The 53rd Session of the Human Rights Council 

19 June - 14 July 2023

Item 2: Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General  

Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on High Commissioner’s report on Sudan with assistance of the designated Expert

19 June 2023

By Patricia Jjuuko/GICJ

Executive Summary 

The High Commissioner, with the assistance of the designated Expert on human rights in the Sudan, presented a comprehensive report on the situation of human rights in the Sudan to the fifty-third session of the Council, pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 50/1. The report covered the period from 11 April 2022 to 14 April 2023, depicting the key human rights challenges faced by Sudan and recommendations to address them. 

Volker Türk in his report to the Human Rights Council discussed how the conflict in Sudan that had erupted on the 15th April 2023 had plunged the country into chaos. He expressed concern for the people of Sudan who he pointed out suffered immeasurably, as the reckless and senseless conflict was taking place in a context of total impunity. The High Commissioner highlighted that one million people remained trapped in Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri. He welcomed the new 72-hour ceasefire agreed on the 17th June and urged the two parties to respect their commitments to halt the fighting and allow the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian assistance throughout the country.

Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) stands with the people of Sudan and remains deeply troubled with the human rights violations and impunity of these violations.  We call on the urgent need for unhindered access by humanitarian stakeholders to all Sudanese territory to deliver aid where it is desperately needed. We further call on the parties of the conflict to cease all violence and commit to sustained peace talks and renewed political framework agreement.


On the 5th of December 2022, the military leadership alongside over 40 political parties, the signatory armed movements of the Juba Agreement for Peace in the Sudan (Juba Peace Agreement), trade unions and professional associations signed a political framework agreement. The agreement implements for a 24-month transitional period under “a fully democratic civilian authority”, starting from the date of appointment of a Prime Minister and ending with general elections. It outlines arrangements for a transitional authority consisting of a transitional legislative council, a sovereign body, a council of ministers, judicial councils and independent commissions. It proposes the formation of fully civilian institutions, representing a departure from the previous constitutional arrangements, which were based on a civilian-military partnership. 

The agreement includes strong language on human rights, including women’s rights, and accountability. It sets aside justice and transitional justice as one of five outstanding issues for further consultation, together with security and military reform, implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement, dismantling of the 30th June 1989 regime and resolution of the crisis in East Sudan.  

The present report which covered the period from the 11th of April 2022 to the 14th of April 2023 was submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 50/1 in which the Council requested the High Commissioner, with the assistance of the Expert, to submit a comprehensive report on the situation of human rights in the Sudan. Mr Radhouane Nouicer was designated UN Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan on the 16th of December 2022, pursuant to Human Rights Council resolutions A/HRC/S-32/1 and A/HRC/50/1. The Expert visited Sudan, from 28th of January to 2nd of February 2023, with the support of the national authorities. He met with government authorities, United Nations entities, members of the diplomatic corps, civil society representatives and victims and witnesses of human rights violations. 

The Expert’s visit informed the High Commissioner’s oral update to the Human Rights Council on the 3rd of March 2023. The report in concern was based on information gathered by the Expert with the assistance of the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office in the Sudan, through interviews with over 100 victims and eyewitnesses, site visits and analysis of evidence, including medical evidence, photographs and video footage. 

Report of the High Commissioner

Volker Türk in his report to the Human Rights Council stated that the conflict in Sudan which had erupted on the 15th of April 2023 had plunged the country into chaos. The High Commissioner who participated in an enhanced interactive dialogue on the human rights situation in Sudan on the 19th of June 2023, expressed concern for the people of Sudan who he stated suffered immeasurably. 

Mr. Türk noted that the streets of Khartoum and its surrounding cities, of El Geneina and of El Obeid, are stained with the blood of civilians with millions still in need of vital humanitarian assistance, which, in many places, has been all but impossible to deliver. He affirmed that more than one million people remained trapped in Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri and that aggressive tactics had resulted in the deaths of at least 958 civilians since the fighting began, and the injury of 4,746, as of the 12th of June 2023. There were also credible reports of 18 incidents of sexual violence related to the conflict against at least 53 women and girls.

The High Commissioner welcomed the new 72-hour ceasefire agreed on the 17th of June 2023 and urged the two parties to respect their commitments to halt the fighting and allow the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian assistance throughout the country. He highlighted in his report that the RSF are forcing people to leave  their homes, attacking, looting and occupying hospitals, assaulting health staff, and leaving medical services on the verge of collapse. 

