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Sudan: UN experts sound alarm over escalating of the human trafficking and recruitment crisis

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Press release

Geneva – March 25, 2024


United Nations experts have sounded the alarm over the escalating crisis of trafficking in persons, particularly affecting women, girls, and children in war-torn Sudan. Against the backdrop of a deteriorating humanitarian situation characterized by the displacement of over 9 million people, reports of trafficking for sexual exploitation, forced marriage, and recruitment of children into armed conflict have surged.

According to the experts, access to support for victims and survivors has significantly deteriorated since December 2023, eight months following the

outbreak of conflict between the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in April 2023. Disturbingly, young women and girls, including internally displaced persons, are being trafficked for sexual slavery and exploitation.

Expressing deep concern, the experts highlighted reports of women and girls being sold at slave markets in areas controlled by RSF forces and other armed groups, particularly in North Darfur. They also raised alarms about the rise in child, early, and forced marriages, often a consequence of family separation and exacerbated by gender-based violence, including rape and unwanted pregnancies.

Despite prior warnings to Sudanese authorities and RSF representatives, the experts continue to receive reports of children being recruited to participate in hostilities, even from neighboring countries. They underscored that such recruitment, especially for combat roles, constitutes a grave violation of human rights and international humanitarian law.

The experts also expressed distress over ongoing looting and attacks targeting UN agencies crucial for delivering humanitarian relief. The closure of essential support facilities, including Women and Girls Safe Spaces (WGSS) and hospitals, due to looting and destruction has severely hampered aid efforts.

Moreover, they emphasized the challenges humanitarian, civil society, and aid agencies face in operating and accessing conflict-affected areas due to continuous interference and restrictions imposed by armed groups. This situation has heightened the risks faced by at-risk populations, including women, children, refugees, and internally displaced persons, exacerbating the dangers of trafficking in persons.

In light of these concerns, the experts called for urgent accountability and effective investigation of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. They also expressed apprehension regarding the impact of the closure of the UN Mission in Sudan amidst ongoing violence and insecurity.

It is noted that the UN experts have communicated with the RSF and Sudanese authorities in their efforts to address the alarming situation.

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