In the Shadows of RSF: A Chronicle of Torture, Flight, and Hope for Justice

Note: This comprehensive report results from a confidential interview conducted in a secure environment, skillfully facilitated by a human rights professional. Due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter, the survivor has provided informed and explicit assent for both the interview and the subsequent compilation of this report. To safeguard the survivor’s identity and the well-being of all involved parties, pseudonyms have been employed. The survivor is aware that this report will be disseminated online and may be utilized for advocacy purposes. The interview was initially conducted in Arabic and subsequently transcribed into English with the assistance of a qualified translator.

Introduction:

(Kampala) – Baher, is a 32-year-old individual from Al Fashir, North Darfur. On 14 June 2023, around 12 pm, while he was experiencing stomach pain, he was en route to Al Walidein Hospital in the Al Arda neighborhood of Omdurman, Khartoum state, to obtain medicine. Before reaching the hospital, a Land Cruiser intercepted him. Six to eight soldiers belonging to the paramilitary group Rapid Support Force (RSF) emerged from the vehicle. They accused him of being a member of military intelligence, despite his denial. The RSF soldiers proceeded to assault him, tied his hands, and forcibly placed him in the trunk of their vehicle. Additionally, they confiscated his wallet, ring, and medical prescription.

“For me, life was good. I love driving, and I was supporting my family. With the money I used to earn by driving, I also used to support an orphanage and local hospitals.”

After detaining him, RSF also detained 4 other people from different localities. RSF took them to Al Baher in Al Arda neighbourhood, where they put them in a big hall where more than 80 people were already detained. What followed for Baher was 19 days of torture in detention.

Condition of Detention Centre:

The RSF kept all the detainees in one big hall with no windows or any other way for sunlight to enter. The detainees used to get the leftovers of the soldiers only once a day, and only a glass or rarely two glasses of water were available for each of them in one day. With over 80 people, it was a crowded hall. The RSF didn’t even allow the detainees to talk with one another; if they caught someone talking, that person would be subjected to torture. There were people from the army there too as detainees.

The Experience of Torture:

The first incident of torture for Baher occurred on the first day of detention. RSF took him to a separate interrogation room and beat him with whips, sticks, and gun buttocks. Sometimes RSF used to torture him three times a day. RSF used to take people from Al Fashir to the interrogation room, as during that time, RSF wasn’t in control of any part of Al Fashir. Currently, Al Fashir is controlled by three raging factions: the north of Al Fashir is controlled by RSF, the west by the Sudanese Armed Force (SAF), and the central by the Juba Peace Agreement group, which comprises a coalition of Sudan Liberation Movement, Sudan Liberation Movement- Minni Minnawi, Sudanese Alliance, and Justice Equality Movement. So, at that time, as per RSF, all the people of Al Fashir are supporters or work for SAF.

marks of beating

The beatings can happen anytime, and sometimes when the detainees are sleeping, RSF soldiers used to throw water on them and start beating them. In the interrogation room, they even used to fire bullets near his legs while asking questions about SAF and National Congress Party (NCP) members.

“They use to call us Ambaii and they use to call detained army personnel as Boldamgash”.

“Ambai” is a term that the Arab population uses for black Africans in a derogatory way, as RSF is predominantly an Arab group, and “Boldamagash” means not worthy of wearing an army uniform or unprofessional. While torturing, the RSF used to constantly use these terms against the detainees.

“They found some pictures from the December 2019 revolution on my phone and said, ‘So you wanted to be in power, but you can never be in power because you are an Ambai.”

The beatings have left his hand, back, knees, ankle, and lower abdomen severely injured. Whenever they used to bring in new inmates, they used to torture old inmates in front of them to instill fear in them


The Perpetrators:

Reflecting on the names and appearances of the perpetrators, Baher recalls that most of the RSF soldiers responsible for the torture were teenage boys. The officer in charge, Mohammed Ahmed Boldart, was a constant presence, always armed with a gun. Occasionally, Major Isha Bushara would visit the facility. Other names that he can remember include Alarzage and Ahmed Salah.

The Escape:

On 2 July 2023, RSF took Baher to the interrogation room, beating him severely, resulting in a severe injury to his right hand, causing it to bleed. However, SAF airplanes began bombing the area, accompanied by drone attacks on other RSF stations. Many RSF soldiers were killed in the attacks. The soldiers who were torturing Baher went outside in response to the attack. Seizing the opportunity, Baher, along with 20 to 30 other detainees, decided to escape from the detention center as clashes erupted between RSF and SAF.

“I chose to die rather than being in detention and getting tortured all the time”.

Other detainees stayed out of fear of the RSF and what would happen if they were caught again. Some RSF soldiers fired towards them, prompting Baher to run towards his home despite the profound flow of blood from his hand. Along the way, a man named Ali stopped him and inquired about his condition. Baher explained that he had been detained by the RSF and had just escaped. Ali advised against returning home, warning that the RSF would likely come looking for him there. Instead, Ali took him to his own home, where Ali’s daughter, a nurse, provided Baher with first aid treatment. Baher stayed with them for two days until the situation calmed down.

