February 22, 2011 (NAIROBI) – Sudanese security authorities have employed several forms of gender-based violence, including rape, against female activists who took part in recent anti-government campaigns, a local right group said on Sunday.
- A still image taken from a Youtube video showing Sudanese police beat women
Small anti-government protests erupted on 30 January in the capital Khartoum and other parts of the country in response to a campaign organized via the internet by youth groups inspired by the wave of revolts convulsing the Middle East.
Sudanese police supported by elements of the country’s security watchdog, National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), used heavy force to break up demonstrators, arresting dozens in the process.
Sudan Democracy First Group (SDFG), a Sudanese civil society organization, on Sunday issued a press release citing the cases of six politically active females it said were subjected to verbal and sexual abuse, including rape, at the hands of NISS agents.
According to the organization’s release, one female activist identified only by the letter S.E was snatched by NISS agents on 13 February and eventually raped following her interrogation which featured multiple physical and verbal abuses.
A video appearing on the video-sharing website Youtube and seen by Sudan Tribune showed the said girl with her face completely covered in scarf sobbing as she recounted her alleged ordeal.
The video has generated furious reactions online and Sudanese facebookers setup a page titled “we’re all the raped S.E” which is modeled on the “we’re all Khalid Saeed” page which galvanized support for the Egyptian revolution that toppled President Mubarak this month.
SDFG’s press release said that crimes of sexual violence were not a novelty in Sudan, recalling that the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) had perpetrated them against women in Sudan’s western region of Darfur.
“However, what is new with these crimes is their use of repression and oppression outside of war affected zones and transferring them to urban settings, and to the capital, Khartoum,” the organization added.
SDFG stressed that justice must be served for the victims of sexual abuse in Darfur through national and international mechanisms, including the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The Hague-based ICC has charged three Sudanese officials, including President Omar Al-Bashir, of masterminding war crimes and crimes against humanity, including rape, in the western region where conflict between the government and ethnic rebels killed 300, 000 people since it erupted in 2003, according to UN figures.
SDFG further said that the struggle for civil freedoms in Sudan must include “repelling the laws and practices of the public order regime and removing the powers granted in the National Security Act, in addition to ratifying the international and regional treaties for women’s rights.”
The status of women rights and freedoms in Sudan remains under constant attack by activists as local authorities continue to prosecute and flog women convicted under the loosely defined charge of “indecency” in the Public Order Law.
Last year, a Youtube video showing a Sudanese women being flogged by the police as she screamed for help had outraged activists who took to the streets in protest.
Separately, STED leveled mild criticism against the international community for focusing its attention on stability in Sudan, saying that such approach serves to maintain crimes of sexual violence.
The global human rights watchdog Amnesty International warned on 2 February that anti-government protestors held in the custody of the NISS are “at risk of torture or other ill-treatment.”