International Law And Crime Against Humanity In Africa: A Case Study Of Dafur

Project and Seminar Material Under International Law and Diplomacy

International Law And Crime Against Humanity In Africa: A Case Study Of Dafur


The research examines international law and crime against humanity in Africa, with focus on Darfur.

The study adopted qualitative method and historical/analytical design was used in analyzing its data. Data were collected through secondary sources which include newspapers, archives, books, conference proceedings, etc.

The findings revealed that: Government forces and militias conducted indiscriminate attacks, including killing of civilians, torture, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, rape and other forms of sexual violence, pillaging and forced displacement, throughout Darfur;. The extensive destruction and displacement have resulted in a loss of livelihood and means of survival for countless women, men and children;. Women and girls were abducted, held in confinement for several days and repeatedly raped by Janjaweed and soldiers in villages under attack, military camps and hideouts.

The study concluded that, instead of the international community engaging in academic gymnastics of determining whether the killing fields of Darfur qualify as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or domestic crimes, the international community should strive to prevent further killings even if it later turns out that it made a mistake in its labelling of the situation.

The study further recommends that; Some of the perpetrators should be prosecuted for complicity in genocide;. Members of the government forces and Janjaweed should be persons who bear the greatest responsibility for the crimes committed in Darfur;. There should be prosecution of perpetrators on individual responsibility and joint criminal enterprise;. There should massive developmental intervention in the destroyed communities and villages;. Victims of the Darfur crisis are supposed to be rehabilitated.

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

Crime against humanity recognizes that large-scale violence is different from ordinary domestic crime. It requires examining systems and patterns of crime in order to better understand their origins, particularly where there is evidence of state orchestration or involvement (Magaret, 2011). Responsibility can be extended up the chain of command to include those who either gave the orders to commit the crimes in question, or who failed to take action to prevent or punish crimes that they knew were being committed. For these reasons, an international criminal law framework can capture issues of context, scale, and patterns of violence (Luban, 2014).

In Africa, prosecutions for crimes against humanity must prove not just that an atrocity took place, but other contextual elements that it was part of a widespread and systematic pattern (Richburg, 2012). Crimes against humanity should be crimes that pose attack on a civilian population, which was carried out with the knowledge of the alleged perpetrator. As a result, trials for crimes against humanity possess much greater potential for exposing the root causes of atrocity crime. This can helps society and the state better ascertain the truth of what happened, as well as to determine how best to address those causes (Broomhall, 2011).

Crimes against humanity can be committed during peace or war. They are not isolated or sporadic events, but are part either of a government policy or of a wide practice of atrocities tolerated or condoned by a government or a de facto authority (Rothe & Mullins, 2017). War crimes, murder, massacres, dehumanization, genocide, ethnic cleansing, deportations, unethical human experimentation, political repression, racial discrimination, religious persecution and other human rights abuses may reach the threshold of crimes against humanity if they are part of a widespread or systematic practice. In Darfur, since 2003, more than 200,000 people have been killed in the area and more than two million displaced (Rothe & Mullins, 2017). And nearly four million people now depend on humanitarian aid for food, shelter and health care. While some of the rebel groups have also committed serious human rights abuses, and have shown very little interest in resolving this conflict diplomatically.

Globally, Governments, inter-governmental organizations, corporations and non-governmental organizations spend considerable budget amounts maintaining international legal institutions as well as developing and practicing international law ( Martin, 2017). It involves international agreement concluded between one or more states and one or more international organizations which is in written form and governed by international law. Since international law depends on how conflict is solved by domestic legal order. Domestic effect of international law can be the application of customary international law or treaties to which the concerned state was a party (Simmons, 2011).

International law in many ways operates as political power, liberal institutionalism and transnational interdependence for a dominant explanation in international political affairs. However, international law differs from the domestic laws that govern our lives on a daily basis in Africa (Amr, 2013). Laws instituted by constituted governments at the national and provincial levels operate on a system based in legitimate government authority. Whether it is constitutional or legislative law, laws are understood to derive from the law-making powers granted to government entities. There is no central authority at the international level, and no international law-making body (Amr, 2013). Hence, international law is voluntary in origin becoming compulsory through multinational consensus, but in all cases derived from states behaviors. Rather than recognizing one central political authority, international law derives its authority from various political sources paramount of which are nation states and their political relationships.

Crime against humanity in Dafur was caused by intertribal conflicts. The crisis facing Darfur since 2003 is representative of a complex situation whose internal and external dimensions are too tangled to respond to the situation (Benvenista, 2014). However, political institutions of the respective state can have a direct influence on the creation of the norms that can later be applied in international law. International laws can take decisions without many of the affected states being involved in the decision-making process i.e. they exercise public authority unilaterally.

The humanitarian crisis in Darfur has slowly captivated international public, governmental, and media attention. With at least two million persons displaced and an estimated 400,000 killed, it is one of the many grave crises of failed states currently occurring within Africa which violates international law (Herrmann & Vaugha, 2011). As part of violation of international law, the people of the region have faced murder, displacement, rape, and banditry at the hands of the Sudanese government, the state-supported Janjaweed, and other militia groups, most notably the Sudan Liberation Army. Yet the United Nations concluded after a fact-finding mission to the region that these widespread atrocities did not constitute genocide but rather were defined as crimes against humanity.

