UN human rights body turns attention to Sudan's conflict as warring generals fight for control

AP , Thursday 11 May 2023

The United Nations’ top human rights body is holding a one-day emergency session Thursday in Sudan to draw attention to the killings, injuries, and other abuses against civilians since the conflict between its two top generals erupted last month.

Human Rights Council
Human Rights Council during a special session devoted to Sudan on May 11, 2023, in Geneva. AFP


The Human Rights Council, which is made up of 47 U.N. member states, is set to vote on a resolution that would further scrutinize current human rights violations taking place in Sudan.

The fighting in Sudan started as a result of a power struggle between the chief of Sudan’s military, Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, and rival Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who commands a powerful paramilitary group called the Rapid Support Forces, or RSF.

During the opening speech of the session, President of the United Nations Human Rights Council Václav Bálek accused both sides of violating international humanitarian law.

Bálek accused the Sudanese military of launching attacks in densely populated civilian areas and the RSF of taking over “numerous buildings in Khartoum to use as operation bases, evicting residents and launching attacks from densely inhabited urban areas."

The call to hold the special session was led by Western countries. Council member states — including Chile, Costa Rica, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan — joined the call for the special session. The main co-sponsors of the draft resolution were all European, in addition to the United States.

While all representatives unanimously called for de-escalation to the ensuring conflict, some expressed skepticism about the draft resolution.

"We regret that this draft resolution includes wording that this council has not yet had time to debate and which would warrant an in-depth examination,” said Salim Baddoura, Lebanon's representative to the UN office in Geneva. He provided no further details.

The conflict has so far claimed the lives of more than 600 people, including civilians, and displaced hundreds of thousands. The violence has also spread to other regions, namely the restive Darfur province.

The U.N. has raised concerns about the plight of civilians caught up in the crossfire and worries about food security and aid deliveries and urged support for neighboring countries hosting people fleeing the ongoing violence.

Separately, dozens of independent experts working with the U.N. human rights office issued a joint statement on Thursday, citing reports that “civilians of all ages are experiencing various human rights abuses,” in Sudan, including sexual assault, gender-based violence, looting, and shortages of food, water and healthcare.

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