Sudan’s Darfur Conflict : Two decades of suffering and the quest for accountability


20 years after the eruption of the Darfur conflict in 2003, the haunting legacy of that dark period endures. The same crimes and atrocities that plagued the region persist, as the people of Sudan steadfastly seek justice and a lasting peace. In the shadow of this grim anniversary, our mounting collective concern compels an urgent call to action for all involved parties to break the cycle of impunity, an essential step towards deterrence and the realization of enduring peace.

Paris, Nairobi, Khartoum, Kampala, 22 September 2023. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisations, the African Center for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) and the Sudanese Human Rights Monitor (SHRM) are deeply concerned about the escalating crisis in Sudan. This year, which marks the 20th anniversary of the Darfur crisis, intensifies our shared apprehension, necessitating an immediate call to all stakeholders to put an end to impunity—a critical precondition for both deterrence and the pursuit of lasting peace.

Two decades have passed since the eruption of the Darfur conflict on 25 April 2003, a conflict that has inflicted immeasurable suffering on the people of Sudan. The initial clash between the Sudan Liberation Movement and Sudanese military forces at the al-Fashir airport in North Darfur marked the beginning of a protracted conflict characterized by widespread violence, loss of life, and mass displacement. In the wake of this conflict, hundreds of thousands have tragically lost their lives, and millions have been forced to flee their homes.

Despite the opening of the trial of former Janjaweed leader Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman case at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 5 April 2022, many victims of the Darfur crisis are still fighting to obtain justice. Impunity undermines the international community’s commitment to accountability and human rights protection. The ethnic roots of this conflict have deepened existing inequalities and marginalisation, perpetuating a cycle of suffering that demands urgent redress.

The Juba peace agreement, a beacon of hope for Darfur and the broader regions of Sudan, was signed in 2020 with the intention of addressing historical grievances and ushering in a new era of peace and democracy. The agreement aimed to reconcile Darfur’s longstanding sense of marginalisation and integrate it into the overarching transition to democracy in the country. However, the agreement suffered from a number of weaknesses due to ambiguities and vague wording that allowed for contradictory interpretations, and the fear of impunity for the government’s military leaders. Moreover, inadequate funding, continuing insecurity on the ground and a potential lack of political will within the transitional government are jeopardising the peace process. In addition, the slow and partial implementation of these measures has hampered progress and the achievement of lasting peace.

The situation took an alarming turn on 15 April 2023 when conflict erupted between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (also known as Hemedti). The resulting humanitarian crisis has been disastrous, with over 5 million people displaced both internally and externally due to the conflict. We are particularly concerned by the reports of mass massacres, ethnic cleansing, large-scale sexual violence and even slavery. Activists and human rights defenders are at particular risk and are targeted for bringing attention to the atrocities being committed. Accusations of the detention of activists and volunteers by both the Sudanese army and the RSF cast a grim shadow over the pursuit of justice and accountability.

The last briefing to the UN Security Council by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on 13 July 2023 underscores the urgency of the situation. The decision by the Prosecutor to actively investigate recent and ongoing international crimes in Darfur is a poignant reminder that the history of violence and suffering in Sudan must not be allowed to repeat itself.

Furthermore, we acknowledge and heed the warning issued by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) in its resolution of 4 August 2023, emphasizing the potential commission of war crimes. We urge the international community, regional organizations, and all stakeholders to collaborate in addressing this alarming situation, ensuring immediate cessation of hostilities, protection of civilians, and facilitation of humanitarian aid.

We stand in solidarity with the people of Sudan, recognizing their inherent rights to peace, justice, and a life free from violence. We urge swift, decisive, and concerted action to alleviate the suffering and pave the way for a brighter, peaceful future for all Sudanese citizens.


To the members of the UN Human Rights Council :

• Call for an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire among all conflicting parties in Sudan ;
• Establish an independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate, monitor and document all alleged violations of humanitarian, human rights law and war crimes since at least 15 April 2023 ;
• Adopt a strong resolution condemning the massive human rights violations in Sudan, with particular emphasis on the risk of genocide in Darfur.
• Urge the belligerents to ensure the safety of civilians, including human rights defenders, activist, and journalists.

To the African Union :
• Actively engage in diplomatic efforts to prevent the escalation of violence in Sudan by promoting dialogue among conflicting parties, civil society organisations and Darfuri stakeholders ;
• Implement African humanitarian aid through the African Humanitarian Agency to assist the victims of war in Sudan and those who have taken refuge in neighbouring countries.

To the ACHPR :
• Urge the warrying parties to respect international humanitarian and human rights law ;
• Establish, in collaboration with the Uni­ted Na­tions, the African Union, and other appropriate regional and international entities, a monitoring and reporting mechanism to assess and document alleged human rights violations with a gender perspective and a survivor-centred approach.

To the States parties to the Rome Statute :
• Support the ICC in its investigations and proceedings related to Darfur ;
• Take concrete actions to locate, arrest, and surrender individuals for whom arrest warrants have been issued by the ICC.

To UN Security Council :
• Call for an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire among all conflicting parties in Sudan.

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