized and constantly terrified of further attacks.79 Some people fled to Chad, but for many this option was virtually impossible because of the distance and increasing janjaweed and Sudanese government interdictory patrols.
As of the writing of this report, more than 110,000 Sudanese civilians, the vast majority Zaghawa and Masaalit, have sought refuge in Chad. For many of these people the decision to flee into Chad was made only after repeated attacks and violence, and at great personal cost. Some stayed in their home areas as long as possible for various reasons. Despite Zaghawa and Masaalit kinship ties across the border, most people were reluctant to leave their houses and lands where they had regular access to water and pasture for the animals. Those who managed to save some of their livestock realized that given the arid regional environment, survival in Chad, particularly for their animals, would be difficult. Others lost their means of transportationdonkeys and camelsand were reluctant to abandon elderly or sick family members who could not travel on foot.
More than 750,000 people, including the bulk of the Fur population targeted so far, are believed to have been displaced within Darfur. Few Fur have entered Chad. For the Fur, it is likely that Chad offered less appeal as a refuge, largely because they have no kinship and ethnic ties with communities in Chad, unlike the Zaghawa and the Masaalit. In addition, the majority of the Fur population resided in central Darfur, around the Jebel Marra massif and further east. The difficulties of traveling to Chadalready immense for many communities far from the borderhave only increased over the months. Refugees arriving in Chad routinely described arduous treks of days and weeks to reach the border, often at night; deaths of livestock and sometimes family members along the way looting and attacks by janjaweed patrols.
The government of Sudan forces moved into towns and villages along the border with Chad in early 2004, having successfully scattered if not defeated the rebels in those towns in the January 2004 offensive, Sudanese refugees have reported increasing difficulty crossing the border to Chad since that time. Reportedly, government troops and janjaweed have deliberately blocked would-be refugees, even beating persons suspected of trying to leave Sudan. Janjaweed roadblocks are common on the roads leading to Chad; five were reported on the road from El Geneina to the Chadian border a few kilometers away.80 A thirty-one-year-old Tama woman walked for several days from her village, skirting El Geneina town because of government troop and militia presence in and around the town. She tried to enter Chad from Habila. She said,
Another refugee who fled his village near El Geneina said that while men had the most difficulty entering Chad, even women risked assault if they were caught by the Arab militia. He reported,
The description above was repeated by civilians in other locations, who told Human Rights Watch that movement inside Darfur is increasingly difficult in recent months and that people are virtual hostages in the towns. Eyewitnesses reported that large numbers of displaced people in and around El Geneina town, for instance, were unable to leave because they were threatened by the Sudanese government forces there that they would betray Sudan if they fled the country.83
Human Rights Watch heard other accounts of janjaweed manning roadblocks and checkpoints along the roads in West Darfur further from the border, demanding that vehicles pay fees for passage; some commercial trucks still ply the road to Chad. Janjaweed have also reportedly requested payments of 500 or 1000 Sudanese pounds (less than U.S. $1) for letters of authorization which permit the bearer to leave a town and move to another area.84
These accounts of the restrictions on movement and the freedom to seek refuge outside Darfur illustrate a government and janjaweed policy and practice of preventing civilians from fleeing from Darfur to Chad. Possibly, Khartoum fears the potential for a large refugee population in Chad to become rebel recruits. Constant displacement, extortion, violence, and threats of violence permit the government and its proxies to control civilians through terror. The humanitarian crisis and ethnic tensions brought into Chad are already having a destabilizing effect on that country--and on Khartoums ally President Déby, whose political position is precarious. Whatever the motivations for this policy and practice, it is illegal under international law.
16 The principle of proportionality puts a duty on combatants to choose means of attack that avoid or minimize damage to civilians. In particular, the attacker should refrain from launching an attack if the expected civilian casualties would outweigh the importance of the military target of the attacker. The relevant provision states that prohibited attacks are those that may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage expected. Article 51 (5) of Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949. While Sudan has not ratified Protocol I, which only applies in international armed conflicts, its provisions provides authoritative guidance nevertheless and most of them are part of international customary law.
17 The rebel groups in Darfur do not have aircraft, so it can be assumed that the Antonov and MiG planes, and helicopters used in the conflict belong to the government of Sudan. In addition, eyewitnesses have reported seeing the Antonovs, MiGs and helicopters at several government-controlled airports in Darfur.
18 Sudan: Humanitarian crisis in Darfur deteriorating, U.N. agencies say, U.N. News, New York, March 30,2004.
19 All parties involved in the conflict in Sudan are obliged to respect fundamental principles of international humanitarian law. This body of law demands that all parties to the conflict distinguish at all times between civilians and combatants, and between civilian property and military objectives. Acts or threats of violence intended to spread terror among the civilian population, in particular murder, physical or mental torture, rape, mutilation, pillage, and collective punishment, are prohibited. The destruction of objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas for food production, crops, drinking water installations and supplies, is also prohibited.
20 Crimes against humanity are defined both in international customary and conventional law. The following, among others, are crimes against humanity when committed in a massive or systematic manner: murder, torture, forced disappearances, rape, forcible transfers, persecutions on political, political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious,or other grounds and other inhumane acts.
Crimes against humanity can be committed in peace time or war time. No exceptional circumstances such as state of war, threat of war,political instability etc, can be invoked to justify the commission of crimes against humanity. These crimes carry specific legal consequences: they are not subject to any statute of limitations, the perpetrators cannot claim they were acting under superior orders, those responsible cannot claim asylum and states are able or even obliged to bring the perpetrators to justice regardless or where the crime was committed and regardless of the nationality of the perpetrator or the victim.
