Don’t Let Bashir Get Away With Genocide

Nine years ago today…

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a second arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan. He is wanted on 3 counts of genocide, 5 counts of crimes against humanity, and 2 counts of war crimes. Bashir is the first individual to be accused of genocide under the ICC jurisdiction and was the first head of state wanted by the ICC. He started his attack in Darfur in 2002. It still isn’t over, and Bashir still hasn’t faced trial for his crimes.

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For more than 17 years, the Sudanese Government’s military forces and their allied militia (the Janjaweed) have carried out systematic attacks against the Darfuri people based on their ethnicity. They have bombed villages, abducted civilians, looted private property, and used rape as a weapon of war against women and girls. As a result, over 4 million Darfuris have been affected and over 3 million have been forced to leave their villages and settle in displacement camps located in Sudan and Chad. These people remain in camps with limited access to humanitarian assistance, education, health care and food. Some try to escape through Libya and onward to Europe only to be kidnapped, tortured and ransomed – often by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

In 2016 the Government of Sudan used chemical weapons in Jabel Marra region of Darfur. According to an Amnesty International report, at least 32 chemical bombs were dropped on villages inhabited by civilians. As a result, 171 villages were destroyed and between 200 and 250 civilians died of exposure to these agents, most of them children. Many others developed life-threatening symptoms, including severe gastrointestinal conditions involving bloody vomiting and diarrhea, blistering and rashes on the skin, loss of vision, and respiratory problems.

To date the situation remains urgent, as the regime in Khartoum shows no signs of stopping their unrelenting attacks. In the last year alone, at least 45 villages were documented burned to the ground. Last month, 17 were killed when the RSF torched 100 homes. From December 2017 through January 2019, the United Nations-African Union joint peacekeeping mission for Darfur, UNAMID, reported 192 victims of sexual and gender-based violence. The Sudanese Government’s targeting of Darfuri students studying at the University of Khartoum was highlighted when over 1000 students were forced to abandon university as a result of the mass and systematic abuse.

The recent massacre in Sudan on June 3rd underscores how much impunity for the crimes committed in Darfur could cost the people of Sudan.  When Bashir committed genocide in Darfur he didn’t act alone. He used the RSF, then known as the Janjaweed, who were led by the current leaders: al-Burhan and Dagalo (Hemeti). Failing to hold al-Bashir and the other ICC indicted criminals accountable sends a strong message to the current military leaders in Sudan: that if they can maintain their grip on power, no matter how many people they kill, they will get away with without consequences.

Not only does the Government of Sudan allow for the direct killing of civilians, it uses starvation and the denial of medical treatment as weapons of war to kill more people. At the beginning of 2019, 5.7 million were in need of humanitarian aid. Between 2012-2018, there have been reports of cholera outbreaks. The government, however, prohibits medical institution from declaring it as such. Instead, “watery diarrhea” is reported. The symptoms of this “watery diarrhea” seem to be consistent with the symptoms of cholera. The UN has yet to declare an outbreak of cholera, instead reporting the government approved “watery diarrhea”. This is just another example of the government causing unnecessary suffering in Sudan.

We call on the international community, particularly the member states of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), to fulfill their obligation to hold al-Bashir accountable for his crimes instead of rewarding him with freedom.

We are extremely dismayed and disappointed that during the last 17 years justice has been denied to the people of Darfur. We are thankful that the ICC continues to investigate and bring charges against those involved in Darfur. The problem is that member states of the UNSC and the States Parties to the Rome Statute ignore their obligation to arrest Bashir, betraying the people of Darfur. While the ICC has no police to arrest the suspect, the Rome Statute obligates the States Parties to collaborate with the Court and uphold their decisions. States Parties should strive to provide the support needed to the court to bring criminals to face justice. The inaction by the States Parties and UNSC members allows President al-Bashir to escape trial and promotes impunity.

Despite being a wanted war criminal, some states attempted to improve relations with Sudan. In 2016, the European Union initiated a collaboration with Sudan in an attempt to curb the number of African refugees entering Europe. The EU paid the Sudanese Government which then paid the RSF to continue their genocide attacks in Darfur. What’s more, the RSF engages in human trafficking across the borders with Chad and Libya under the guise of supporting the migrant agreement. In October of 2017, the United States lifted some sanctions on Sudan and was working toward normalization with Sudan despite Bashir being indicted by the ICC.