However, the instances of crime against humanity was reflected from the fact that the Sudanese armed forces provided weapons, ammunition, uniforms, communications equipment, vehicles, and other support to the Janjaweed militias incorporated in the Popular Defense Forces, as well as to the ethnic militias in looser affiliation with the armed forces. The distribution of arms was not random; it was organized and weapons were registered as against the international law. A captured government soldier formerly based in Kebkabiya stated that “Two officers were sitting in chairs and were ordering eleven soldiers to give the weapons to the Janjaweed. They had lists of Janjaweed, by names. They were writing down the serial number of the weapon next to the name of the Janjaweed to whom the weapon was actually handed over. It took a very long time, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m”.

The Sudanese government has failed to investigate, let alone prosecute, local, regional, and national officials who planned, coordinated, and implemented “ethnic cleansing” or were otherwise implicated in war crimes and crimes against humanity which is a flagrant violation of international laws. According to Human Rights Watch (2017), only a few of those implicated in the atrocities are no longer in official positions, namely Ahmed Angabo Ahmed, ex-commissioner of Kass; El Tayeb Abdallah Torshain, commissioner of Mukjar, and Adam Hamid Musa, ex-governor of South Darfur. All three officials apparently left for reasons unrelated to their records; none of them was suspended from duty. Neither they nor any of the officials who remain in their positions have been investigated or prosecuted for crimes in Darfur. Based on this foregoing the current research is analyzing international law and crime against humanity in Africa with focus on Darfur.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The causes of the crime against humanity in Dafur is series of intertribal conflicts and it date back to the nineteenth century or even earlier. These historical factors are intricate and intertwined, and continue to influence the current situation in Darfur in a series of dynamic and shifting inter-relationships which has consequently led to violation of international laws (Benvenista, 2014). Some of the features of the crime against humanities in Darfur have echoes of former conflicts in the south, including brutal inter-tribal conflicts manipulated by the central Sudanese authorities. The Darfur Peace Accord is full of references to livelihoods and the importance of addressing those conditions that hamper sustainable livelihoods for different groups in order to achieve peace and recovery.

The crime against humanity in Darfur took the form of guerrilla conflict that took place in the Darfur region of Sudan from 2003 until 2009–2010. It began when the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement began attacking the Sudanese government in response to perceived oppression of black Sudanese by the majority Arab government. During the conflict government forces and Janjaweed militia have attacked black Sudanese in the Darfur region. These actions violates international laws and have been described as crime against humanity by a number of governments and human rights groups. Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president at the time, denied that his government had links to Janjaweed. However, several researches have been conducted on international law and crime against humanity but no research have been conducted on international law and crime against humanity with focus on Darfur.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The main objective of this study is to analyze international law and crime against humanity in Africa with focus on Darfur.

The specific objectives are:

  1. To explain the background and development of the conflict in Dafur.
  2. To identify the instances of human right violation in Dafur.
  3. To describe what constitute crime against humanity in Dafur.
  4. To examine the provisions of international law on crime against humanity in Dafur.
  5. To examine the extent to which international law is effective against crimes of humanities.

1.4 Research Questions

  1. How did the conflicts in Dafur starts and develops?
  2. What are the instances of human right violation in Dafur?
  3. What constitute crime against humanity in Dafur?
  4. What are the provisions of international law on crime against humanity in Dafur?
  5. How effective in international law against crimes of humanities in Darfur?

1.5 Significance of the Study

The outcome of this study will enlighten government, policy makers, stakeholders and the general public international law and crime against humanity in Africa with focus on Darfur.

The findings from this study will constitute a basis for future research and also contribute to the body of knowledge since it will be used as empirical literature.

Outcome of this study will also be a guide for policy formulation both at national and state level.

1.6 Methodology

Methodology is part of the research that shows the ways and approaches of collecting the data Oliver, (2004). This research is primarily qualitative as it is based on the international law and crime against humanity in Africa. The reason for choosing the qualitative method is the exploratory nature of study. According to Robson (1993), flexibility is always the main strength of the case study strategy in terms of interpretation and getting access to the specified places. The research is a based on secondary data. We will use document analysis/content analysis as main method of data collection. Document analysis/content analysis also called “textual analysis” (Travers, 2001) in the study will include all kinds of academic articles, textual and multi-media products, ranging from television programmes to web sites on the internet.

1.7 Scope of the Study

This study will cover international law and crime against humanity in Africa. It will focus on the entire Darfur. It will also cover issues spanning 2015 to 2019.

1.8 Operational Definition of Terms


The system of rules which a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members and which it may enforce by the imposition of penalties.

International Law:

Is a body of rules established by custom or treaty and recognized by nations as binding in their relations with one another.


Is an action or omission which constitutes an offence and is punishable by law.


Is the human race, which includes everyone on Earth. It’s also a word for the qualities that make us human, such as the ability to love and have compassion, be creative, and not be a robot or alien.

Crime Against Humanity:

Is a deliberate act, typically as part of a systematic campaign that causes human suffering or death on a large scale.

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