The UN human rights head called the situation in Sudan “heartbreaking” and sent a direct appeal to the two opposing generals to put an end to sexual abuse and preserve civilian lives.
Over a million people have been forced to flee the carnage as a result of fighting in Sudan that started more than a month ago.
Volker Turk, who met with both generals in Sudan in November, said his office had received reports of fighter jets and clashes in the capital Khartoum overnight despite a ceasefire.
“Many civilians are virtually besieged in areas where fighting has been relentless,” Turk told a Geneva press briefing where he addressed crises from around the world.
“General (Abdel Fattah) al-Burhan, General (Mohamed Hamdan) Dagalo, you must issue clear instructions, in no uncertain terms to all those under your command, that there is zero tolerance for sexual violence…civilians must be spared and you must stop this senseless violence now,” he said.
He said his office had documented at least 25 cases of sexual violence so far, and that the real number was likely to be much higher.
In the same speech, he also expressed concern about shrinking civic space around the world, mentioning China in particular.
Asked about how he would follow-up on a report by his predecessor last year which found that China may have committed crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, he said: “We are on it and we are going to continuously work on it”.
China vigorously denies any abuses in Xinjiang.
Turk also voiced broader concerns about the rapid advances in artificial intelligence, specifically the generative AI technology behind ChatGPT, describing both the opportunities and risks as “immense”.
“Human rights need to be baked into AI throughout its entire lifecycle, and both governments and companies need to do more to ensure that guardrails are in place,” he said.