Violent Conflict and a Humanitarian Crisis in Sudan

Sudan is facing a violent conflict and a humanitarian crisis that has drawn the attention of the UN Human Rights Council, which held an emergency session on Thursday in Geneva.

The conflict erupted in October 2022, when General Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, the head of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), dissolved the transitional government and declared a state of emergency, sparking protests and resistance from the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemeti.

According to the UN, more than 600 people have been killed, more than 150,000 have fled to neighboring countries, and over 700,000 have been internally displaced by the fighting. The violence has also disrupted humanitarian access and worsened food insecurity, with more than two million people expected to face acute hunger in the coming months.

The UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on Thursday, requesting detailed monitoring and reporting of all alleged human rights violations and abuses in Sudan, including those committed during the current escalation of violence. The resolution also called on the parties to the conflict to urgently commit to an inclusive political process and a negotiated peace, with respect for human rights and international humanitarian law.

The resolution was adopted by a vote of 18 in favor, 15 against, and 14 abstentions. The resolution was sponsored by several African and European countries, as well as Canada and Australia. The countries that voted against the resolution included China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Venezuela, and Cuba. The countries that abstained included Brazil, Mexico, Japan, South Korea, and Indonesia.

The resolution mandated the independent expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan, Radhouane Noucier, to conduct the monitoring and reporting activities with immediate effect. Mr. Noucier was appointed by the Human Rights Council in March 2023, following the resignation of his predecessor, Aristide Nononsi, who cited personal reasons for his decision.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, opened the emergency session by condemning the “wanton violence” that has brought more suffering and displacement to the Sudanese people. He said that both sides of the conflict have “trampled international humanitarian law” and violated human rights with impunity. He urged them to stop the hostilities and engage in dialogue to end the crisis.

Mr. Türk also recalled his visit to Sudan six months ago, when he met with both General Al Burhan and Hemeti, and stressed the importance of accountability and human rights for any future agreement. He said that Sudan had appeared as a “beacon of hope” in 2019, when popular protests led to the ouster of former dictator Omar al-Bashir and paved the way for a transition to civilian rule. He lamented that today, “immense damage has been done, destroying the hopes and rights of millions of people”.

In addition to Mr. Türk’s statement, several other speakers at the emergency session expressed their views on the situation in Sudan. Here are some quotes from them:

“We are deeply concerned about the grave human rights situation in Sudan and its impact on regional stability. We urge all parties to respect their obligations under international law and to ensure unhindered humanitarian access to all affected populations.” – Ambassador Leslie Norton of Canada
“We reject any attempt to interfere in Sudan’s internal affairs or to impose external solutions on its people. We call for dialogue and reconciliation among all Sudanese stakeholders based on respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.” – Ambassador Chen Xu of China
“We are appalled by the atrocities committed by both sides of the conflict in Sudan. We demand an immediate cessation of hostilities and accountability for all perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses. We support the efforts of the African Union and IGAD to facilitate a peaceful resolution of the crisis.” – Ambassador Lotte Knudsen of Denmark
“We are alarmed by the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Sudan and its implications for regional security. We call on all parties to cease hostilities and to allow safe and timely delivery of humanitarian assistance to all in need. We stand ready to provide humanitarian support to Sudan and its neighbors.”

Ambassador Tine Mørch Smith of Norway



Sudan violations in spotlight at UN Human Rights Council, UN News, May 11, 2023.