Home | Comment & Analysis    Wednesday 12 November 2014

Mass Sexual Violence: UNAMID declares it finds "no evidence"

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By Eric Reeves

November 10, 2014 - For over a week reports from Darfuris in the Tabit area (45 kilometre southwest of El-Fashir, North Darfur) have provided detailed accounts of the mass rape of girls and women by members of Khartoum’s regular armed forces (Sudan Armed Forces, SAF) on Friday, October 31 – through Saturday November 1. The assaults were in retaliation for the unexplained disappearance of an SAF soldier, with civilians in Tabit held responsible without evidence (it is unclear whether the missing soldier has been found). The accounts have been unusually detailed, from a growing number of sources, even as the event itself is without recorded precedent in the almost twelve years of the Darfur conflict. While the Janjaweed and other militia and paramilitary forces have many times been reported to have engaged in mass rape, and individual members of the SAF have been guilty of rape, never before has an entire SAF army unit engaged in an orgy of sexual violence, directed against an entire non-Arab/African village population.

[NB: All dates and time references appear in bold throughout; all emphases in quoted material have been added—ER]

Yet despite the overwhelming number and consistency of reports from Tabit and now nearby IDP camps, UNAMID declares today that,

None of those interviewed confirmed that any incident of rape took place in Tabit on the day of that media report. The team neither found any evidence nor received any information regarding the media allegations during the period in question.

Darfuris in Tabit are reported to be understandably shocked and uncomprehending, and with good reason. The conclusion of the UNAMID "investigation" is a travesty, a transparent capitulation before the show Khartoum ordered to be prepared for investigators when they finally arrived in Tabit. We gain a much better sense of what is to be found in Tabit from the Coordination Committee of Refugees and Displaced Persons in Darfur:

A delegation of five members of the Coordination Committee of Refugees and Displaced Persons in Darfur had also visited the village: “We just returned from Tabit on Friday [November 7] with a delegation, after two days of investigation. There we met 60 women and girls, we looked into their eyes while they told us they were raped by soldiers from 8 pm [on Friday, October 31] until 5:00am [on Saturday, November 1]. (Radio Dabanga [Tabit] 11 November 2014; full text of this crucial dispatch appears here as Appendix One and at https://www.radiodabanga.org/node/83429)

Critically, what the press release does not indicate is that a UNAMID investigative team reached Tabit on Tuesday, November 4 about 5:00am [it is not yet fully clear whether it is local time being reported] and was able, for perhaps ten minutes, to interview civilians at the Tabit transportation center; the four men confirmed the essential elements of what has been reported by Radio Dabanga, Sudan Tribune, and others (see below). The interview was interrupted by Military Intelligence, which roared up to halt the interview and engaged in a half-hour discussion with the UNAMID personnel, according to the men that had just previously been speaking with UNAMID themselves.

None of this is reflected in a UNAMID press release of the following day (Wednesday, November 5), which declared only that an investigative team had been turned away before reaching Tabit—thereby freeing UNAMID from confronting or revealing the information that had in fact been gathered in the brief interview in Tabit itself. Moreover, there were two investigative teams: one dispatched from Shengil Tobaya on Tuesday, November 4 to Tabit itself, but another on Wednesday, November 5 to ZamZam displaced persons camp outside El-Fashir; that investigative team departed from El-Fashir. UNAMID has chosen to conflate these two efforts in its statements, creating a deliberate confusion. UN Spokesman Dujarric in New York only partially clarified some of this in comments made today (November 10, 2014), but not in a way that makes sense of the UNAMID claim that they were turned away from Tabit by a military checkpoint before reaching the town. As one astute and highly informed observer informed me (email received November 10):

The [UNAMID investigative] patrol was sent back [from Tabit] to Shengil Tobaya on Tuesday [November 4]. But [this] proves that [the UNAMID patrol] passed the border between South and North Darfur and the transportation centre [in Tabit] before they could have reached the military checkpoint of Tabit, just north of Tabit [town]. Shengil Tobaya is south of Tabit and the military garrison is north [of Tabit]. [The] Tabit military base coordinates [are] 13.313832 | 25.087945: 1.5km north (April 2014) or 0.5km north [currently].

The upshot here is critical: if the UNAMID investigative team did encounter an SAF military checkpoint, it would have been after the conversation reported by multiple witnesses as having occurred in Tabit town itself. None of this is reported by UNAMID.

