The United Nations warned Friday of soaring human rights violations in Sudan’s Darfur region and said they were “verging on pure evil,” amid escalating fighting seven months into the war between the army and paramilitaries.
“We keep saying that the situation is horrific and grim. But frankly, we are running out of words to describe the horror of what is happening in Sudan,” said Clementine Nkweta-Salami, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Sudan.
“We continue to receive unrelenting and appalling reports of sexual and gender-based violence, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detentions and grave violations of human and children’s rights,” she told reporters.
“What is happening is verging on pure evil,” she said, citing reports of young girls being raped in front of their mothers.
She said she was worried about the risk of a repeat of the genocide of the early 2000s in this region of western Sudan.
Since April, forces loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah Burhan, Sudan’s de facto head of state, have been at war with the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces commanded by his former deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.
The U.N. refugee agency pointed to reports that more than 800 people had been killed by armed groups in Ardamata in West Darfur, an area that so far had been less affected by the conflict.
“We have received these reports from new arrivals in Chad, these are refugees fleeing the Darfur area, that are talking about armed militia going from house to house killing men and boys,” spokesperson William Spindler told reporters in Geneva.
“These killings reportedly have happened in the last few days,” he added.
Ardamata among other things houses a camp for people displaced inside Sudan, where UNHCR said nearly 100 shelters had been razed.
It also warned in a statement that extensive looting had taken place, including of UNHCR relief items.
UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi echoed Nkweta-Salami’s warning of the danger of a repeat of the horrors unleashed two decades ago when the government of Omar al-Bashir unleashed the Janjaweed militia in response to a rebel uprising.
“Twenty years ago, the world was shocked by the terrible atrocities and human rights violations in Darfur,” Grandi said in a statement. “We fear a similar dynamic might be developing.”
UNHCR said it was preparing for a new flood of refugees from the region into Chad, which is already hosting hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees.
More than 10,000 people have been killed in the Sudan conflict so far, according to a conservative estimate by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data project.
But aid groups and medics have repeatedly warned the real toll exceeds recorded figures, with many of those wounded and killed never reaching hospitals or morgues.
The war has displaced more than 4.8 million people within Sudan and has forced a further 1.2 million to flee into neighboring countries, according to U.N. figures.