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Sudan must rewrite laws to protect rape victims

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Refugees International

Report on Sudanese Laws Exposes Unjust System that
Compounds Rape Victims’ Trauma

June 28, 200 — (Washington, DC) - Sudan’s laws governing rape expose rape victims to further abuse, shield perpetrators from prosecution, limit the ability for survivors to receive medical services and generally deny any access to justice, according to a detailed analysis by Refugees International. The crisis of rape in Sudan’s Darfur region can’t be addressed until Sudan revises its laws, says the report, Laws Without Justice: An Assessment of Sudanese Laws Affecting Survivors of Rape.

The Refugees International report examines Sudan’s laws on rape and makes a series of recommendations on how they can be revised. The report also encourages international support of Sudanese civil society organizations and opposition members of Parliament who are calling for changes to these laws. Laws Without Justice was written by Adrienne Fricke, an Arabic speaking lawyer, and Amira Khair, a Sudanese human rights advocate who has worked extensively with rape victims in Darfur, after extensive interviews and legal analysis in Sudan.

"Much has been written about the scale of rape in Darfur," Fricke said. "But unless we understand the legal mechanisms that are creating and reinforcing the problem, it will be impossible to bring justice to the victims or reduce the incidence of rape. Denying justice to these women only compounds the terrible physical and psychological trauma of rape."

Laws Without Justice resulted from a January meeting between Sudanese President Omer Al-Bashir and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. During this visit, the officials in Sudan’s Ministry of Justice extended an invitation to analyze the Government’s purported efforts to address sexual violence against Sudanese women. Refugees International president Ken Bacon, who was in the Richardson delegation, accepted this invitation, and Fricke and Khair, working as consultants to Refugees International, met in Khartoum in March to interview people with knowledge about the crisis of rape in Darfur. After a week, the Sudanese government turned uncooperative and gave 24 hours to leave the country.

"The Government of Sudan invited us to analyze its laws against rape," Bacon explained. "We accepted this invitation and despite the government’s efforts to block our study, we are now providing constructive steps that the Government can take to improve these laws and increase protections for women who have been raped. Sudan’s laws can be changed and there is a strong community of Sudanese activists calling for reforms who should be supported."

Rape of Darfuri women on a mass scale is one of the hallmarks of the conflict in Darfur. Analysts say it is part of a calculated plan to destroy communities and contributes directly to ethnic cleansing. If a woman cannot prove that she did not consent to intercourse, she can be accused of adultery - a crime that carries a sentence of one hundred lashes or even stoning?even if she was raped. Sudan’s laws also grant immunity to members of the military, security services, police and border guards. Many members of the Janjaweed militias that carry out the worst atrocities in Darfur are integrated in the Popular Defense Forces, which is also exempt from prosecution. The Government also continues to harass non- governmental organizations who work with rape victims and doctors who provide medical treatment to raped women.

Many legal and human rights experts in Sudan recognize the need to change these laws. Prominent Sudanese NGOs collaborated with the United Nations and recommended reforms to the Government of Sudan, and there is a concept paper being circulated in Parliament that addresses these reform proposals.

"There is nothing inherently Islamic about the way Sudan’s rape law is constructed," Fricke continued. "This report provides greater documentation on the implementation of Sudan’s laws relating to rape so that the Sudanese people can continue their efforts to change them. Women who have survived sexual violence should not be penalized for seeking justice."

In addition to urging international support for local Sudanese efforts to reform these laws, the report urges the African Union Mission in Sudan and UN Hybrid Peacekeeping Force to adopt a stronger mandate to protect women and girls and allocate sufficient resources and training to deal with survivors of sexual violence. The report also calls on international aid organizations to support rape awareness campaigns and work with local groups to improve community support for victims of sexual violence.

"Sudanese officials continue to deny that rape is a problem, and Refugees International repeats our call on the U.S. and the international community to implement tougher policies against the Government of Sudan - including stricter sanctions - to end the violence and rape in Darfur," Bacon concluded. "In addition to the massive suffering that the Darfuri people have endured throughout this four-year conflict, the violence threatens the stability of the entire region. More pressure must be put on the warring parties to end the fighting."

Attached the full text of Refugees International.

PDF - 859.2 kb
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