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US says Sudanese armed forces, RSF rebels committed war crimes

The State Department's announcement represents an escalation in US rhetoric over the ongoing conflict in Sudan.
This image grab taken from AFPTV video footage on April 20, 2023, shows an aerial view of black smoke rising above the Khartoum International Airport amid ongoing battles between the forces of two rival generals.

The United States on Wednesday said that both the Sudanese armed forces and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have committed war crimes in Sudan and that the RSF’s conduct constitutes crimes against humanity.

The RSF is a paramilitary group first established in 2013 from the infamous Janjaweed militias, which were used by the government of former President Omar al-Bashir to suppress rebellion in Darfur.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that both warring sides have “unleashed horrific violence, death and destruction across Sudan.” The diplomat specifically alleged that Sudanese have been abused and sometimes killed at detention sites of both the armed forces and the RSF. Blinken singled out the RSF and allied militias, saying they have “terrorized women and girls through sexual violence.” He further lamented “targeted violence” in Darfur, including against members of the Masalit community.

Blinken said he has determined that members of both the Sudanese armed forces and the RSF have committed war crimes, and that members of the RSF and its allies have committed crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

The determination of war crimes and crimes against humanity provides “renewed urgency” to international efforts to the conflict, according to Blinken.

Cameron Hudson, an associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in a post on X that Blinken’s statement will be effective only if the US maintains pressure on Sudan over the conflict.



The Sudanese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to Al-Monitor’s request for comment.

Fighting broke out between the armed forces and the RSF in April. More than 12,000 people have been killed in the conflict. Efforts by the US, Saudi Arabia and the African Union to mediate a peace deal in Sudan have failed so far.

The situation is particularly worrisome in Darfur. Arabs and the RSF have clashed with the Sudanese armed forces and the Masalit since April, and the fighting relates to land and resources, a Sudanese analyst told Al-Monitor in May.

Darfur experienced a devastating war from 2003 to 2020 between the Sudanese military and the Janjaweed militia and rebel groups. The war had an ethnic dimension, as the military and Janjaweed are largely Arabized Sudanese, while the rebels were mainly non-Arab Sudanese, including the Masalit.

US criticism of the RSF is not new. On Tuesday, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee said that pressure from Congress on the United Arab Emirates over its alleged support for the RSF would be “helpful.”

On Monday, the US sanctioned three former Sudanese government officials. The designations included Taha Osman Ahmed al-Hussein, former state minister and presidential office director under Bashir. Hussein has allegedly played a role in managing the RSF’s regional relations, the Treasury Department said in a statement.

In September, the US imposed sanctions on Abdel-Rahim Hamdan Dagalo, brother of RSF leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.

This is a breaking story and will be updated.