GENEVA (AP) — The United Nation's top human rights body adopted a resolution Thursday that drew attention to mounting civilian deaths and rights abuses in Sudan since a bloody conflict erupted between the African country's two top generals last month.
The violence in Sudan has so far killed more than 600 people, including civilians, and displaced hundreds of thousands. The fighting has also spread to other regions, namely the restive Darfur province.
The Human Rights Council — made up of 47 U.N. member states — narrowly passed the resolution with 18 states voting for the resolution, 15 against and 14 other nations abstaining. The resolution aims to further scrutinize human rights violations taking place in Sudan since April 15.
The fighting in Sudan started as a result of a power struggle between the chief of Sudan’s military, Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, and rival Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who commands the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.
Arab and African nations, including Sudan, featured heavily among the 15 countries that rejected the U.N. move, citing it as a potential barrier to talks underway in Saudi Arabia.
Algeria's representative, Faouzia Boumaiza-Mebarki, said the resolution could send a negative message to the “opposing sides” and scupper the talks. Likewise, China's ambassador said the country and its warring parties should be “free from external pressure.”
Most Western countries voted in favor, with Europe and the United States having co-sponsored the draft resolution.
Late in the day, the U.S. State Department announced that representatives of the two forces had signed a declaration recognizing their responsibilities “to facilitate humanitarian action to meet the emergency needs of civilians.”
The statement said the talks would now focus on arranging “an effective ceasefire of up to approximately ten days to facilitate” humanitarian efforts. The rivals agreed “to enable the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance, the restoration of essential services, the withdrawal of forces from hospitals and clinics, and the respectful burial of the dead,” the announcement said.
During the opening speech of the session, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk accused both forces of violating international humanitarian law.
Turk criticized the Sudanese military for launching attacks in densely populated areas and the RSF for taking over “numerous buildings” in the capital, Khartoum, to use as “operation bases, evicting residents and launching attacks.”
The U.N. has raised concerns about the plight of civilians caught in the crossfire and worries about food security and aid deliveries, and urged support for neighboring countries hosting people fleeing the ongoing violence.
“We have also received several reports alleging sexual violence by uniformed men, as well as allegations of unlawful killings and enforced disappearances,” Turk said.
Echoing Turk's remarks, the U.S. ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council, Michèle Taylor, condemned the targeting of hospitals and healthcare providers. Amid the fighting, numerous hospitals across Khartoum have been damaged and forced to close.
Separately, dozens of independent experts working with the U.N. rights office issued a joint statement Thursday, citing reports that “civilians of all ages are experiencing various human rights abuses” in Sudan, including sexual assault, gender-based violence, looting, and shortages of food, water and healthcare.