Displaced Darfuris Need Support

Darfur Women Action Group (DWAG) is deeply concerned to hear about the conditions displaced Darfuris are facing, including violence and a lack of key resources and services. These brutal acts of violence that innocent civilians have to put up with are a further reminder of the damage the al-Bashir regime has dealt to communal relations and living standards in Sudan.

On October 18 and 19, armed herders forced their cattle onto the farms of displaced people, murdered two, injured a third, and kidnapped a fourth in Kutum, North Darfur. Violence has forced Darfuris to flee across the border to Chad as refugees, yet they have not found safety there either, with at least two dying to gunmen last Sunday. Additionally, Darfuris in the Tina, Karnoi, Kabkabiya, and Saraf Omra camps for displaced people are also in a precarious state due to a lack of education and healthcare caused by the withdrawal of aid organizations, including a spread of malaria predominantly affecting women and children.

We at DWAG ask our supporters to sign our petition for civilian protection in Darfur so all of its people can be safe and Darfuris can return to their lives and homes. Please take fewer than 5 minutes of your time to sign our petition and share it with your friends and family — we are just 9 signatures away from our goal! Together, we can bring peace and justice to the people of Darfur and Sudan.

12th Anniversary of Bashir’s Indictment

 

 

 

 

 

Darfur Women Action Group (DWAG) would like to take the time to mark the 12th anniversary of former President Omar Hassan Ahmad Bashir’s indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC). His monumental indictment was the first time a sitting president was wanted by the ICC and was the first person to be charged with the crime of genocide. 

 

Omar al-Bashir, the former leader of Sudan, has been wanted by the ICC in The Hague for over 12 years on over 5 counts of crimes against humanity: murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture, and rape; 2 counts of war crimes: intentionally directing attacks towards civilians and pillaging; 3 counts of genocide: by killing, by causing serious bodily harm, and deliberately targeting to bring upon the group’s physical destruction during 2003-2008 in Darfur. Despite him being charged over 12 years ago, his trial still remains at the pre-trial stage due to him still being at-large. 

 

After Bashir was thrown out of power in 2019, he was convicted of corruption and was sentenced to serve in prison for two years in Sudan. Bashir has been on trial since July 2020 regarding the coup that got him into power over 30 years ago. In February 2020, Sudanese authorities agreed that they would hand over Bashir to the Hague-based ICC to face his trial but did not give a proper time frame to when that would happen. 

 

In the meantime, we ask the public to stand in solidarity with Darfur and to urge the international community to put more pressure on Sudan to release custody of Omar al-Bashir and the others who are currently being charged by the ICC for their perpetration of the heinous crimes in Darfur. We also urge the ICC to investigate the crimes that took place past 2003-2008 and also investigate the violence that is still going on in Darfur. DWAG urges you to sign our petition that demands accountability for all the perpetrators of the genocide in Darfur and share it with 10-15 people you know. 

 

We urge the United States to support accountability for crimes in Sudan because there will not be peace, security, or stability in Sudan unless there is accountability. We urge you all to stand with us collectively to empower the victims and the affected communities to seek justice and restore their livelihood.

 

 

Promising Update: Abd-Al-Rahman, “Ali Kushayb,” Trial at International Criminal Court

As the first week of the International Criminal Court (ICC) trial of Abd-Al-Rahman, better known as “Ali Kushayb,” comes to a close, we want to commend the powerful statements by the prosecution and the bravery of the victims, who will come forward, albeit anonymously, to tell their stories. The judges have authorized 142 victims to participate in the trial. With the brave cooperation of the victims and the tireless work of the prosecution to present strong evidence, we are confident Ali Kushayb will be convicted of all 31 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Victims will finally realize the beginning of long-awaited justice.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan began his opening statements by commenting on the start of the Holy Month of Ramadan, in which Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. The breaking of the fast every evening is called iftar. He analogized and noted that in Sudan, “there has been another fast that they have been partaking, not because it is their choice, but it is the waiting for justice, and from that perspective, this is a momentous day. It is an iftar of sorts for the millions of Sudanese throughout the world for this day to come.” 

