Stories of survival: Testimonies from RSF detention centres

21 February 2024

In Adré camp, eastern Chad, several Sudanese refugees who fled the city of El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state, tell the tragic stories that occurred in the Darfur region following the military battles, especially the direct violations against unarmed civilians by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Victims and witnesses who were able to escape reported to Ayin that there were massacres and violations in the state of West Darfur, as well as physical violence, mutilation of dead bodies, and gouging of eyes by the RSF and their allied tribal militias.

On 4 November 4 last year, the RSF and its affiliated militias were able to control the command of the 15th Infantry Division of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in the Ardamta region, east of the city of El Geneina. The repercussions of the fierce attack on the first and second days resulted in these forces entering residential neighborhoods, most of the residents were in camps for the displaced.

Since the outbreak of war in Sudan in mid-April last year, the RSF and its affiliated tribal militias have been accused of committing violations of an ethnic nature against some tribes in West Darfur.

Hamada Abdullah (Ayin)

Shocking Testimonies

Hamada Abdullah Ahmed was caught with hundreds of other prisoners after the RSF seized the military garrison in Ardamata. “On the fourth of last November, there was an attack by the Rapid Support Forces on Ardamta, from the northern side of the Al-Eza’a neighborhood. It was a terrorizing day for everyone, witnessing killings and violence,” he said. As the army’s 15th Division fell, the RSF took Haroun and others to the Adar area, north of El Geneina, and incarcerated them in a school. Roughly 64 children and 25 elderly were detained with them, Haroun said. Several of those detained with Haroun were killed. 

According to Abdullah, some of these hostages were released by the International Committee of the Red Cross while others were able to escape to the Chadian border. But many did not make it. Abdullah and about 41 detainees escaped after an arduous journey on foot that lasted for more than six hours before reaching the Adré Refugee Camp in Chad. 

Hamadi Ahmed Adam (Ayin)

Another survivor from Ardamata, Hamadi Ahmed Adam, 36, was residing in the displacement camp in Ardamata when the RSF attacked in November last year. Shot by an RSF-aligned gunman, Adam was detained with 20 others. “They asked us about our tribe, and we answered that we are Masalit. There was a doctor among us who was killed on the spot, on charges that he was providing medical services to army soldiers.” The RSF frog-marched them to an unknown destination near El-Geneina. “There were bodies all along the road,” Hamadi recalled. “We were subjected to continuous physical assault by RSF as we walked.” Some of the detainees with Adam lost the ability to speak due to the severity of the pain.

According to these survivors’ accounts, the RSF and their militias did not content themselves with killing and beating, but they also mutilated the bodies. Adam says that he saw a body mutilated by these perpetrators, “They tore the chest open and took the lungs out of their place.” After the taxing journey, one RSF soldier opened fire, attempting to shoot them all. Out of 21 people, nine were killed instantly, Adam told Ayin. Adam managed to survive by playing dead. 

Under the weight of extreme fatigue and exhaustion, Adam and others were transferred to El Geneina Teaching Hospital which was abandoned by doctors and medical staff. During the seven days he spent there, he witnessed the death of eleven people due to the lack of medical care.

Among several people, Hamadi Ahmed Adam was able to escape and reach Adre camp on the Chadian border after an arduous journey. Adam says that when he narrates this testimony, he does so without fear of reprisal. He believes that what happened in Ardamta is a genocide, and calls for the prosecution of the perpetrators who committed these violations and that the international community brings them to justice.

(البشير) إلى الجنائية.. خطوة أولى نحو سلام دارفور
Protestors call for former president Omar al-Bashir to face trial at the International Criminal Court in 2019. (Ayin)

Call for justice

On January 29 this year, while submitting a report on Sudan before the Security Council, International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan said there is evidence to suggest genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, are being committed in Darfur by the Sudanese Armed Forces, the Rapid Support Forces, and their affiliated groups.

The RSF denies these accusations and has even spuriously pledged to arrest any RSF committing human rights violations.

On November 13, 2023, the RSF announced the formation of a fact-finding committee that will investigate the widespread violations that affected thousands of civilians in the state of West Darfur following their seizure of Ardamata. A statement issued by the spokesman for the RSF at the time read: “Based on the circumstances that accompanied the liberation of the city of El Geneina. The Forces Commander, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, instructed the formation of an investigation committee to investigate all the events and present its findings to the public.”

In an interview with Ayin, human rights activist Abdul Basit Al-Haj says there is considerable evidence to prosecute the warring parties for war crimes under international law. “The process of ending impunity in Sudan is an integrated process between the international judiciary and the local judiciary,” he said. Al-Haj says Sudan must take serious steps towards ending impunity by opening real internal investigations to hold all criminals accountable after making the necessary reforms in the judicial system.