The High Commissioner highlighted that the blatant disregard for international humanitarian and human rights law and utter indifference for human life and dignity lay at the heart of the conflict in Sudan. He condemned in the strongest terms the ongoing human rights violations in the Darfur region stating that in West Darfur, the violence has now exploded along ethnic lines. Mr Türk reported that the Governor of West Darfur was killed within hours of the RSF arresting him.  

The report states that at least 430 people were reportedly killed between the 24th of April and the 13th of May 2023, due to the repeated large-scale attacks by the RSF and the large numbers of their supporters targeting African-inhabited neighbourhoods in El Geneina. The High Commissioner highlighted that more than 150,000 people have fled West Darfur to Chad, yet those leaving El Geneina fear being turned back or further violations by the RSF, who have been controlling the route to the border. Mr Türk called for a humanitarian corridor between Chad and El Geneina, and for a safe passage for all civilians out of the conflict areas.

In North Darfur, recent clashes have resulted in the killing of more than 100 civilians. In the first week of June alone, 41 people were killed in the town of Kutum. And in Nyala, South Darfur, and Zalingei, Central Darfur, heavy fighting has erupted at various times since the start of the conflict. In both cities, most premises belonging to the UN and international non-governmental organisations were looted.

The High Commissioner reiterated that the human rights and humanitarian crises are unfolding at an alarming rate, on a devastating scale, and with a complexity not seen before in Sudan. Children are bearing the harrowing consequences, with more than 13 million across the country in urgent need of lifesaving humanitarian support, including 5.6 million in Darfur. At least 620,000 are reported to be suffering from acute malnutrition. The report highlights that in the Mygoma Orphanage Centre in Khartoum, 71 children reportedly died due to severe shortages of humanitarian and medical supplies. Without delay, the parties to the conflict must protect the organisations seeking to evacuate children and older people to a safer place where their needs can be met.

Mr. Türk confirmed that his office has received credible reports of 18 incidents of sexual violence related to the conflict against at least 53 women and girls. In almost all cases, the RSF has been identified as the perpetrator and there is little access to medical and psychosocial support and many cases remain unreported. He called on General Dagalo, former Deputy Chairman of the Transitional Council and head of the Rapid Support Forces to ensure that these vile acts stop immediately.

Human rights defenders, particularly women, are facing mounting threats, including death threats. Journalists and media professionals are also encountering threats and hate speech. Some have been directly targeted on social media, accused of supporting the RSF, and threatened with death. Many others have been arbitrarily arrested or held incommunicado. Some have been released, but there is no information on the whereabouts of many.

The High Commissioner welcomed the new 72-hour nationwide ceasefire agreed on the 17th of June 2023 and urged the two parties to respect their commitments to halt the fighting and to allow the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian assistance throughout the country. He stated the new ceasefire is a fresh opportunity to put an end to the sea of suffering and reminded the two parties of their obligations to respect international humanitarian and human rights law and to take all measures necessary to protect all civilians including humanitarian and medical workers from harm. He further called on the authorities to conduct prompt, thorough, impartial, and independent investigations into all alleged violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, reminding them that the failure to pursue accountability for past grave violations has contributed to the current crisis. 

In concluding his report summary, the High Commissioner thanked the governments and communities that have shown great humanity in welcoming refugees and helping them seek safety from this vicious conflict. He urged all countries receiving refugees to keep their borders open. In the spirit of international solidarity, he further called on States to urgently scale up funding for humanitarian organisations who are desperately trying to assist the internally displaced and refugees, both inside Sudan and elsewhere. Mr Türk  welcomed the Council’s decision to strengthen the mandate of his designated Expert on Sudan to include detailed monitoring and documentation of the human rights situation, including violations arising directly from the current conflict.