Ali Kushayb was a former leader of the cruel Janjaweed militia. He is responsible for leading the horrific operations of systematic murder, torture, and rape of innocent men, women, and children. Ali Kushayb, as described by witnesses, tortured them through beating, and has killed people with an axe. Additionally, he ordered the execution of at least 5 children between the ages of 10 to 12. Ali Kushayb also commonly arrested people with the guise that they were “rebels” and would order the Janjaweed to murder them. In one instance, the Janjaweed murdered 137 people over the course of just 3 days. This is only the beginning of victim testimony. While these details are excruciatingly painful to hear, it is imperative to tell the stories of the victims, so that each of them have their day in court. It is also imperative to share these stories to achieve justice and raise public awareness of the Darfur genocide.

Ali Kushayb, who has pleaded not guilty to all 31 counts, in his opening remarks claimed that,  “I came of my own free will. No one brought me here. I came here to correct the misleading falsehoods attributed to me, and I congratulate the International Criminal Court for being a fair court of law.” We must disagree that the charges against him are “misleading falsehoods.” It is no surprise that he denies the charges, but we have no doubt that the ICC has a qualified prosecution team, team of lawyers, and judges presiding over the case, that will no doubt deliver the justice that Darfuri victims deserve. The process of justice may take time, but the truth will eventually come out in the coming months. We are looking forward to witnessing innocent Darfuris and Sudanese people, affected by his inhumane crimes, rejoice in seeing him behind bars. 

In the meantime, we ask the public to stand in solidarity with Darfur and continue to support not only the Ali Kushayb trial, but to demand accountability for other indictees. We ask the public, our supporters and partners, to bring attention on social media and through other means to the situation in Darfur and Sudan at large. We equally urge the media to keep the coverage and focus on this important case that has been largely neglected for years. Additionally, we demand the international community, the UN and its bodies, including the UN Security Council, and the member states of the ICC to continue its efforts to hold other perpetrators of the Darfur genocide accountable. Former President Omar Al-Bashir still remains at large and orchestrated the genocide under his regime. Justice is not just convicting Ali Kushayb, but convicting all perpetrators responsible for the mass atrocities committed in Darfur for the past 20 years. Together, through our efforts, we can stop and prevent further genocide in Darfur.

We urge the United States to support accountability for crimes in Sudan because there will not be peace, security or stability in Sudan unless there is accountability. We urge you all to stand with us collectively to empower the victims and the affected communities to seek justice and restore their livelihood.

 

Escalated Violence and Villages Set Ablaze in West Darfur

Darfur Women Action Group (DWAG) is extremely alarmed by the ongoing systematic and escalated attacks in Jebel Moon, West Darfur. We are also alarmed about the overall recent increase in violence in Darfur, which has harmed a number of unarmed civilians.

On March 7th, militias launched an attack in Jebel Moon and nearby areas that killed, displaced and injured many civilians. The attacks include gunmen killing two humanitarian workers and injuring seven. The death toll is most recently at 16 from those attacks and there are 16 wounded. In a more recent deadly attack, militiamen killed 20 people and wounded dozens when they set a number of villages on fire including Berdi, Igra and Kafana. Mohamed Abdallah El Doma, the former wali (governor) of West Darfur, said that the conflicts in West Darfur and Jebel Moon in particular are not tribal conflicts but are “systematic attacks aimed at controlling lands, fertile pastures, and resources such as gold and minerals.” We are saddened and concerned at the loss of life occurring, all in the name of acquiring power and resources.

