New York Based Human Rights Watch Finds RSF Committed 'Horrific Abuses' In Sudan
In an interview with documentary filmmakers in 2008, Hemedti said al-Bashir had personally asked him to lead the campaign against the insurgency in Darfur, but he denied any involvement in attacks on civilians and said he had refused orders to attack civilian areas.
Sudanese forces celebrate after the military had forced longtime autocratic President Omar al-Bashir to step down in Khartoum. (AP Photo)
Darfur: In an interview with documentary filmmakers in 2008, Hemedti said al-Bashir had personally asked him to lead the campaign against the insurgency in Darfur, but he denied any involvement in attacks on civilians and said he had refused orders to attack civilian areas.
Magdi el-Gizouli, a scholar at the Rift Valley Institute, a think tank focused on East Africa, links Hemedti's rise to the military's outsourcing of the conflict to local forces.
"In essence, he is the reason why the rebellion in Darfur was defeated, because he was capable of recruiting an efficient fighting force that knew the local terrain well, that knew the geography well, and that had an ax to grind against farming communities in Darfur," he said.
The RSF, formed in 2013 and eventually including up to 10,000 fighters, was in some ways an attempt to bring greater discipline to the Arab militias and more closely tie them to the armed forces. Under Hemedti's command, the RSF waged two major counterinsurgency campaigns in Darfur, in 2014 and 2015.
A 2015 report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch found that the RSF "committed a wide range of horrific abuses," including forcibly displacing entire communities, destroying wells and plundering livestock.
"Among the most egregious abuses against civilians were torture, extrajudicial killings and mass rapes," the report said.
Witnesses to a 2015 attack by the RSF in Darfur's Jebel Marra region said troops carried out mass rape in and around the village of Golo, often gang-raping women and girls in front of local elders before killing the women and leaving their bodies in the streets, Human Rights Watch said.
"As head of the RSF, Hemedti bears responsibility for the attacks on civilians his forces have carried out, in which civilians have been killed and villages have been burned to the ground," Jehanne Henry, a Sudan researcher at Human Rights Watch, said last week.
"The fact that Hemedti is now deputy head of the (transitional military council) is not lost on Darfuris I speak to." he added.
The International Criminal Court has not brought charges against Hemedti. But it said in a 2014 report that the RSF under his command was "similar in structure and modus operandi" to the Janjaweed, with a "similar pattern of indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks against civilians."
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