The Statute of the International Criminal Court established the jurisdiction of the ICC to prosecute the most serious crimes affecting the international community, including crimes against humanity. Sudan has not yet ratified the ICC Statute.
21 Agence France-Presse, Sudanese president vows to annihilate Darfur rebels, December 31, 2003.
22 While Sudan has not ratified Protocol II, which only applies in non-international armed conflicts, its provisions provides authoritative guidance nevertheless and most of them are part of international customary law.
23 Article 14, Protocol II Additional to the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949
24 Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, February 19, 2004.
25 Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, February 18, 2004.
26 See footnote 17.
27 Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, February 24, 2004.
28 At least nine helicopters are said to be in use in Darfur, and there are reports that the government has purchased another seventeen attack helicopters from an Eastern European country.
29 Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, February 26, 2003.
30 Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, February 23, 2004.
31 Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, February 24, 2004.
32 Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, February 23, 2004.
33 Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, February 25, 2004.
34 HumanRights Watch interview, Chad, February 23, 2004.
35 Interviewed in Chad, February 11, 2004.
36 Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, February 18, 2004.
37 Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, February 19, 2004.
38 Militias ravage Darfur in gangs of hundreds, Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN), March 2004.
39 Human Rights Watch interview in Chad, February 2004.
40 See Human Rights Watch, Famine in Sudan, 1998: The Human Rights Causes Sudan, Oil, and Human Rights, (Human Rights Watch: New York, 1999); and other HRW publications.
41 Human Rights Watch interview with Chadian official, Chad, February 18, 2004.
42 Human Rights Watch was told that initially some of the Beni Hussein refused to take part in the janjaweed militia but under pressure from other Arab tribes.
43 Interviewed in Chad, February 2004.
44 HumanRights Watch interview, Chad, February 27, 2003.
45 Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, February 19, 2004.
46 Human Rights Watch telephone interview, February 20, 2004.
47 Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, February 20, 2004.
48 Militias ravage Darfur in gangs of hundreds, IRIN, March 10, 2004.
49 Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, February 19, 2004.
50 See U.N. Weekly Humanitarian Roundups, February and March 2004, and U.N. Darfur Task Force Situation Report of 2 March, 2004, U.N. Darfur Task Force Situation Report of 4 March, 2004. All available at Reliefweb at www.reliefweb.int (accessed March 24, 2004)
53 Suite à la fermeture forceé des camps de Nyala par les autorités soudainaises, MSF sinquiète du sort des populations, Médecins sans Frontiéres press release, Paris, January 15, 2004.
54 Human Rights Watch interview, Netherlands, February 6, 2004 and others.
55 Human Rights Watch interview, February 26, 2002.
56 Human Rights Watch was told that the Masaalit were initially organized in the early 1990s by the Fur leader Dawood Yaya Bolad. According to this source, the Masaalit were advised to adopt the Fur strategy of buying one gun for every family with several hundred head of cattle. Thus when the Arabs came to raid livestock, there would be five or six armed men in the village to defend their property.
57 Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, February 20, 2004.
58 Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, February 19, 2004. The rising price of small arms due to private purchase was verified by Human Rights Watch. In Adré. the main border town in Chad before crossing into Darfur to El Geneina, a knowledgeable source said the cost of a Kalashnikov (AK-47) had gone up from 60,000 Central African Francs (CFA) in 2003 (about $120) to 250,000 CFA in 2004 (about $500). Trafficking in small arms has been a significant source of income in the area for many years.
59 Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, February 24, 2004.
60 Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, February 24, 2004.
61 Confidential communication to Human Rights Watch.
62 Confidential information to Human Rights Watch.
63 Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, February 2004.
64 Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, February 26, 2005.
65 U.N. Darfur Task Force Situation Report, 4 March, 2004.
66 Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, February 24, 2004.
67 Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, February 24, 2004.
68 Human Rights Watch interviews, Chad, February 18 and 26, 2004. It appears that the victims have given the maurauders the name of the Iraqi Kurdish militia, pesh merga, in the news because of the U.S. war in Iraq. The pesh merga, however, were organized local resistance to the (Arab) Iraqi government troops. Several refugees also sometimes refer to the governmentbacked militia as peshmarga because they were even stronger than the janjaweed, Implying, it seemed, that the janjaweed were growing in force.
69 Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, February 27, 2004.
70 Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, February 20, 2004.
71 Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, February 25, 2004.
72 See, among others, U.N. Weekly Humanitarian Roundup of 22-29 February, U.N. Darfur Task Force Situation Report of 2 March, 2004, U.N. Darfur Task Force Situation Report of 4 March, 2004. All available at Reliefweb at www.reliefweb,int (accessed March 24, 2004)
74 Human Rights Watch interviews in Washington DC and other places. February-March 2004,.
75 Human Rights Watch interviews in Chad, February 2004.
76 Confidential communication to Human Rights Watch.
77 British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Sudan opens up aid routes, February 13, 2003.
78 ICRC president ends visit, International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva, March 6, 2004.
79 Human Rights Watch interview, February 2004.
80 Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, February 18, 2004.
81 Interviewed in Chad, February 2004.
82 Interviewed in Chad, November 2003, on file with Human Right Watch.
83 Human Rights Watch interview, Chad, February 20, 2004.
84 Confidential communication to Human Rights Watch.