Furthermore, attackers shot and killed three human rights activists in Jebel Moon. Front Line Defenders, an Irish based organization, confirmed the deaths stating that the activists were assessing human rights violations in West Darfur. Moreover, recurring attacks in Jebel Moon have left at least 36 people dead and 150,000 families displaced. We are extremely saddened and angered to learn of these innocent lives lost and our heartfelt condolences are with the families. Among these recurring attacks, many incidents of sexual violence have also been reported by sources on the ground, where authorities brutally raped and killed women and young girls under 16 years old in an effort to humiliate and instill fear in the community.

In response to the horrifying violence, the resistance committees in West Darfur are organizing protests in front of state government offices condemning the rising violence in Jebel Moon and demanding action to end it. We stand with the brave resistance committees and support their protests.

The Special Representative of the UN Secretary General (STSG) for Sudan, and head of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), Volker Perthes, expressed deep concern over the escalating violence in Jebel Moon. Mr. Perthes encouraged “Sudanese authorities to work actively to restore stability in the region and urges all parties to act with restraint in order to prevent further violence.” We appreciate Mr. Perthes’s statement but in the face of brutality, statements are not enough. It is imperative that the UN demands an investigation and holds attackers accountable. Mr. Perthes calls for Sudanese authorities to restore stability and act with restraint, but that does not change the situation unless the UN takes practical steps and urges the UN Security Council to provide protection for civilians.

These attacks are extremely alarming and are not isolated incidents. This is systematic violence that has been going on for 20 years and counting. Arab militias, supported by the government in Khartoum, deliberately target indigenous Africans, especially in areas that are rich in natural resources and agriculture in Darfur. We strongly denounce the escalating killing and the injuring of civilians and the burning of their villages. Thousands of victims are left without a home or humanitarian assistance. These attacks in Jebel Moon and across Darfur continue to happen because of the lack of accountability for perpetrators. Therefore, DWAG calls on the international community to take strong accountability measures and pressure Sudan to stop its militias from attacking civilians in Darfur.

We call on the international community, the United States and the UN Security Council to take the following measures;

  • Demand an immediate investigation into all violent incidents particularly the killings of innocent civilians and rape of women and children
  • Demand Sudan to open unimpeded humanitarian access to those in need
  • Impose targeted sanctions on individuals for committing and promoting gross human rights violations, including travel bans and asset freezing on military generals to ensure financial accountability to limit their access to weapons
  • Impose measures of criminal accountability and support the ICC to investigate the past and present crimes and to bring those responsible to face trial
  • Demand that Sudanese authorities disarm the Janjaweed and withdraw its forces from civilian areas, in particular near the areas of camps for the internally displaced, which will protect civilian life and their human rights
  • We equally urge our supporters to speak up, spread the word and demand their leaders to take swift action to end the suffering and bring lasting peace and stability in Sudan

It is imperative that the United States and the international community stand with the people of Darfur and Sudan, not the government, by prioritizing accountability, protection of human rights and respect for human dignity in Sudan.

We must continue to make our voice louder and demand accountability. With our collective effort, we can make the difference and end the suffering in Darfur and across Sudan.

 

 

Justice for Women in Sudan

 

Justice for Women in Sudan

Honoring Women Through Adequate Justice

 

This International Women’s Day, DWAG would like to recognize all the contributions women have made that have tremendously contributed to making our world a better place. However, we also must recognize that despite the progress made, there are daunting challenges facing women, especially in Darfur and other conflict affected regions.

We are gravely concerned over the continued surge of violence in Sudan and demand that the systematic use of the crime of rape must not be left unpunished. With violence escalating, women and girls in Darfur to this date still face the constant threat of rape and gender-based violence and have yet to see their perpetrators held accountable. On this day, DWAG believes we must bring their plight to the attention of the global community and demand action to end their suffering immediately.

