Sudanese government forces are responsible for a new series of war crimes in the country’s Darfur region, according to a report by Amnesty International.
The rights group alleges Sudanese government forces and allied militias have destroyed dozens of villages in Darfur since last July.
"Satellite evidence and testimonies confirm that government forces and associated militias damaged or destroyed at least 45 villages in Jebel Marra between July 2018 and February 2019," said the report, released Tuesday.
Amnesty International also alleges government forces engaged in unlawful killings, sexual violence, looting and forced displacement.
The report specifically identifies the Rapid Support Forces are one of the perpetrators of the alleged crimes. The RSF is believed to be responsible for killing dozens of protesters in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, since last Monday. Doctors affiliated with the opposition put the death toll at more than 100.
The conflict in Darfur started in 2003, when black African groups rebelled against the Arab government leadership. Sudan's government, then led by Omar al-Bashir, responded by supporting pro-government militia groups known as the Janjaweed who attacked and burned down villages in the region.
The United Nations says the conflict has killed 300,000 people and displaced millions at its peak. Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for five counts of crimes against humanity, two counts of war crimes, and three counts of genocide.
Tuesday, Amnesty International called for the U.N. African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) to maintain their presence in the region.
“As for the U.N. and the AU, they must not turn their backs on people in Darfur who rely on peacekeepers for protection. A decision to close UNAMID would recklessly and needlessly place tens of thousands of lives at risk by removing their only safeguard against the government’s scorched earth campaign,” said Amnesty International Secretary General Kumi Naidoo in the report.
Recently, the U.N. and African Union have reduced the number of peacekeepers and bases in the region.
According to a decree by Sudan’s ruling Transitional Military Council, the abandoned UNAMID bases must be handed over to the RSF.
“It is bewildering that the U.N. and AU would even consider removing the last peacekeepers from Darfur, effectively handing over control of civilian areas in Jebel Marra to [the RSF] at this time,” said Amnesty International senior crisis advisor Jonathan Loeb about the drawdown.
Sudan is currently undergoing a period of political instability. In April, military leaders overthrew Bashir after 30 years in power. Since then, the country has experienced widespread protests calling for civilian rule.