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Darfur: New weapons from China and Russia fuelling conflict

Sales to Sudan underline need for an effective Arms treaty

Arms sales from China and Russia are fuelling serious human rights violations in Darfur, Amnesty International said in a new report today . These arms transfers highlight the urgent need to strengthen the existing ineffectual UN arms embargo and for governments to agree an effective Arms treaty.

The new report Sudan: No end to the conflict in Darfur documents how China, Russia, and Belarus continue to supply weapons and munitions to Sudan despite compelling evidence that the arms will be used against civilians in Darfur. Exports include significant quantities of ammunition, helicopter gunships, attack aircraft, air-to-ground rockets and armoured vehicles.  

An estimated 70,000 people were displaced from eastern Darfur in 2011 in a wave of ethnically targeted attacks against the Zaghawa community by Sudanese government forces and militias. 

Amnesty International’s military and policing expert Brian Wood said:

'China and Russia are selling arms to the Government of Sudan in the full knowledge that many of them are likely to end up being used to commit human rights violations in Darfur.
'The Darfur conflict is sustained by the constant flow of weapons from abroad. To help prevent further serious violations of human rights, all international arms transfers to Sudan should be immediately suspended and the UN arms embargo extended to the whole country.'

The United Nations Security Council will again consider existing Sudan sanctions next week.

The UK will join other governments to resume crucial talks on a future Arms Treaty next week. As the UK holds one of the five permanent seats of the United Nations Security Council – along with Russia, China, France and the USA – Amnesty has called on the UK Government to lead the call for an effective new Arms treaty, which would stop weapons transfers where there is a substantial risk the arms will be used to commit serious human rights abuses.

Amnesty International UK Arms Programme Director Oliver Sprague said:

'Russia and China have so far resisted strong treaty content which would be necessary to stop transfers like this from taking place. To ensure we get this treaty, we need the UK – as a major arms exporter and influential government – to show leadership. Any weakness by the UK could act as encouragement to countries who want to scupper a strong and effective treaty.'

Brian Wood added:

'Until governments agree a strong Arms treaty with specific rules to respect human rights, UN arms embargoes will continue to be flouted and millions of people will continue to suffer the consequences of irresponsible arms transfers, as they do in Darfur.' 

Arms supplied to the Government of Sudan are used in Darfur both directly by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and government-backed militia including the Popular Defence Force (PDF). The PDF – formally commanded and equipped by SAF – operate alongside them, including by being deployed on SAF vehicles.

Chinese-manufactured small arms ammunition is being used in Darfur by SAF, other Sudanese security agencies and SAF-backed militia groups.

One attack, on 1 December 2011, at the Zam Zam camp for people displaced by the conflict, saw Sudanese security forces carry out a looting raid during which one man was shot dead and six other people were seriously injured. Witnesses reported finding ammunition following the raid bearing Chinese ‘41’ and ‘71’ manufacture codes, and (20)06 and (20)08 manufacture dates indicating that it was transferred to Darfur after the UN arms embargo was imposed.

Amnesty has also discovered that 2010-manufactured ammunition with Chinese manufacturing codes had been observed in Southern Kordofan in 2011.

Last year, fighting in eastern Darfur saw a repeated pattern of aerial attacks on both military and civilian targets using SAF Sukhoi-25 ground-attack aircraft, Mi-24 helicopter gunships, and Antonov transport aircraft used as rudimentary but effective bombers.

Amnesty International has found that Sudan received 36 new Mi-24 helicopter gunships between 2007 and 2009. The continual replacement of Mi-24s by the Russian Federation makes it possible for attacks in Darfur to continue.

A photograph taken at St Petersburg airport in Russia in May 2011 shows a new Mi-24P helicopter gunship painted in SAF markings apparently awaiting export to Sudan.

Amnesty International has obtained evidence of the use of air-to-ground rockets in several SAF airstrikes during 2011, both attacks in Darfur, and elsewhere in Sudan. These rockets have been manufactured in a number of former Soviet Union countries and are consistent with the weapons suites of Mi-24 helicopter gunships and Su-25 ground attack aircraft.

Sudan has continued to import a significant number of armoured vehicles from Belarus and the Russian Federation.  Amnesty International has documented the use of both BTR-80A armoured vehicles and multiple-rocket launchers mounted on Land Cruiser-type vehicles in SAF and SAF/PDF operations in eastern Darfur in the first half of 2011.

  • Download report: Sudan: No end to the conflict in Darfur span style='text-decoration: underline;'> (PDF)


Amnesty is calling on the UN Security Council to:

  • Immediately expand the current UN arms embargo to cover the whole of Sudan to stop military and related supplies reaching all parties to the conflict in Darfur. This embargo should continue to be monitored by an adequately resourced UN Panel of Experts which reports regularly to the Security Council's Sanctions Committee. The Panel of Experts should carry out investigations internationally and should regularly monitor the main ports of entry to Sudan to help ensure that the embargo is respected
  • Demand that the government of Sudan complies with the existing UN arms embargo on Darfur, including by stopping all offensive military flights and seeking prior authorisation from the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee to move military equipment and supplies into Darfur.

Amnesty is calling on governments to deliver an effective Arms Treaty that includes:

  • strong human rights parameters to prevent an arms transfer of conventional arms if there is a substantial risk that those arms are likely to be used for serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law;
  • a comprehensive scope to include all weaponry, munitions, armaments and other equipment used for military and law enforcement operations;
  • robust standards for implementation and enforcement including national authorisation and licensing systems.

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