Today, March 8th, we are pleased to recognize the outstanding courage, leadership and resilience of the women of Sudan, particularly in Darfur and other crisis-affected areas, despite all they have had to endure while continuing to rise up every day. Further, we call upon our supporters to recognize and honor victims of sexual/gender-based violence (SGBV) in Darfur by joining our call for accountability for all forms of this violence. Today’s efforts are part of a larger, month-long campaign DWAG is launching that stresses the importance of accountability for protecting and honoring women’s rights. Last week, we began by bringing attention to the crimes of former dictator Omar al-Bashir and his systematic violence against the people of Darfur, particularly women. Today, for International Women’s Day, we ask you and all our followers to join us in honoring the 2014 Tabit rape incident victims through our virtual candlelight vigil.

In 2014, Sudanese security forces carried out the attack against civilians in Tabit over a 36-hour period from October 30 until November 1, 2014. On the evening of October 31, 2014, at approximately 8pm local time, uniformed and armed military personnel entered Tabit and went house-to-house, falsely accusing residents of harboring or killing missing soldiers. After forcefully entering and searching homes, forces beat, chased out and detained men, and then raped 221 women and girls in their homes, most of which were elementary and high school girls. Regrettably, to this date, the attackers have not faced any consequences.

The Tabit incident is not an isolated one. Even today, women and girls in Darfur still face the constant threat of rape and gender-based violence, with women and girls living in internally displaced camps increasingly vulnerable to these attacks. Over the past two decades, over 3 million people have been forcefully displaced into makeshift camps, the majority of which are women and children. Internally displaced women and girls across Darfur are commonly subject to rape and sexual violence in places where women have no option but must go out to fetch firewood to feed their families. While UNAMID peacekeepers provided patrolling for women as they collected firewood, their withdrawal has put the safety of Darfuri women and girls in jeopardy. They now have nowhere to go for protection as the world moves away and ignores the suffering they endure every day in Darfur. Despite the failures of the international community, DWAG remains steadfastly committed to advocating for the protection and empowerment of women in Darfur and across Sudan.

As we mark this International Women’s Day, we would like to remind our leaders that holding perpetrators accountable is essential for hopes of a society in which men and women are equal.  The international community has expressedstrong rhetoric through resolutions and declarations on the prevention of violence against women and their protection in conflict situations such as in Darfur. Unfortunately, however, most of these promises remain unkept. Therefore, we must hold our world leaders accountable to the instruments and norms they have created and repeatedly vow to uphold.

The Tabit incident in 2014 is just one example in which the international community, particularly the United Nations Security Council, has failed to make tangible efforts for justice for the women and girls impacted. There have been no investigations, nor any efforts to hold perpetrators accountable. This is a shameful betrayal not only to the women of Darfur but to the norms the UN Security Council seeks to promote. We must and will never give up the fight for justice for the Tabit victims and all women who have experienced SGBV until justice is fully served.

We believe without accountability for the crimes that have been committed against women, women’s rights will not be protected. Therefore, DWAG calls upon the following governments and institutions to take the following measures:

  • We call on the Government of Sudan to prioritize criminal accountability for crimes against women, particularly in the Tabit rape incident, and to increase women’s participation in government
  • We call on the UN Security Council members to prioritize protection for women in Darfur and across Sudan and hold the government of Sudan accountable for its crimes committed against women
  • We call on the US government to make it clear to Sudan that the crimes committed against women in the past two decades, as well as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur must not go unpunished

It is imperative that we all speak in one voice and demand accountability. We must tell our leaders in the face of attacks against women that they must not look the other way or let perpetrators escape accountability. In the short and long-term, the empowerment of women, an increase in their participation in government, the protection of their rights, and accountability for the grave crimes committed against them must be prioritized. And indeed, women must be included at every decision-making table, as there will never be proper accountability without providing women with the access, ability and space to engage in the pursuit of justice for themselves and their community.

