(Bloomberg) — Attacks on Mohamed Adam’s El Geneina neighborhood in Sudan’s western Darfur region continued relentlessly for a month before he finally fled the onslaught by members of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and Arab Rizeigat militia.
“Seven members of my extended family have been killed and a dozen others have been injured or are missing,” Adam said in a phone interview from Adre in eastern Chad, where he has lived since mid-July.
Adam is among tens of thousands of Darfuri refugees who’ve been displaced by almost four months of fighting that’s pitted the RSF and allied Arab militia against the Sudanese army and ethnic Masalit fighters. The extreme violence that’s rocked the west of the country has evoked memories of a years-long conflict that erupted in 2003 and saw civilians being targeted based on their ethnicity after the government accused them of supporting insurgent groups.
The United Nations Security Council referred the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court in 2005, and human rights groups are now calling for recent atrocities in the region to be added to the list of crimes being investigated.
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Hundreds of people have been killed on the road that runs from El Geneina toward Chad alone, while a school housing scores of people who fled the war was shelled repeatedly, and at least 40 people died, including a number of women and children, said Mohammed Osman, a researcher for Human Rights Watch’s Africa division. There have also been “targeted killings” of activists and human rights workers, and water sources used by Masalit communities have been deliberately destroyed, he said.
In a report released Thursday, Amnesty International detailed scores of attacks in Darfur, and labeled some of the violations committed by parties to the conflict as war crimes. Both sides had deliberately killed and injured thousands of people, according to the human rights watchdog, which conducted its research between April 15 and July 26 in refugee camps in eastern Chad and by telephone from within and outside of Sudan.
The combatants, who are led by rival generals, “have shown utter disregard for the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law, which forbid the deliberate targeting of civilians,” Amnesty said.
In its response, the RSF rejected the accusations against its forces, and said it complies with international humanitarian law and human rights treaties.
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A dedicated investigation committee has been established “to probe allegations of violations, including sexual violence, as well as the regrettable events in West Darfur state,” it said. “The RSF has no interest whatsoever in engaging in unnecessary battles, particularly in Darfur, where it has always had genuine concerns about stability and exerted enormous efforts to ensure coexistence and maintain peace and security.”
The Sudanese army didn’t respond to a request for comment. It has previously denied harming civilians and laid blame on the RSF.
More than 3 million people have been internally displaced by the fighting and more than 1 million crossed into neighboring countries, with the majority having gone to Chad, Egypt and South Sudan, according to the UN. Those who fled include nationals from other countries, especially Ethiopia, Eritrea and South Sudan, who previously sought refuge in Sudan.
A severe funding shortage has exacerbated the difficulties faced by UN agencies who are trying to deliver medicine and rebuild health facilities within Sudan. Programs currently only have a fifth of the money they need, Nima Saeed Abid, who heads the World Health Organization in Sudan, said on a conference call with journalists last week.
The WHO has documented 54 deliberate attacks on health centers, health workers and ambulances since the conflict erupted, and has seen no let-up in such assaults.
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