GENEVA (Reuters): The UN human rights office said on Thursday at least 87 people including ethnic Masalits were buried in what it described as a mass grave in Sudan’s West Darfur, saying it had credible information that the Rapid Support Forces were responsible.
Ethnically motivated bloodshed has escalated in recent weeks in step with fighting between rival military factions that erupted in April and has brought the country to the brink of civil war. In El Geneina, witnesses and rights groups have reported waves of attacks by the RSF and Arab militias against the non-Arab Masalit people, including shootings at close range.
Local people were forced to dispose of the bodies including those of women and children in an open area near the city between June 20 and 21, the UN statement said. Some of the people had died from untreated injuries, it said.
“I condemn in the strongest terms the killing of civilians and hors de combat individuals, and I am further appalled by the callous and disrespectful way the dead, along with their families and communities, were treated,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk in the same statement.
He called for a prompt and thorough investigation.
An RSF spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.
It was not possible to determine exactly what portion of the dead were Masalits, a UN spokesperson added.
The ethnic killings have raised fears of a repeat of the atrocities perpetuated in Darfur after 2003, when “Janjaweed” militias from which the RSF was formed helped the government crush a rebellion by mainly non-Arab groups in Darfur, killing some 300,000 people.
Army spokesperson Brigadier General Nabil Abdullah told Reuters the incident “rises to the level of war crimes and these kinds of crimes should not pass without accountability.”
“This rebel militia is not against the army but against the Sudanese citizen, and its project is a racist project and a project of ethnic cleansing,” he said.