Geneva – The bombing and killing of multiple refugees in their homes in Sudan’s capital Khartoum reflect a flagrant disregard for the lives of the most vulnerable groups, Euro-Med Monitor said in a statement, as these groups are in desperate need of protection and separation from the ongoing conflict.
At least 10 refugees were killed and several others were injured on Monday, 5 June 2023, as a result of shelling targeting a residential neighbourhood in Khartoum. Obtaining accurate and detailed information about the incident was not possible until now due to communication disruptions and the resumption of clashes and mutual shelling between the country’s army forces and its Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
Euro-Med Monitor has been following field reports stating that the International University of Africa and its environs were shelled, including dormitories which house dozens of refugee students. According to press statements made by the Congolese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Christophe Lutundula, the targeting resulted in the tragic deaths of 10 students from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with several others sustaining serious injuries.
The RSF has accused the Sudanese army of carrying out air strikes on the area, which it claims “resulted in the deaths of 25 individuals, including women and children, from the state of the Congo, and the injury of dozens of refugees”. The Sudanese army did not comment on these allegations. Refugees in Sudan have been living in difficult humanitarian conditions since the outbreak of the conflict between the army and the RSF on 10 April; nearly 150,000 of them have been forced to flee to safer areas outside of Khartoum, while others have fled to other countries, most notably Egypt and Chad.
These refugees face immense difficulty in obtaining basic living necessities, as they were already classified as one of Sudan’s most vulnerable and fragile groups before the outbreak of the conflict, with poverty and unemployment rates among them skyrocketing. Their suffering has been exacerbated by the conflict’s direct and indirect effects, such as shelling operations and roadblocks, which disrupt their ability to move and secure bare necessities, especially given the little effort aimed at protecting and moving them to safer places.
Several refugees in Khartoum have reported incidents of robbery, physical and sexual abuse, and death threats by members of military forces or individuals associated with the RSF. These incidents occurred following the forces’ storming and takeover of the areas where the refugees live. Euro-Med Monitor emphasised the importance of shielding civilians from military operations and respecting the protection afforded to them under international humanitarian law, whether by refraining from targeting areas where refugees reside as civilians, or sheltering refugees fleeing persecution in their home countries.
Moreover, Euro-Med Monitor documented military groups’ use of civilian facilities in Khartoum—such as hospitals, schools, and homes—as strongholds for stationing forces and launching military attacks under unjustified pretexts, endangering thousands of civilian lives with claims of military necessity.
The military operations of warring parties in Sudan have violated international humanitarian law principles, particularly the principles of distinction, proportionality, and military necessity. About 900 civilians have been killed since the start of the conflict, with thousands more injured, and over 65% of hospitals and medical facilities in the conflict-affected areas have ceased operations. Additionally, there has been widespread destruction of vital infrastructure.
The Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces must launch a transparent, independent investigation into the killing of refugees in Khartoum, identify and hold perpetrators accountable, firmly pledge not to target civilian areas under any circumstances, and protect refugees who are already fleeing persecution and violence. Stressing the importance of achieving a lasting and comprehensive ceasefire across the whole of Sudan, Euro-Med Monitor calls upon the conflict parties to remove all military presence from civilian facilities, cease utilising civilian objects for military operations, and establish safe humanitarian corridors to facilitate the exit of civilians, particularly refugees, from dangerous areas.