WASHINGTON/CAIRO, (REUTERS) – The United States on Wednesday formally determined that warring parties in Sudan committed war crimes, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, as Washington increases pressure on the army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to end fighting that has caused a humanitarian crisis.
Washington also determined that the RSF and allied militias committed crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, Blinken said in a statement.
The fighting, which broke out in mid-April, has displaced more than 6.5 million inside and outside Sudan, killed more than 10,000 and decimated the economy.
“The expansion of the needless conflict between RSF and the SAF has caused grievous human suffering,” Blinken said, referring to the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF).
He called on the parties to “stop this conflict now, comply with their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, and hold accountable those responsible for atrocities.”
The RSF has been accused of leading an ethnic massacre in West Darfur, and in the capital Khartoum residents have accused the paramilitary force of looting, rape and imprisoning civilians.
“Masalit civilians have been hunted down and left for dead in the streets, their homes set on fire, and told that there is no place in Sudan for them,” Blinken said. The Masalit are a non-Arab tribe.
Meanwhile, the army has carried out an intense campaign of air and artillery strikes on residential neighborhoods, where the RSF has occupied, which experts say could be violations of international law.
“Detainees have been abused and some killed at SAF and RSF detention sites,” Blinken added.
The official determination follows a detailed legal process and analysis led by the U.S. State Department but does not automatically come with punitive actions and therefore has no immediate consequences for the parties.
The decision comes after Saudi and U.S.-brokered talks aimed at halting fighting between Sudan’s warring parties faltered again, and the country’s army and the RSF have pressed on with military campaigns.
Reuters has chronicled the ethnically targeted violence committed this year by the RSF and its allied Arab militias in West Darfur, in particular in the city of El Geneina.
A September special report revealed how the RSF and its allies carried out a weeks-long killing campaign against the Masalit tribe, including the shooting of children, the burning of people in their homes, and the rape of women and girls.
In early November, the RSF and Arab militias carried out another round of ethnic killings in El Geneina, in which survivors told Reuters that Masalit men were rounded up and shot, while some were hacked to death with axes and machetes.
US PRESSURE ON WARRING PARTIES
The United States has imposed several rounds of sanctions after war between the army and the RSF broke out in April over plans for a political transition and the integration of the RSF into the army, four years after long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir was overthrown in a popular uprising.
But Washington has so far not targeted the army and RSF directly with sanctions, despite calls from human rights activists for it to designate the parties and determine genocide has been committed in Darfur.
But Blinken warned that Wednesday’s determination does not rule out the possibility of other determinations in future as more information becomes available.
“The United States is committed to building on this determination and using available tools to end this conflict and cease committing the atrocities and other abuses that are depriving the Sudanese people of freedom, peace, and justice,” Blinken said.