Even more consequentially, the press release does not note or explain key elements of he investigation revealed in an extraordinary dispatch by Radio Dabanga ("Denial of Darfur Rape Cases Shocks Tabit Victims," November 11, 2014, https://www.radiodabanga.org/node/83429):

[The UNAMID press release] did not mention that its verification team was accompanied by the government’s security officials.

Indeed, at one point the Radio Dabanga dispatch reports the observation of a UNAMID team member:

According to a UNAMID officer … national security staff, police forces, and [even] military personnel accompanied the convoy of the UN [UNAMID] delegation. “I think that every UNAMID staff member was accompanied by at least three people, from the security, police, or military. No one could speak freely to anyone. When we asked some people in Tabit, they only answered: ‘You should speak to the army commander and the authorities.’” UNAMID confirmed that it also interviewed the local Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) Commander during its visit.

Given the extreme risk of witness intimidation, this was deeply thoughtless or irresponsible—or more likely both—on the part of the UNAMID investigative team, and reflects almost total incomprehension of what the people of Tabit would have felt being interviewed. The Radio Dabanga dispatch goes on to note:

Prior to the arrival of the UNAMID delegation in Tabit and surrounding settlements, the commissioner of Tawila locality, Alumda Alhadi Abdallah Abdelrahman, openly threatened the population that any person who would speak to UNAMID about the rape, “would face the consequences.” “No one even dared to speak up to UNAMID, they just had to deny everything in front of them,” several attendants explained to Radio Dabanga.

In short, the press release of today [Monday, November 10] is speaking of a UNAMID investigation that was conducted after Military Intelligence (MI)—long the regime’s security "muscle" in Darfur—had had a full week in which to sanitize the crime scene and terrify any potential witnesses with threats of unspeakably brutal retaliation if any corroborated what had been reported from Tabit in the preceding days. And then to make sure that no one dared to speak the truth, MI assigned a team of military or security personnel to every investigator.

In one sense, this is not surprising, although it is out of the ordinary. Khartoum’s usual response is simply to deny access, a denial that UNAMID characteristically accepts with a shrug. But the Friday, November 7 declaration by Zainab Hawa Bangura, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, raised the stakes for all concerned: Khartoum, UNAMID, and the people of Tabit:

Zainab Hawa Bangura, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict [said that] UNAMID should be given access by the Government of Sudan to investigate and verify whether the incidents reported in the town of Tabit have occurred and, if they have, to ensure accountability. Furthermore, she called on humanitarian actors to ensure "appropriate services" for any survivors. "It is critical that in the process of verifying the facts that the safety of survivors is of paramount concern," she declared. (UN News Center, 7 November 2014)

Rarely has a single incident in Darfur aroused such immediate and widespread international attention in recent years, and as a result Khartoum officials certainly directed Military Intelligence to be especially thorough in its efforts to remove all evidence of any kind from the crime scene, and to terrify the witnesses into complying with the fabrication Khartoum had provided. Perversely, the very insistence by Bangura, and the concern expressed in some international quarters, ensured that the efforts by MI would have all necessary resources—and all the time required to prevent the kind of investigation Bangura declared necessary. Even more perversely, UNAMID’s disingenuous and deliberately misleading press release of today will prevent further investigation of any sort: Khartoum will insist that its account of what occurred at Tabit is supported by UNAMID and that there is no need for further investigation.

Past failures by UNAMID to confront Khartoum’s obstruction of timely, unconstrained investigations has encouraged the regime to believe that it may continue such policies indefinitely. This is so despite the explicit language of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that governs UNAMID’s presence in Darfur. The SOFA is too often forgotten when particular incidents are reported or the need for rapid movement is dictated—only to be halted by Khartoum’s military and security officials. But this is not because the SOFA (February 9, 2008) is at all ambiguous:

Travel and transport:

[12] UNAMID, its members and contractors, together with their property, equipment, provisions, supplies, materials and other goods, including spare parts, as well as vehicles and aircraft, including the vehicles, vessels and aircraft of contractors used exclusively in the performance of their services for UNAMID, shall enjoy full and unrestricted freedom of movement without delay throughout Darfur and other areas of Sudan where UNAMID is operating in accordance with its mandate by the most direct route possible, without the need for travel permits or prior authorization or notification….

One of the least considered casualties of the Darfur conflict is how the SOFAs of future peacekeeping missions will be undermined by the obduracy, obstructionism, and bad faith of Khartoum in abusing, and at times threatening, UNAMID—and its repeated, indeed incessant obstruction of UNAMID throughout Darfur. Tabit is only the most recent example:

[SAF spokesman colonel Al-Sawarmy Khaled] Saad also disclosed that the UNAMID has been authorised to probe the sexual assault charges, adding that they had been previously denied access because they did not seek to obtain a permission from the competent authorities before heading to Tabit. (Radio Dabanga, 10 November 2014)

So much for the "Status of Forces Agreement."