Instead of holding al Bashir and his co-conspirators accountable, the international community rewards them with freedom. Allowing criminals to go unpunished undermines the pursuit of justice for victims and accountability for perpetrators of the most heinous crimes. For years individuals argued against arresting Bashir, a head of state. Bashir is no longer a head of state and there has never been a better time to pursue justice for the long awaiting victims of genocide in Darfur.

Nine years of impunity is too long for the suffering victims in Darfur.

President al-Bashir has escaped accountability for his crimes for too long. Justice delayed is justice denied, and until the international community faces the reality of what is happening in Darfur, millions will continue to suffer at the hands of this man and his loyalists who are currently in power. Impunity for these serious crimes is a threat to universal human rights, which our leaders continue to preach but fail to uphold. In the face of genocide, the world declared Never Again. Why then, do we allow such acts to continue in Sudan again and again?

We believe that pursuing justice is not only necessary to punish Bashir and others for their past crimes, but to establish a basis of accountability to prevent future crimes. We at DWAG are committed and will continue to speak louder. We will make our voice heard in the fight to end genocide. We will continue to demand accountability as our moral mandate – will you join us?

To add your voice, join our campaign.

Sincerely,

Niemat Ahmadi

President, Darfur Women Action Group

THE POWER-SHARING AGREEMENT HAS LEFT THE PEOPLE OF DARFUR OUT

While the agreement reached today by Sudanese negotiating parties brings hope for peace in Sudan, we are extremely disappointed that the agreement overlooks those living in Darfur and their historical grievances. It’s extremely dismaying to see the complicity of the Alliance for Freedoms and Change (AFC) in their agreement with the Transitional Military Council (TMC). The AFC is taking an approach constantly used by the political elite: the exclusion of the majority of Sudanese who have the legitimate right to be included; a sentiment clearly missing from the Sudanese political process.

 

The people of Darfur have suffered for far too long only to see their concerns repeatedly ignored. The people of Darfur have suffered from genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity for over sixteen years. Today, the rest of Sudan celebrates this step forward after working tirelessly for change. Those in Darfur, however, and their hopes for the future are once again neglected.

 

The agreement in its current context gives the military absolute power to control and dictate the first interim period. We fear the military will continue to oppress and kill civilians, particularly in Darfur, South Kordofan, and the Blue Nile.

 

The agreement has further excluded the issues of safety and security for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees; it ignores their rights and freedoms. The restoration of humanitarian aid, of which people in conflict-affected areas are in dire need, also isn’t included in the agreement.

 

The agreement fails to prioritize criminal accountability for perpetrators, and justice for the victims, of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity in Darfur and throughout Sudan.

 

The AFC fails to recognize the fact that the underlying causes for the uprising in Sudan are largely results of the intentional exclusion of all Sudanese from the political process––It was this same tactic that brought about the genocide in Darfur.

 

The danger of this agreement lies in its allowance of the military to protect themselves and to protect those who are responsible for committing crimes in Darfur. This agreement allows war criminals to get away with impunity and to continue to use military means to oppress more people.

 

This agreement allows the people of Khartoum to return home to some degree of normalcy. This is not the case for the people of Darfur. Women, men, and children have been in camps for almost two decades. Their land has been taken over by the Rapid Support Forces led by Hemeti. This agreement also ignores those in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile, where many more are still hiding in caves and lack the minimal means of survival.

 

To show any legitimacy, the Interim Government must surrender President al-Bashir, Ahamed Haroun, Ali Kosheib and Abdulrahim Hussein to the International Criminal Court to face trial. This step is particularly important to build trust between the Interim Government and the people of Darfur.

 

For the solution to be sustainable in Sudan, priority must be given to the safety and security of those have been driven out of their homes and are continuously vulnerable to attack. We at DWAG believe that criminal accountability for those involved in the Darfur genocide is the only way to bring justice for the victims in Darfur. Sustainable peace is the only way to ensure a durable solution for victims of Sudan’s ongoing armed conflicts.

