Scorched earth, Poisoned air

The Sudanese government is inflicting unspeakable human suffering on its own people.

Amnesty International has gathered harrowing evidence strongly suggesting the repeated use of chemical weapons against civilians, including very young children, in Jebel Marra – one the most remote parts of Darfur.

The effects of these chemicals on the human body are gruesome and frequently fatal.

Based on testimony from caregivers and survivors, Amnesty International estimates that between 200 and 250 people may have died as a result of exposure to chemical weapons agents. Many – or most – are children.

Amnesty International’s investigation found that at least 30 suspected chemical attacks have taken place so far this year. The most recent was on 9 September.

It is time to expose the harrowing human rights violations taking place in Jebel Marra to a world that has so far ignored them.

Babies screaming with pain before dying, young children vomiting blood. The images we have seen are truly shocking.

Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s Director of Crisis Response

Damning evidence

Independent chemical weapons experts said Amnesty International’s findings suggested exposure to chemical warfare agents.

Deadly effects 

It is hard to exaggerate just how cruel the effects of chemical weapons are when they come into contact with the human body. Those exposed to the chemicals developed symptoms reported to include:

  • Bloody vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Blistering and rashes on skin that hardened, changed colour and fell off
  • Eye problems including complete loss of vision
  • Respiratory problems (which appeared to be one of the most common cause of death) 

The vast majority of survivors of the suspected chemical weapons attacks have visited no formal medical clinics and had no access to adequate medical care.

Mapping the devastation

Satellite imagery confirms that 171 villages have been destroyed or damaged in the last eight months of the Sudanese government’s military campaign.  Together with Amnesty International, SITU Research developed an interactive digital platform that tells the stories of devastation in Jebel Marra. Navigate the map to see the villages affected, read quotes from witnesses and learn about the horrors that took place in this remote and inaccessible part of Sudan.

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The smoke was initially black, then it turned green. It had a nasty smell as if something rotten was mixed with chlorine.

Khalil, attack survivor

The Darfur crisis in numbers

3 Million
People remain displaced since 2016
Killed in Darfur since the start of the conflict
Villages damaged or destroyed in the Jebel Marra region alone in 2016


Amnesty International has obtained several images of victims of fatal chemical weapons attacks in Darfur, including children, that many viewers will find distressing. We have chosen to publish these images because we believe the immense human suffering caused by the Sudanese government forces’ attacks on Darfur must no longer be ignored by the world.
This victim’s right arm has large, roughly circular lesions. There are smaller nodules or papules scattered between the larger lesions. A linear scar is seen near the wrist.
This victim has large areas of dark red skin with areas that have been stripped bare, adjacent to large swathes of unaffected skin.
The buttocks of this victim in particular exhibit crops of large, often semi-umbilicated lesions that are distinctly atypical for sulfur-mustard lesions. Scattered nodules or papules are present on the upper thighs.
The skin on this victim’s back shows discoloration from a liquid, although whether the liquid is from lesions or is liquid applied to the wounds cannot be ascertained. These lesions are not inconsistent with exposure to sulfur mustard or a similar chemical-warfare-agent vesicant, although other causes such as scalding could also result in this pattern.
The most predominant feature on this victim is extensive skin denudation (peeling off) bordered by apparently unaffected skin. The areas of denudation resemble peeling due to exposure to high doses of sulfur mustard, except for the sharp borders between affected and unaffected skin.
The right side shows large areas of denudation (peeling). As in the previous image, this may indicate exposure to a high dose of sulfur mustard.

Ignored by the world

Scorched earth, mass rapes, killings and bombs. The war crimes being committed in Jebel Marra are the same as those seen in 2004, when the world first woke up to what was happening in Darfur. The region has been stuck in a catastrophic cycle of violence for more than 13 years and little has changed.

It is time for the UN Security Council to increase pressure on the Sudanese authorities to ensure that peacekeepers and humanitarian agencies are allowed to access remote areas such as Jebel Marra. There is also an urgent need to investigate the use of chemical weapons.

The world’s response to the crisis in Darfur has been utterly deplorable. It cannot continue to avert its eyes in the face of such immense human suffering.

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