Enhanced Interactive Dialogue

In the discussion, the Permanent Representative of Sudan to the United Nations Office at Geneva, H.E. Mr. Hassan Hamid Hassan stressed that the rebel forces have been going to great lengths to breach international humanitarian and human rights law occupying hospitals and health facilities that have become a target for rebel forces. The Permanent Representative underscored that the systematic destruction and plundering of public facilities has continued as well as the destruction of depositories of history and civilization including museums, research centres, libraries and universities.  He reiterated that with every passing day,  there remains no clear message from the International community against the rebel forces as they continue with their breaches.  He stated that there is an attempt to equate between a national army and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and asked if a national army does not have as duty combating such a rebellion then  what is the purpose of the national armies by virtue of constitutions and the principles of the UN Charter to preserve national security and sovereignty? H.E Mr. Hassan concluded by commending the High Commissioner’s statement which was the first to call a ’spade a spade’ and assigning responsibility to the rebel forces.

The Special Representative of the Chairperson and Head of the African Union Liaison Office of Sudan, Mr. Mohamed Belaiche affirmed the African Union's support to the kindred people of Sudan in distress in this delicate situation. He reiterated  that the African Union firmly rejects the option of a military solution to the crisis in the Sudan and advocates in favour of seeking a political solution based on consensus through an inclusive and transparent political dialogue. The Special Representative underscored that the African Union already had in place a road map including a de-escalation plan. Humanitarian corridors need to be opened up and mapping out the main sequences that the national dialogue should follow. Mr Belaiche stated that the African Union supports fully the mediation brokered by Saudi Arabia and the United States of America to bring about a humanitarian ceasefire and a cessation of hostilities to alleviate the suffering of the civilian population. He called for the strengthening of international solidarity for peace in the Sudan and ensured  that the country is back on track to bring about a democratic transition which leads to free elections such that the crisis doesn't lead to a civil war. The Special Representative emphasised that the Human Rights Council should find the means to carry out an investigation to ensure that the authors of the violations are brought to justice and held accountable.

Human Rights Defender, Ms. Enass Muzamel as a representative of Sudanese civil society underscored that the war  in Sudan was not a civil war,  but  a war between two factions of the Sudanese militaries, serving their own business interests. The Human rights defender stressed that the crimes were carried out by young soldiers who were recruited, brainwashed, and who raped women in front of their families.

On behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries, the representative of Lithuania expressed deep concern on the crisis in Sudan, with the increased number of refugees and internally displaced persons and millions of Sudanese in need of humanitarian aid and protection. The delegate strongly condemned all violations and abuses of international law and called on all parties to the conflict to immediately cease violence and put the interest and safety of the people of Sudan first. He further urged the belligerents to engage in an African led political process under the auspices of the African Union in order to find an immediate, peaceful and sustainable solution to the conflict. The delegate asked how the international community can best support the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons in Sudan?

The representative of the European Union highlighted that the impact of the conflict is deeply worrisome with increased levels of sexual and gender based violence as well targeting of civilians and civilian settlements on the basis of perceived ethnic or social identity. The humanitarian needs are at an all time high and the political crisis and continued fighting have drastically reduced the options for an operational response to these needs. The representative appealed to all parties to silence the guns and immediately end hostilities without preconditions. She reiterated the EU’s support towards efforts that seek  to support dialogue and mediation in order to end the current conflict and facilitate a return to the path of democracy.

The representative of Pakistan, spoke on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) expressing concern over the situation in Sudan resulting in loss of innocent lives. He underscored the OIC’s renewed solidarity with the Sudanese people at this difficult time. The OIC reaffirmed its support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sudan. The delegate called upon all parties involved in the conflict to exercise restraint and to continue peace efforts. He further called on the international community including humanitarian organisations to uplift their efforts to provide livelihoods and also assist Sudan’s neighbouring states. 

On behalf of a group of African States, the representative of Côte d'Ivoire expressed solidarity and support for the Sudanese people. He called on the parties to the conflict to find new solutions on the basis of consensus. The representative revealed gratitude to neighbouring countries for the efforts they have deployed to keep their borders open, welcoming and providing assistance to those fleeing conflict. He asked the High Commissioner to continue to provide technical assistance to Sudan, at the condition of the concerned country’s consent . The representative concluded by stating that the African group supported the territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty of Sudan, as well the need to protect human rights even in times of war. 