 

 

 

 

A Call to Action: Impunity for the Genocide in Darfur Must End

 

 

 

Marking the 13th Anniversary of the International Criminal Court’s Indictment of Omar al-Bashir

 

Today March 4th, 2022 marks the 13th year since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued the first arrest warrant against Omar al-Bashir for the crimes committed in Darfur. Bashir stands accused of the most heinous international crimes—genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity—all of which he orchestrated against the indigenous African tribes of Darfur. Although he has been removed from power after thirty years of bloody rule, he has yet to be tried for these horrific crimes while victims continue to suffer.

During his presidency, Bashir ordered the Sudanese Armed Forces and allied Janjaweed militias to carry out a scorched-earth genocidal campaign in Sudan’s western region of Darfur. Bashir directly ordered the mass killing of thousands of innocent civilians and the pillaging and burnings of entire villages while utilizing rape and starvation as weapons of war. This resulted in a global catastrophe that shocked the world’s consciousness and galvanized global outrage from activists, advocates, and policymakers alike.

Since then, conservative estimates find that more than 400,000 people have been killed, over 4 million people have been forced to flee their homes, and over 5,000 villages have been destroyed. However, the violence continues unabated to this day. For these crimes, Bashir was charged with five counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture, and rape. He is also accused of two counts of war crimes, including intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population and against innocent individual civilians and pillaging. Further, Bashir is charged with three counts of genocide by means of killing, causing serious bodily or mental harm, and deliberately inflicting on each target group conditions of life calculated to bring about the group’s physical destruction. Such conditions of life include contaminating the water supply of entire communities and the blockage of humanitarian aid.

Despite Bashir being ousted in 2019 and demands for justice from the affected communities being heard across Sudan, thus far, he has only been tried for corruption and money laundering in Sudan, not for perpetrating the most heinous international crimes—genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity in Darfur. While the interim government vowed to pursue justice, they utterly failed to hold the perpetrators of such serious crimes accountable. The impunity for Bashir does not only inflict devastating effects within Sudan but sends a dangerous message to individuals perpetrating mass atrocities around the world.

The crimes committed against the people of Darfur are crimes of a global magnitude. Although some world leaders have made strong statements about the need to hold those perpetrators accountable, they have all failed to take concerted action to bring the individuals responsible for these crimes to face justice. Moreover, the recent developments in Sudan are a clear indicator of the consequences that can occur when the international community fails to hold despotic leaders accountable. Their inaction has emboldened the military regime to continue the tactics of the Bashir regime of violating international human rights and humanitarian laws, usurping power through a coup, and killing innocent civilians. In holding Bashir accountable for his crimes, the international community would send a strong signal to the military junta of consequences that will come their way, as well. If Bashir escapes justice, the rulers of the military junta will believe they could too.

2021 was a year of significant milestones in the ICC’s cases against the perpetrators of the genocide in Darfur. All of the charges against former Janjaweed leader Ali Kushayb were confirmed, allowing his trial to officially begin next month. The chief prosecutor of the ICC also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the interim government that seemed to represent a step forward in the direction of justice. However, while these strides were being made at the international level to achieve justice for victims, the situation on the ground did not reflect this progress. The security situation in the country remains alarming, as victims continue to face attacks and ongoing displacement with no end in sight. The October 25th coup then demonstrated that the Sudanese military—which assisted in the perpetration of the genocide—still cannot be trusted to usher in tangible change nor sustainable peace.

The situation in Darfur was referred to the ICC by the United Nations Security Council, in part, because of the Sudanese government’s culpability in committing the crimes and the judicial system’s incapability and unwillingness to prosecute those responsible for these heinous crimes. Despite promises for reform during the previous interim period, the October military coup and continued lack of accountability for the crimes committed in Darfur have reinforced the fact that the Sudanese judiciary is still inadequate, incompetent, and unwilling to hold the military accountable, and cannot bring justice to the millions of genocide victims that are still suffering. Despite the promises made during Sudan’s interim period to transfer Bashir to The Hague, the new reality that has been imposed on Sudan by the military junta makes cooperation with the ICC incredibly unlikely.

