Crucial Step Toward Accountability for Rapid Support Force Abuses
By Nicole Widdersheim | Deputy Washington Director, Human Rights Watch
The United States government imposed two different types of sanctions on two leaders of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), an independent military force in Sudan responsible for human rights abuses and war crimes. The US Department of the Treasury sanctioned Abelrahim Hamdan Dagalo, a senior leader in the RSF and brother of RSF’s leader, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (known as “Hemedti”). Additionally, the US State Department imposed visa restrictions on Abdul Rahman Juma, an RSF commander in West Darfur state.
These are the first sanctions on individual Sudanese during the current conflict. In July the US sanctioned three private Sudanese companies and one private Emirati company. These sanctions, as well as those announced today, were issued under a May executive order directed at those “destabilizing” and “undermining” a transition to democracy in Sudan.
The armed conflict between the Sudan Armed Forces and RSF broke out on April 15 in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital. Both sides have shown utter disregard for the laws of war, using heavy explosive weapons in densely populated areas. The RSF has conducted widespread looting and rape. Beyond Khartoum, in West Darfur, the RSF and its allied militias are responsible for destroying entire villages and attacking non-Arab communities, committing ethnically targeted killing and sexual violence.
The conflict has spread across Sudan, threatening regional stability, and has forcibly displaced about 7.1 million people.
Targeted sanctions are important in a conflict like this one. They can financially weaken those responsible for grave abuses, and deter abuses by diminishing the resources of armies to carry out abuses. Targeted sanctions also signal that the international community is watching and willing to act. Governments and financial institutions should closely monitor the implementation and enforcement of this week’s sanctions announcements to ensure the greatest impact.
In 2004 the US government determined there was a genocide occurring in Darfur. It provided over $5 billion in assistance and sanctioned 160 persons and entities for this atrocity crime. The impact of these bold moves by the US government can be a template for further action.
The US government should pursue additional sanctions on perpetrators of abuses, designate a special envoy for Sudan, rally support for the establishment of an independent investigative mechanism at the United Nations Human Rights Council, which begins next week, and push for a countrywide arms embargo at the UN Security Council.