1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Sudan suspected of using chemical weapons in Darfur

September 29, 2016

Amnesty International is alleging that the Sudanese government used chemical weapons against its own citizens in a remote region of Darfur and is calling for further access to the area.

Sudan Darfur Konflikt Flüchtlinge
Image: Getty Images/AFP/A. Shazly

The rights group Amnesty International says it has credible evidence that the Sudanese government has been using chemical weapons against civilians in one of the more  remote regions of Darfur over the last eight months. The group estimates that at least 30 possible chemical attacks have taken place in the Jebel Marra area of Darfur in which more than two hundred people were killed. Jonathan Loeb is a crisis response advisor with Amnesty International. He spoke to DW’s Mark Caldwell about the the group's findings.   

DW: How was Amnesty able to ascertain that chemical weapons in particular were used in these attacks?

Jonathan Loeb: Amnesty International was able to gather a great deal of testimonial and photographic evidence by doing phone interviews with over 50 survivors of these alleged chemical attacks who provided descriptions of the signs and symptoms that developed in people after they were exposed to the suspected chemical weapons. 

Several of them were able to send photographs of the victims to Amnesty after these interviews. We were then able to share the interview notes and the photographic evidence with two independent chemical weapons experts based in the United States who both independently came to the conclusion that these wounds and these injuries were not the product of conventional weapons and were most likely due to a class of chemical weapons known as blister agents or vesicants. However without access to the area and without the ability to do soil samples and urine and blood samples it is impossible to know definitively which type of chemicals were used in these attacks.

Are these weapons not banned under international treaties?

Yes. Chemical weapons have been banned under several treaties including the Chemical Weapons Convention to which Sudan along with 191 other countries are signatories. 


Darfur Flüchtlingslager in Zam Zam - UNAMID
Amnesty International is also calling for greater access to the area for UN peacekeepersImage: Getty Images/AFP/A. Shazly

Where and how did Sudan attain these weapons?

We are not able to determine exactly where or how Sudan obtained these weapons. This is one of the reasons we are calling for an on-site investigation led by the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons into the development and use of these chemical weapons.

Apart from further investigations, what other actions would Amnesty like to see taken in light of its investigations?

These suspected chemical attacks took place in the context of a large military campaign in an area called Jebel Marra. During this campaign we also documented a variety of other violations of international law including unlawful killings, forced displacement and sexual violence.

In addition to the investigation, Amnesty is calling for the government of Sudan to permit access to this area for international actors as they are currently prohibited from entering. We are also calling on the UN Security Council to pressure the government to allow the UN peacekeeping mission that is in Darfur access to this area and the ability to build a base in this area so that they can provide protection to the civilians who are still living there.

The interview was conducted by Mark Caldwell.