Sudan: Arms continuing to fuel serious human rights violations in Darfur


Arms, ammunition and related equipment are still being transferred to Darfur in the west of Sudan for military operations in which extremely serious violations and abuse of human rights and international humanitarian law are committed by the Sudanese government, the government-backed Janjawid militias (1) and armed opposition groups.

This report describes the arming process and its effects on the people of Darfur and neighbouring eastern Chad, many of whom have been forcibly displaced. It provides details of violations of the United Nations arms embargo on Darfur that occurred during January to March 2007. Amongst other things, it shows how the Government of Sudan violates the UN arms embargo and disguises some of its military logistics operations in Darfur, and what arms supplied to Sudan from China and Russia - two Permanent Members of the Security Council - have been used for violations of the Security Council's own mandatory arms embargo.

Amnesty International is urgently calling upon the international community to assert its authority and immediately adopt steps to strengthen the implementation of the UN arms embargo and stem the flow of arms to Darfur as part of a package of immediate measures to help protect civilians and uphold their human rights as is required by international law.

States supplying weapons, munitions and other military equipment to Sudan and to other parties to the conflict know, or at least should know, that these arms are often used to commit serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Darfur and now in eastern Chad. The fact that the UN Security Council has left the UN arms embargo on Darfur somewhat vaguely formulated and especially lacking a strong UN monitoring, verification and public reporting mechanism is allowing some states and persons to violate it with impunity.

Despite assertions to the contrary by the Sudanese government, armed attacks on civilians by the Sudanese armed forces and allied Janjawid militias are ongoing in Darfur and now the conflict in Darfur has spread beyond Sudan's borders. Civilians in eastern Chad are now also being attacked by Sudanese Janjawid militias and their local Chadian allies, who plunder and kill with impunity. (2) UN and African Union (AU) officials have reported numerous indiscriminate aerial bombings and attacks on villages and incidents of forced displacement, as well as summary executions, "disappearances", looting and destruction of property (3). Descriptions of these attacks to the UN indicate that tactics used have been very similar to those used during the height of the war in Darfur in late 2003 and 2004, characterized by (1) coordination of operations between the Sudanese armed forces and government-supported militia, (2) failure to respect the principles of distinction and proportionality, and (3) grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law (4). Rape, sexual violence, and other forms of gender based violence continue to be committed in Darfur by Janjawid militias as well as by Sudanese armed forces and armed opposition groups, including against children (5).

The government of Sudan bears the primary responsibility for protecting civilians in Darfur yet is continuing to divert and deploy imported attack and other military aircraft, "dual use" and domestically made military equipment, as well as firearms and ammunition, as described in this report, to target civilians directly, launch indiscriminate attacks involving civilian casualties, and to arm and support Janjawid militias. These militias are supposed to have been disbanded, yet together with Sudanese government forces, bear the largest responsibility for grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Darfur.

Armed opposition groups operating in Darfur also continue to receive small arms, light weapons and logistical supplies then blatantly misuse them to commit serious violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law. Moreover, the proliferation of small arms and general absence of justice and the rule of law have enabled acts of armed banditry to become increasingly widespread.

The irresponsible transfer of arms to Sudan and its neighbours are a significant factor in the massive human rights catastrophe in Darfur and its spread into eastern Chad. More than 200,000 people have died in the four-year conflict in Darfur, Sudan, and more than 2.5 million have been displaced from their homes. During March 2007, there was no decrease in human rights violations and abuses against internally displaced people, including sexual and gender based violence. There were 40,000 new displaced civilians as a result of the ongoing violence and armed banditry continued unabated in this month.(6) Attacks on aid workers and humanitarian convoys continue, particularly in key towns such as Al Fashir. Between June 2006 and January 2007, 12 aid workers were killed, more than in the previous two years combined. Due to security situation, many aid agencies are becoming are unable to continue to provide essential service to displaced populations; access to humanitarian aid services remained tenuous and even deteriorated in some places. Easy access to arms is intensifying and prolonging the conflict with disastrous effects on the civilian population and their longer-term wellbeing.

Research for this report included analysis of data with independent specialists and the receipt of detailed eyewitness accounts from Darfur that were offered to Amnesty International in the course of investigation. These have been complemented by data collected from open sources, databases and confidential sources.(7) When the drafting of this report had reached an advanced stage in late April, a confidential interim report of the UN Panel of Experts was leaked to the New York Times.(8) The newspaper published some of the main UN interim report findings and Sudan's government in particular strongly denied accusations attributed to the confidential UN report that it was flying attack aircraft and moving other military equipment into Darfur in violation of the UN arms embargo and using aircraft painted white to resemble UN aircraft in order to bomb and carry out surveillance of villages in Darfur. At that point, Amnesty International decided to complete the final work it had been doing on this report as planned, taking into account the fact that its main findings thus far for this report on arms movements to Darfur and transfers to Sudan had already been drafted, and that the partial overlap in detailed findings and illustrations with those in the UN interim report, such as on the movement of particular aircraft and arms into Darfur, was not sufficient to hinder Amnesty International's publication of its findings. Indeed, by casting more light on the problem in the public domain, Amnesty International believes this report will enable further international action to urge the international community to help prevent violations of the UN embargo on Darfur and promote the human rights of its people.

For the reasons set out in this report, Amnesty International is again calling upon the UN Security Council to strengthen the UN arms embargo on Darfur by establishing more robust monitoring and verification mechanisms to ensure compliance and curb the flow of arms and associated equipment to those perpetrating gave violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law in Darfur.


(1) The Janjawid armed militias, supported by the government of Sudan, are drawn from mostly nomad groups and commonly armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles, and also often using rocket-propelled grenades and doshkas (machine guns mounted on four-wheel drive vehicles), attacked, displaced and killed thousands of civilians.

(2) Amnesty International, "Chad: 'are we citizens of this country' - Civilians in Chad unprotected from Janjawid attacks", AI Index: AFR 20/001/2007, 29 January 2007. The Sudanese Janjawid who attack villages in Chad appear to be a mixture of more formal forces and other community based militia. The more formal forces are most often, but not exclusively, incorporated into Sudanese paramilitary forces, such as the Popular Defence Force (Quwwat difa' al-sha'bi) and the Border Intelligence Guard (Haras mukhabarat al-hudud), and receive a monthly salary as well as arms. Amnesty International researchers were given identity cards found on the bodies of Janjawid killed in Chad showing their membership of such paramilitary groups. The other, more informal, Janjawid forces are not incorporated into Sudanese government forces but may remain under their tribal commander (aqid) or be armed and mustered, usually under well-known Janjawid leaders, for specific occasions.

(3) Report of the High-Level Mission on the situation of human rights in Darfur pursuant to Human Rights Council decision S-4/101", A/HRC/4/80, 9 March 2007, High Commissioner for Human Rights Calls for Probes of Incidents of Sexual Violence, Disappearances in Sudan's Jebel Marra and South Darfur, UNHCR New Release on two reports, Geneva , 6 April 2007

(4) Report of the High Level Mission, ibid

(5) High Commissioner for Human Rights Calls for Probes, April 2007, op cit

(6) Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) Monitor, UN Mission on Sudan (UNMIS), March 2007

(7) The approach is similar to that adopted for the Amnesty International report "Sudan: arming the perpetrators of grave abuses in Darfur", November 2004 (AI Index: AFR 54/139/2004)

(8) New York Times, "Sudan Flying Arms to Darfur, Panel Reports", by Warren Hoge, 18 April 2007