Sudan: UN rights chief calls for probe after 87 bodies found in mass grave
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, on Thursday called for a swift investigation into the killing of 87 civilians in Sudan following the discovery of a mass grave in West Darfur.
The victims, who included members of the Masalit ethnic community, were allegedly killed last month by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and allied militia, the UN human rights office, OHCHR, said, citing credible information.
Local people were forced to dispose of the bodies in a mass grave outside the regional capital, El-Geneina , denying those killed a decent burial in one of the city's cemeteries.
Mr. Türk condemned the killings in the strongest terms and called for those responsible to be held to account.
Women and children killed
The RSF and the Sudanese army have been locked in fierce fighting since mid-April. Thousands have been killed and injured, and nearly three million people are displaced both within and outside the country.
At least 37 of the bodies were buried on 20 June in the roughly one-metre-deep mass grave in an open area called Al-Turab Al Ahmar, or Red Soil in English.
Another 50 bodies were buried there the following day, including those of seven women and seven children.
Those buried were killed by the RSF and their allied militia during the period 13 to 21 June in the districts of Al-Madaress and Al-Jamarek, located in El-Geneina, according to credible information gathered by OHCHR.
Many were victims of the violence that followed the killing of the Governor of West Darfur, Khamis Abbaker, on 14 June, shortly after he was taken into custody by the RSF. Others had died from untreated injuries.
Disrespecting the dead
The UN rights chief said he was “appalled by the callous and disrespectful way the dead, along with their families and communities, were treated.”
“There must be a prompt, thorough and independent investigation into the killings, and those responsible must be held to account,” he said.
Mr. Türk called on the RSF and other parties to the conflict to allow and facilitate searches for the dead, their collection and evacuation, in line with international law and regardless of ethnicity or other distinction.
Bodies lying in the streets
OHCHR said witnesses report that local mediation efforts for access to and burial of the dead have generally taken too long, leaving many bodies lying in the streets for days.
The family of a Masalit dignitary who was killed on or around 9 June by the RSF and their allies, reportedly had to wait 13 days before being allowed to collect the body.
Witnesses told staff that in cases where the RSF have allowed the collection of the dead, following mediation with Arab and other community leaders, they have refused to allow those injured to be taken to hospitals for medical treatment.
Ensure injured receive care
“The RSF’s leadership and their allied militia as well as all parties to an armed conflict are required to ensure that the dead are properly handled, and their dignity protected,” Mr. Türk said.
Furthermore, international humanitarian and international human rights law require all warring parties to ensure the injured receive medical care.
The High Commissioner called on the RSF leadership immediately and unequivocally to condemn and stop the killing of people, and to end violence and hate speech based on ethnicity.