Home | News    Saturday 30 July 2005

UN : Forces in Darfur committing rape despite agreement with govt

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By NICK WADHAMS

UNITED NATIONS, July 30, 2005 (AP) — Sudanese police and soldiers continue to rape helpless civilians in Darfur despite government promises to stop them and punish those responsible, according to a U.N. report.

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Louise Arbour

Victims and witnesses are routinely threatened and sometimes even charged with crimes if they come forward with allegations of rape, the report released Friday said. Authorities also intimidate humanitarian groups investigating the claims.

"Many women do not report incidents, out of fear of reprisals," the report said. "Some police stations refuse to register and investigate complaints of sexual violence."

The report was drawn up at the request of Louise Arbour, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. She wanted to assess Sudan’s compliance with promises it made last year to punish those who commit sexual violence against civilians in Darfur.

It said the government has taken small steps — such as creating a committee on gender-based violence — but hasn’t brought offenders to justice on a large scale.

"Basically we see extremely poor results in the investigation and successful prosecution of perpetrators of very serious sexual violence," Arbour told a news conference. "Rape, gang rape and so on continue to be very prevalent by all accounts."

The report said offenders include members of the law enforcement, security forces and pro-government militia, the report noted. Suspects have been tried very rarely, Arbour said.

"We’re talking a handful of cases where we’ve been able to document a successful prosecution," she said.

Sexual violence has been a key problem in Darfur since Sudan’s government allegedly unleashed Arab tribal militia known as the Janjaweed to suppress rebels who took up arms in February 2003.

The campaign of murder, rape and arson has killed 180,000 people, many from hunger and disease, destroyed crops and ruined countless homes. Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice toured Darfur and said "a genocide was committed here." She met privately with female refugees, including some rape victims.

The report called on the Sudanese government to end "the climate of impunity."

Even when women do report sexual offenses, authorities "generally deny the allegations of rape and sexual violence and intimidate the victims and witnesses into withdrawing their charges," the report noted.

In her news conference Friday, Arbour said Sudan’s government had been "extremely unreceptive" about recognizing the magnitude of the problem.

"The government has to acknowledge that this is not a fabrication by humanitarian workers and NGOs and so on," Arbour said, referring to non-governmental organizations who have reported on widespread rape in Darfur.

Women are "preyed upon continually by members of the armed forces, by militias, by soldiers, policemen, people who should be brought under control by the government," Arbour said.

On Thursday, she told the U.N. Security Council that Sudan either can’t or won’t hold rapists accountable.

Earlier this year, the Security Council referred cases of crimes against humanity in Darfur to the International Criminal Court, the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal. Lead prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo suggested in June that rape would be one crime he would pursue.

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