Don’t Forget Darfur; Sixteen years is too long for genocide victims.

While all the eyes focus in Khartoum, the situation in Darfur is getting worse, with crimes committed most likely going unnoticed. Millions of vulnerable people have been plagued by devastation for years, driven out of their homes. 16 years later, they still remain fearful and with nowhere to go, lacking basic security. While keeping the spotlight on the major events occurring in Sudan right now, we must simultaneously pay close attention to the broader picture of longstanding crises in this country, particularly in Darfur where the longest genocide in history is still taking place. 

While Bashir was ousted, the dream of change was snatched away when the two corrupt generals who have played pivotal roles in the Darfur genocide assumed control of Sudan. Civilians have continued to protest against the unjust transitional government over the course of these past few months, demanding instead a complete civilian government void of corrupt political and military leaders. Darfur has remained a central location of protests, and thus, the frequency of violent acts again civilians in the last few months remains an issue of major concern in the area. According to the UN, in the last 3 months, upwards of 186 civilians have been injured in various parts of Darfur, with at least 47 killed.  163 civilians have been arrested and detained in the last 2 months in connection with protests in Darfur.

On May 28, a 2-day general strike commenced, with professionals, employees, and even small business participating all over the country in order to increase pressure on a transfer of power to civilian authority. Protestors in all 5 Darfur state capitals participated in this organized attempt, which was declared a “resounding success” by the AFC.

As of recent, UNAMID was handing over many bases where they were stationed to protect genocide victims to RSF, as required under the transitional military council. Considering the corrupt leadership within the TMC, results were devastating to the people in these camps.

Following the June 3rd massacre, the African Union- UN Mission in Darfur has decided to suspend handing over any more camps for displaced civilians to the Sudanese government.

Over 3 million people live in these makeshift camps that are supposed to offer security victims following the violence of the Darfur genocide, yet there is rampant and systematic violence in these areas. For example, on June 23rd, the RSF and army soldiers detained 11 leaders within the Gireida camp for the displaced in South Darfur, who were allegedly voicing demands for improvements to health, food and water within the camp.

Violence rages in many areas of Darfur. On June 12,  RSF launched a brutal attack on Deleij camp,  17 people were killed when the Rapid Support Force stormed  a village market. Over 100 houses were completely burned, and at least 15 other civilians were injured.

On June 24, 3 activists in North Darfur were arrested, detained and transferred to El Fasher without charge by the RSF. All over Sudan, activists are being captured and detained for pushing back against the TMC’s rule.

All over Sudan, hundreds of individuals have been dismissed from government associated jobs due to their participation in protests against the TMC. In West Darfur, 30 health care workers were fired between June 10-12 for their role in a political strike.

In the recent millions March In Sudan,  the Alliance for Freedom and Change have adopted six priorities. Sadly, they didn’t include accountability for genocide crimes committed In Darfur or recognize the suffering in Nuba Mountains or Blue Nile regions. This type of exclusion will only aid the perpetrators and help them get away with their horrendous crimes of the past.

We recognize that there is little safety in Sudan as a whole, however the situation in Darfur is especially dire. This region been devastated by the short-term and long-lasting effects of the genocide, and now, exacerbated by isolation and lack of access to humanitarian assistance, is more vulnerable than perhaps any other state in the country.

We urge you to speak up for genocide victims in Darfur, Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile and demand that the international community take effective action to pursue justice and accountability.

Please share this with people in your network and ask them to keep their eyes on Darfur.

picture credit: UN:

https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/06/1040501

The March of Millions- A Movement for Change in Sudan

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Image source: Radio Dabanga 

Darfur Women Action Group express concern about the use of violence by Transitional Military Council (TMC) against peaceful protesters. We call on the United States and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to support the Sudanese peoples’ demands for civilian government and  that the TMC – led by two genocidaires also responsible of crimes committed in Darfur – be held accountable.