Darfur Women Action Group (DWAG) wishes to remind our leaders that because the case of Darfur was referred to the ICC by the UN Security Council (UNSCR 1593), its members, including the United States, are obligated to actively support and fulfill their legal obligations to pursue justice. All State Parties to the ICC and the signatories to the Rome Statute are legally obligated to support the ICC, including through cooperation and implementation of the warrants of arrest against all suspects.

The unanswered cries for justice in Darfur and across Sudan have gone on for far too long due to the failure of both Sudanese institutions as well as the international community to identify sustainable solutions for effective accountability measures and fulfill the pending ICC arrest warrants. Given the grave reality of the situation in Sudan since the military coup, it is imperative that UN Security Council members and State Parties to the Rome Statute stand for justice.

As the ICC’s trial date for Ali Kushayb is quickly approaching, thousands of victims within the affected communities, particularly women, have not been adequately reached out to, oriented, nor engaged in these proceedings. Therefore, it is equally important that the ICC and the States Parties to the Rome Statute simultaneously exercise pressure over Sudan to create an enabling environment that will allow as many victims as possible to engage in the proceedings for a full investigation of these crimes, as well as those committed by the other former Sudanese leaders indicted by the Court.

DWAG also wishes to remind the ICC and the State Parties to the Rome Statute that while it is important to try Ali Kushayb, justice must not be selective or limited to officials in lower-ranking levels. For the victims from the affected community, justice for them is no less than seeing Bashir—the president and commander-in-chief who ordered, sponsored, and mobilized support to the military to commit such crimes—ultimately held accountable.

DWAG strongly urges all State Parties to the Rome Statute to fulfill their legal and moral  obligations by pressuring the military junta in Sudan to immediately implement the pending ICC arrest warrants against Bashir as well as Harun and Hussein. DWAG calls on the United States and other leaders to prioritize criminal justice and accountability in Sudan, which starts with the arrest and surrender of Bashir.

Now more than ever, at this critical juncture in Sudanese history, the United Nations Security Council and States Parties to the Rome Statute must make it clear to Bashir, the other Sudanese officials indicted by the ICC, and the military leaders of Sudan that impunity will no longer be tolerated. The international community must take concrete steps to support the people of Darfur as it did 13 years ago and end impunity for the genocide once and for all. On this 13th anniversary, please stand with Darfur Women Action Group and the people of Sudan and join our call for justice and a world without genocide.

DWAG Stands in Solidarity with Ukraine

Darfur Women Action Group (DWAG) writes to express concern about the unjust Russian invasion of Ukraine and to extend solidarity and support to Ukrainians. We believe that Ukrainians have the right to live in peace. The attack on Ukraine is an early warning sign for genocide and mass atrocities that the international community must take seriously.
In particular, we stand in solidarity with Ukrainian women and children who will bear the harshest effects of the war. The devastating effects of this war are creating the worst humanitarian crisis in Europe in recent history. Women and children are needing basic necessities and as many as 500,000 innocent people are dispersing to neighboring countries such as Hungary, Poland, Moldova, and Slovakia. According to the United Nations, this refugee crisis is likely to lead to 5 million people displaced. DWAG calls on the international community to use an effective approach and urge parties to deescalate the crises, uphold human rights, and respect all international humanitarian laws. 
We equally urge the neighboring countries to welcome Ukrainian refugees, particularly women and children, and to stand in solidarity with all Ukrainians who are suffering. We also urge them to provide protection for both Ukrainians and foreign citizens in Ukraine who have been forced to leave their homes. We ask our supporters to speak up for and stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and call for a peaceful resolution of the situation. It’s imperative to remind Russia that any dispute between nations must not take the form of military intervention or the use of force, but rather the use of negotiation and existing peaceful mechanisms.
You can also use hashtags such as #solidarity4Ukraine to speak up for the women of Ukraine and all those who are suffering.