(Baher’s injured hand)

When the situation eased a bit, Baher asked Ali to accompany him to his own home. They approached cautiously, with Ali checking Baher’s home first. Upon his return, Ali informed Baher that there was no one in his house, the doors were open, and it had been looted.

“We thought you were dead.”

From Ali’s house, Baher proceeded to his friend’s house in Omdurman. Using his friend’s phone, he called his father and was advised not to return to Al Fashir, as the RSF had already come looking for him and believed he was dead. His father instructed him to go to Kosti. Baher traveled to Kosti and stayed there for one month with a friend. Due to the severe wounds from the torture, he needed medical attention, but limited funds only allowed him to consult a traditional healer in Kosti.

From Kosti, he took a taxi to Rabak, then to Joda, and further to Al Jabalayn. On August 15, he crossed the border to Renk, South Sudan.

Living Conditions in the Camp:

The living conditions in the camp were deplorable. Baher learned that the living conditions for refugees in the Juba camp were better than those in the camp in Renk. He arrived at the Juba camp on August 21. The camp housed people from different tribes and nationalities, but the differences between them often led to fights. Baher observed discrimination within the camp, particularly against Sudanese refugees. The person responsible for documenting the refugees consistently favored the Anuak tribe.

In addition to residing in the camp, Baher started working in a bakery in Juba, earning 3000 South Sudanese pounds (23 USD) per month. One day, a member of the Anuak tribe died in the camp, and they blamed a Sudanese refugee for the death, initiating attacks against them.

“We made a circle around our women and children to protect them.”

The situation in the camp became unsafe for Sudanese individuals, and the registration process was halted. In response, some refugees returned to Sudan, while others were resettled by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Some, including Baher, decided to come to Uganda. On May 13, he left the Juba camp and arrived in Kampala, Uganda, where he currently resides in a room shared with three other individuals in one room.

Conclusion:

“The place where I live is a hostel, and they have a photo of Hemedti hanging there. Some of the people who live there are also members of RSF.”

He continues to reside in that hostel because it is affordable, and he cannot afford another place. Whenever someone opens a door, he panics, fearing that RSF soldiers are there to take him away. He struggles to sleep at night, cannot stand for long periods due to severe wounds from the torture, and finds it difficult to urinate.

“I pray a lot these days; it makes me feel better.”

He constantly thinks about his family and feels that he has no future now; everything seems to have ended for him.

“I told my father everything, but we decided not to inform my mother about what happened to me as she is sick, and I don’t want to cause her more pain.”

He believes that the RSF should be held accountable, and if necessary, he is prepared to testify against them. Although he does not fully understand the role of the International Criminal Court (ICC), he has been told that it is the only institution that can provide justice for him and others.

Appeal by DNHR for International Intervention and Action:

Baher’s harrowing experience at the hands of the Rapid Support Force (RSF) demands urgent attention from the international community. His story illustrates the grave human rights violations and torture perpetrated by a non-state actor, the RSF, necessitating immediate intervention and action. The Darfur Network for Human Rights (DNHR) urges the international community, particularly the United Nations (UN), to take the following steps:

  • Inclusion in the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission for Sudan:

DNHR implores the UN to include Baher’s detailed account in the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission for Sudan. This will contribute to documenting and investigating the widespread human rights abuses committed by the RSF, allowing for a comprehensive understanding of the situation.

  • UN Involvement and Advocacy:

The UN, through its various bodies and agencies, should actively engage in advocating for Baher’s case and others like it. The UN has a responsibility to address and condemn such egregious violations of human rights.

  • Immediate Cessation of Torture by RSF:

The international community, including the UN, should exert diplomatic pressure on the RSF to cease all forms of torture immediately. Baher’s case highlights the urgency of putting an end to the brutal practices employed by the RSF.

  • Application of International Legal Standards:

Invoke international legal precedents, such as the Elmi v Australia case (Committee against Torture, Communication No 120/1998, UN Doc CAT/C/22/D/120/1998), to emphasize that actions by non-state actors like the RSF can be considered sufficiently “State-like” to amount to torture under the Convention against Torture. The international community should hold the RSF accountable for violating fundamental human rights norms.

  • ICC Involvement:

Encourage and support Baher in pursuing justice through the International Criminal Court (ICC). Given Sudan’s ratification of the Convention against Torture, the ICC remains a viable option for holding those responsible within the RSF accountable for their actions.

  • Humanitarian Assistance for Survivors:

Provide immediate humanitarian assistance to survivors like Baher, addressing their physical and psychological needs resulting from the torture they endured. Collaborate with local organizations to ensure the well-being and rehabilitation of survivors.

  • Public Awareness and Solidarity:

Raise public awareness globally about Baher’s case and the broader issue of human rights abuses by the RSF. Encourage global solidarity to amplify the voices of survivors and increase pressure on the RSF to halt their abusive practices.

More information is available from Mohammed Hassan, Executive Director, DNHR.

Email: hassan.m@dnhr.org

Phone: (+256)752792112 or (+249)924638036

P.O. Box: 144218