Sunday June 30th marked the 30-year anniversary of Omar al Bashir’s coup that brought his bloody regime to power. Across Sudan, nearly a million protesters took to the streets, reinvigorating their peaceful calls for civilian led government in the country. The March of Millions is the first large-scale public demonstration since the brutal massacre of June 3rd, where the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) killed 128 unarmed civilians. 

The March of Millions stood as a symbol of strength – despite the expectations of violence from the TMC, the people of Sudan  continued to fight for their freedom. The march also served to commemorate those who lost their lives at the hands of the RSF, the 128 who died while doing nothing more than calling for medeniya – civilian rule. Protesters now call on the TMC and the international community to meet their demands, now known as the Sudan Six:

  1. An immediate handover of power to a civilian government
  2. A withdrawal of RSF and paramilitary groups from the cities
  3. An international independent investigation into the June 3 massacre
  4. Aid for the victims of government attacks on unarmed civilians
  5. Release of all political prisoners
  6. An end to the internet blackout

Vigils were held around Sudan in the days leading up to the march. Simultaneously, the Sudanese diaspora organized parallel protests in various western capitals including Washington DC, New York, Paris and other multiple cities within the United States. The biggest was in Paris: thousands of Sudanese joined by Africans from Cameroon and Algeria stood in support of the Sudanese demands for change. In Khartoum, opposition movements planning the protest filed legal requests for protection and security during their march; they knew the RSF was more than willing to use violence to squash their voices. While the march circled around to the houses of the June 3rd victims, they were again forced to face the RSF. 

So far, seven protesters have died and over 181 are reported injured – some severely.

The RSF used tear gas, live ammunition, and stun grenades against those involved in the march. They blocked roads and bridges, impeding the lawful right of civilians to protest. In a statement prior to the march, Hemeti announced that any and all deaths and damages will be blamed on protesters. Further, the TMC has yet to restore internet access in the country after a month long blackout. Despite his threat and his attempts to stop the march’s success, protesters were still able to mobilize across the country.

The TMC, and most notably their de facto leader Hemeti, have said over and over that they do not want power. However, the reality of their actions proves otherwise. Credible news broke stating that “Hemeti signed a $6 million lobbying contract” with a Canadian firm to legitimize his stolen and undeserving position of power. The firm is offering him military training and security equipment, infrastructure and food security support from Russia, and monetary support from a Libyan general in exchange for Sudanese military assistance. These are the actions of someone with aspirations of continuing Bashir’s autocratic regime – not the actions of a man who wants to deliver ruling  of the country to civilians.

DWAG strongly demands an end to the suffering in Darfur, South Kordofan and the Blue Nile. Criminal accountability for the leaders of the TMC must be prioritized to ensure sustainable change in Sudan.

We recognize the strong leadership demonstrated by the African Union to hold the TMC accountable and promote civilians’ rule in Sudan. We call on the United States to take effective measures to do the same: to hold the TMC accountable and guarantee a peaceful transfer of power to civilian government in Sudan.

 We call on our supporters to use their voices. We must demand our leaders in the US and elsewhere speak up and hold the notorious TMC accountable. You can join us by sharing on social media or by writing to you representative or your local media asking them to bring the plight of the people of Sudan to light.

Speak Up for the Plight of the Genocide Affected Refugees in Sudan

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Darfuri boys in a refugee camp in eastern Chad (Radio Dabanga)

Today, June 20th, marks World Refugee Day. This is a time to commemorate the bravery and resilience of refugees all over the world and to recognize their plight. We, at the Darfur Women Action Group, wish to draw attention specifically to the struggles of Darfuri and Sudanese refugees whose suffering has gone on for far too long.

 

For over 16 years, the Government of Sudan has been perpetrating horrific and brutal attacks against civilians in Darfur. These systematic attacks include mass shootings, bombings and the burning of villages, restricting humanitarian aid access, and violations of human rights ultimately forcing those who survived out of their homes.

 

Government attacks are characterized by the utilization of rape as a weapon of war, leaving women and girls disproportionality impacted by violence. The majority of those who have been forced to flee remain unable to return home––There are currently an estimated three million people in refugee camps or in camps for internally displaced people (IDPs).

