Global Policy Forum

Darfur: The Evidence of War Crimes


By Andrew Grice

August 2, 2007

500 drawings by children who escaped the violence are to be submitted to the International Criminal Court as proof of war crimes by Sudanese forces.

Dramatic new evidence of the attacks on the people of Darfur by Sudanese government troops has emerged in 500 drawings by children who escaped the violence by fleeing across the border to Chad. In a ground-breaking move, the remarkable collection of images will now be submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has started proceedings against a Sudanese government minister and a militia commander accused of committing war crimes in Darfur. The testimony of the children, some as young as eight, emerged by chance when a peace campaigner handed the children paper, pencils and crayons to keep them occupied while she interviewed their mothers.

Anna Schmidt, a researcher for Waging Peace, which campaigns against genocide, had been hoping to gain information about the atrocities in Darfur from the women, who are among 250,000 to have fled to the relative safety in neighbouring Chad. Yet it was their children who provided perhaps the most significant indication yet of exactly what has gone on in Darfur. Most of them could not read or write. But they could draw. And, unprompted, they started to reveal what they had seen with their own eyes. The drawings depict Sudanese tanks, planes and helicopters launching co-ordinated attacks with the Arab Janjaweed militia against Darfuris defending themselves with bows and arrows. The government of Sudan has repeatedly denied launching military attacks in Darfur.

The graphic images include the bombing of civilians and children; homes being set on fire as villages are destroyed; beheadings; victims lying in pools of blood; women chained together being led away; and mass graves. Many of the children who drew the stories of their lives do not have fathers or brothers. Men and older boys have been slaughtered in Darfur. Childish lines that look as though they should be depicting fairgrounds or farmyards, instead show helicopter gun attacks, tanks bearing the Sudanese flag, and soldiers wearing the uniform of the Sudanese army alongside vehicles with machineguns driven by Janjaweed. The perpetrators are always light-skinned. The victims are always black.

"This is the proof," said Rebecca Tinsley, a director of Waging Peace, who will submit the drawings to the ICC and plans to exhibit them to rally support for tougher international action against Sudan. "If this is not evidence, I don't know what is. The children have provided a photographic record. They have not been manipulated. The pattern that emerged in the drawings is amazing. It corroborates what we know is happening and disproves what we are being told by the government of Sudan."

The ICC has named two suspects wanted for alleged war crimes in Darfur. They are Ahmed Muhammed Harun, formerly Sudan's junior interior minister responsible for Darfur and now humanitarian affairs minister, and Ali Mohammed Ali Abd-al-Rahman, a leader of one of the Janjaweed militias. But there is no guarantee they will be handed over by Sudan. About 110 people are dying in Darfur every day, according to Waging Peace. More than 200,000 people have been killed since the crisis began four years ago, two million have been displaced and four million rely on food aid.

On Tuesday, the United Nations backed a British and French resolution which will allow a 26,000-strong UN-African Union peacekeeping force to go to Darfur. But British officials admit this is only a first step towards a long-term peace settlement in Sudan and that the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum has made concessions before, only to frustrate progress at a later stage. There are already signs that it may do so again, with one Sudanese minister reportedly saying the UN resolution may be "stillborn".

Ms Tinsley expressed concern at statements by the Sudanese government yesterday that the force would come from African nations. She said the African Union was already overstretched and 13,000 short of the number of troops it needed in Somalia. She saw the statements as "predictable delaying tactics" by Khartoum. She feared the force might not be in place until next February, even though the UN wants to start deploying it in October. Ms Tinsley is campaigning for tougher sanctions on leading figures in the Sudanese government such as a travel ban on its prominent figures.

Omer Siddig, the Sudanese ambassador in London, welcomed the UN resolution yesterday as "a step forward in the right direction". He said it was not true that Sudanese government had given implicit or explicit support to the Janjaweed in their campaign of ethnic cleansing. "We are the government and we know things on the ground," he told BBC Radio 4.

When she visited Darfur, Ms Tinsley gathered evidence of the systematic rape of black women when they left refugee camps to gather firewood. She said rape was being used as a weapon of war, with victims being told: "I want to dilute your blood." Men called their victims abid (slave). A "second wave of genocide" was happening because many women were developing HIV-Aids and could not get drugs to treat the disease. Victims were often subsequently shunned by men.

Some aid agencies are reluctant to speak out against Sudan, fearing that they might be expelled from the country. There are claims that aid workers are being intimidated. One was accused of "telling lies" about conditions in Darfur when he returned after the Sudanese government spotted an interview he gave to his local newspaper. When Ms Tinsley interviewed women in Darfur, several told her: "You have to be our voice. We don't have a voice." Now, the women's children have found theirs.

More Information on International Justice
More Information on the ICC Investigations in Darfur
More Information on International Criminal Court Investigations
More Information on the International Criminal Court
More Information on Sudan


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.