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ICC prosecutor asks for evidence of atrocities in Sudan after rebel attack on hospital in Darfur

THE HAGUE – The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Tuesday asked for information and evidence on the atrocities in Sudan. His ongoing investigations “appear to uncover an organized, systematic and serious attack on human dignity.”

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan released a video statement on Sunday following an attack by the notorious paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces that forced the closure of a major hospital in the western Darfur region. The group fired shots and looted the hospital in al-Fasher, the aid group Doctors Without Borders reported.

The attack came as the RSF, which has been battling the Sudanese army for a year, intensified its offensive to seize control of the town, the military’s last stronghold in the sprawling Darfur region. More than 120 people were killed in two weeks of fighting in and around al-Fasher last month.

“The horrific events in West Darfur, including El-Geneina, in 2023 are among our top investigative priorities,” Khan said. “In addition, I am extremely concerned by allegations that widespread international crimes are being committed in al-Fasher and surrounding areas at this very moment.”

A long-lasting conflict

The conflict in Sudan began in April last year, when rising tensions between the military leadership and the RSF led to fighting in the capital Khartoum and elsewhere in the country.

The war has killed more than 14,000 people and injured thousands more. The country’s population is on the brink of famine. The UN food agency warned the warring parties last month that Darfur and other parts of Sudan risk widespread starvation and death if they do not allow humanitarian aid into the region.

The war also triggered the world’s largest refugee crisis: More than ten million people have had to leave their homes, including more than two million who fled to neighboring countries, the UN migration agency told the Associated Press on Monday.

Khan said he was conducting urgent investigations in Sudan.

“The evidence my office has collected to date appears to point to credible, repeated, increasing and persistent allegations of attacks on civilians, particularly attacks on camps for internally displaced persons,” he said.

“It seems to show that rape and other forms of sexual violence are widespread. It seems to show repeated shelling of civilian areas, looting of property and attacks on hospitals,” he added, stressing that he was “particularly concerned about the ethnically motivated nature of these attacks on the Masalit and other communities.”

The International Criminal Court is already investigating in Sudan

The International Criminal Court has long been investigating atrocities in Sudan dating back to an earlier devastating conflict in Darfur. The court has issued arrest warrants for former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on charges including genocide committed in Darfur between 2003 and 2008.

The RSF grew out of Arab militias, commonly known as the Janjaweed, mobilised by al-Bashir against non-Arab tribes in Darfur. At the time, they were accused of mass killings, rape and other atrocities, and Darfur became synonymous with genocide.

Khan again referred to the previous conflict in his message on Tuesday.

“It is a scandal that we are allowing history to repeat itself in Darfur,” he said. “We cannot and must not allow Darfur to once again become a globally forgotten atrocity.”

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