 

Nearly one million people have sought safety by crossing the border into neighboring countries––around 377,000 refugees reside in Chad alone. Socioeconomic instability in combination with the harsh climate of the Sahel region has left Chad inhospitable for refugees. In Chad, the lack of security and proper access to resources has created a competition for resources between host communities and refugees. These feuds only worsen the humanitarian crisis.

 

An uncounted, yet substantial, number of refugees have fled to Egypt, Jordan, the Central African Republic, Libya, South Sudan, Israel, Ghana, and Syria. These refugees, once dislocated, remain in vulnerable situations, living for years without physical protection and having limited or no recognition from the UNHCR. In many cases, host countries themselves are home to conflicts. The circumstances in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Syria and Libya are subjecting Darfuri refugees to the same conditions that they previously escaped.

 

In some cases, refugees are repatriated––sent back to their origin––and forced to endure the very genocidal regime they fled from, a violation of human rights standards. In December of 2015, 700 Darfuri refugees were forced out of Jordan and sent back to Sudan. In September of 2016, 48 refugees were forcibly deported from Italy. Upon their arrival back home, the refugees were detained by the Sudanese Government and, in some cases, severely beaten. At the beginning of this month, around 187 refugees were deported from Chad back to Sudan.

 

Refugees continue to face unimaginable challenges and are still threatened by the malicious agenda of the Sudanese Government. Those in camps lack access to education, food, and humanitarian aid. There are children born into these camps and the lack of education, proper nutrition or health care is subjecting an entire generation to loss and uncertain future. The recent increase in violence disproportionately impacts refugees and IDPs in Sudan. The Sudanese Government has shown signs of wanting to dismantle IDP camps in Darfur. The government has denounced these camps as nothing more than hideouts for rebel groups and stressed that people are voluntarily leaving. The truth is that they are home to those seeking safety and refuge, and the government is trying to force them out. Many have nothing left to return to.

 

Many Sudanese, but especially refugees and IDPs, are almost entirely reliant on international aid for survival. A lack of livelihood options makes self-reliance nearly impossible. Further, an estimated 5.76 million people in Sudan are food insecure. This is a humanitarian disaster. As conflict intensifies, the need for humanitarian aid becomes direr, but the access to those who are most in need becomes increasingly restricted.

 

In 2017, the United States began taking steps to normalize relations with a genocidal regime. Last October, President Trump lifted certain US sanctions on Sudan, emboldening former President al-Bashir. The current Transitional Military Council is attempting to normalize relations with other governments in the region, despite continuously committing attacks against civilians – following in the footsteps of Bashir.

 

We show our support for Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of the International Criminal Court, who will brief the United Nations about the situation in Darfur. We hope the state parties to the Rome Statute, and Sudan will abide by their mandated duty to ensure Bashir is swiftly delivered to The Hague.

 

We call on all of you to speak up for genocide survivors and demand that the United States prioritize the protection and life with dignity for those who have been unjustly forced out of their homes, at local and internationally.

 

We call on the United Nations and member states to the UN Security Council to provide adequate protection for Sudanese refugees’ rights to safety and security in accordance with international humanitarian and human rights law.

 

We call on the United States to grant protection and exceptional admission for Sudanese genocide affected refugees and to provide more funding for UN agencies to provide Sudanese refugees with swift resettlement process and sufficient humanitarian support.

 

We call on the United States and the United Nations Security Council to press Sudan to end attacks on civilians and to establish an environment of accountability and protection so that the people of Sudan can live with peace and stability at home.

 

We envision a world in which genocide does not exist. We believe in the preservation of human rights, and the duty for states to hold those, like Bashir, who violate them accountable for their actions. We are currently bearing witness to a pivotal moment in the development of Sudan. We must stand on the right side of history. We must stand with Darfur; We must stand with Sudan.

 

Women line up to receive their monthly ration in the Djabal camp, in eastern Chad (WFP, 2015)
Women line up to receive their monthly ration in the Djabal camp, in eastern Chad (WFP, 2015//Radio Dabanga)

We equally urge DWAG supporters to speak up and demand protection, freedom, and justice for the long-suffering people of Darfur and Sudan at large.