A joint statement by the QUAD for Sudan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States of America was given by  the representative of the United States of America. The representative raised concerns about the catastrophic human rights and humanitarian situation in Sudan. She urged the warring parties to fully respect international humanitarian and international human rights law. The representative emphasised the need of the parties to agree to an effective and sustained ceasefire to ensure safe, rapid and uninjured humanitarian access. She stressed that the warring parties must uphold their commitments under the Jeddah Declaration to protect civilians of Sudan because their fighting endangers the lives, livelihoods and human rights of the people of Sudan. The representative implored the warring parties to resolve their differences peacefully and return to an inclusive political dialogue process and intensify coordination with the Sudanese civilian stakeholders who must be the authors of their country’s future. 

Various NGOs and Human Rights Institutions informed the Council that the number of civilian deaths continues to rise, with thousands having been injured or subjected to sexual violence. Over 1 million people have been displaced. Millions have been deprived access to basic services and thousands more are stranded at Sudan’s borders in dire living conditions while trying to flee the conflit. Speakers were saddened by the killing of the Governor of West Darfur just hours after he was arrested by the RSF. They are concerned that the restrictions on freedoms of expression and movement have suffocated civic space for human rights defenders. Such defenders are regularly targeted by death threats and intimidation, whilst some are arbitrarily detained in inhuman and degrading conditions with women human rights defenders facing particular risks of sexual and gender based violence. Speakers called on the creation of an international independent investigative mechanism with the capacity to investigate, document and preserve evidence of human rights violations. 

Concluding Remarks of the High Commissioner for Human Rights 

The High Commissioner noted that the Human Rights Council has a role to play in finding a solution to the atrocities being faced in Sudan. He stressed that there was no military solution to the situation in Sudan and hoped that a solution would be found in the ongoing process led by Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), African Union and the UN. Mr Türk emphasised that the solution has to start with a ceasefire that holds and allows the humanitarian actors to get on with their job. He further urged everyone to rejoin the negotiating table because the situation in Sudan has been going on for years, the civilians have done their part and so has the civil society. The High Commissioner reiterated that once the guns are silenced, we are back to a political process that is inclusive, that allows meaningful participation of everyone including in particular women and young women who want to look at a different Sudan of the future. He underscored that there is no way that the future of Sudan is possible without both transitional justice and accountability for the crimes that are being committed. Mr Türk reiterated that the Sudanese society was a vibrant one with incredibly gifted professionals who need to get on with their lives and stressed that everyone who has any influence from the outside needs to make sure that all efforts are going into silencing the guns so that this society can thrive again. He concluded his remarks by emphasising that it is critical for humanitarian action to take place with the right financing and under the assurance that the financing and the access is guaranteed so that the humanitarian workers can carry out their duty. 

Remarks by Designated Expert on Human Rights in Sudan

Mr. Radhouane Nouice conveyed his deep and compassionate thoughts to the people of Sudan who are being subjected to an unbearable situation. He underscored that prior to the conflict a great deal of progress had been achieved towards a new transitional phase in Sudan which was encouraging. There had been consultations on many contentious issues such as reducing protests and use of force and there was a commitment by the authorities to review the unfair emergency legislation of the country. Yet all this changed on the 15th of April. The Expert emphasised that the intense and commendable efforts by regional and international actors continues. He reiterated that since the start of the hostilities his team has held meetings with many NGOs mostly Sudanese with the purpose of exchanging views on the situation. He has  also maintained regular contact with the UNHCR office and other humanitarian entities whose purpose is to monitor and document allegations of human rights violations arising from the current conflict. Mr. Nouice echoed the High Commissioner stating that prompt, impartial and independent investigations are needed for all human rights violations which will act as important tools of accountability in the future. He underscored that the impunity that has prevailed in Sudan for some time has played a role in the development of the current crisis. The Expert concluded by expressing his admiration for the bravery and resilience demonstrated by the Sudanese in these difficult times

Position of Geneva International Centre for Justice 

Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) strongly condemns the violence and the human right violations occurring in Sudan against its civilians. We are deeply saddened by the  blatant disregard for international humanitarian and human rights law, and utter indifference for human life and dignity that are at the heart of the conflict in Sudan. GICJ calls on the parties involved in the conflict to find a political solution through an inclusive and transparent  dialogue. The people of Sudan have suffered long enough and deserve peace. We declare an urgent need for  humanitarian stakeholders to have unhindered access to all Sudanese territory to deliver aid where it is desperately needed. It is vital that the international community and all teams investigating and documenting human rights violations make unabated efforts to hold all actors accountable for the crimes committed. 

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