A brief time-line, clarifying events and the significance of UNAMID delays

These are the events of the past ten days as they can be constructed from Darfuris in Tabit and journalists who were able to speak with them:

Late October: A soldier from the SAF garrison near Tabit goes missing, as reported by the Sudan Tribune:

Sources say a soldier from the military garrison in the area was missed in Tabit after he went to the village to meet his girl friend. The denial of his whereabouts by the villagers triggered a search to recover the missing soldiers. His angry colleagues allegedly committed the punitive mass rape during this night operation. (Sudan Tribune [Khartoum] 9 November 2014)

Friday, October 31: Our best journalistic account of how the violence began remains the dispatch of Ruth Maclean for The Times (London), 6 November 2014:

Sudanese soldiers raped more than 200 women and girls in Darfur last week, according to villagers. An elder from the village of Tabit said a military commander at a nearby garrison accused the villagers last Friday [October 31] of harbouring a missing soldier and gave them until sunset to return him. The villagers had no knowledge of the soldier, but when night fell, soldiers surrounded Tabit, beat the men and chased them away, before raping the women and girls, including eight primary school pupils.

Ahmed Hussein Adam, a Darfuri academic at Cornell University, told Sudan Tribune that he had communicated with

… the victims of the rape and he heard “horrific accounts” about the incident committed by the Sudanese government soldiers in the area. “I spoke with many victims in Tabit, they told me their horrific stories and experiences: More than 650 solider in about 25 vehicles attacked the Tabit village from all directions at Friday 31 October 8pm (Sudan-time)." (Sudan Tribune, 7 November 2014)

Saturday, November 1: Rapes and beatings continued into the early morning before SAF forces finally returned to their garrison headquarters. There is a glaring disparity between the reports coming to Ahmed Adam ("650 soldiers in about 25 vehicles") and Khartoum’s account of the force stationed in the Tabit garrison, offered by the shamelessly mendacious SAF spokesman, Colonel Al-Sawarmi Khaled Saad: "Tabit is a small village and the number of troops in the military post does not exceed one hundred soldiers" (Sudan Tribune [Khartoum] November 9, 2014)

November 3: Evidently realizing the seriousness of the crimes he and his soldiers have committed,

…the commander, armed with a machine-gun and accompanied by some of his forces, returned to the village and apologised on Monday [November 3], explaining that the missing soldier had been found. He asked for the names of the women and girls and offered to take them to a military hospital in north Darfur. In the immediate aftermath of the attack his soldiers had prevented the women from leaving the village to seek medical treatment. “We refused his apology,” the elder said. “[We] demand the formation of an independent investigation into the crime, and to bring the perpetrators to justice.” Families have fled Tabit for nearby refugee camps. (Ruth Maclean for The Times [London] 6 November 2014)

This account is supported by many other accounts received from the people in Tabit (mainly to Darfuris in the diaspora) as well by reporting from Radio Dabanga. The accounts are consistent and unambiguous.

Tuesday, November 4: UNAMID sends from Shengil Tobaya an investigative patrol that arrives in Tabit at 5:00am; this is when the brief but revealing conversation with several residents of Tabit occurs before being interrupted by several cars of Military Intelligence personnel. If the UNAMID patrol encountered a Sudanese military checkpoint, it would have been north of Tabit, as the patrol was coming from the south, and thus would already have passed through Tabit. None of this figures in either of the press releases issued by UNAMID.

Wednesday, November 5: UNAMID issues a press release claiming that it had immediately sent an investigative patrol to Tabit, but had been turned away at a military checkpoint:

In a press statement today, the Mission cited reports of the alleged mass rape in the town of Tabit, located 45 kilometres southwest of El Fasher, in North Darfur. A UNAMID verification patrol was immediately dispatched to conduct an investigation but upon reaching the outskirts of the town was denied access by Sudanese military at a checkpoint. “The Mission leadership is calling on authorities of the Government of Sudan to grant UNAMID’s unhindered access to all Darfur, especially to areas where alleged incidents affecting civilians have been reported,” the statement read, adding that UNAMID remained “determined to obtain crucial information and leads.” (UN News Center, 5 November 2014)

We might wonder about the "immediacy" of the UNAMID response if this press release comes five days after the brutal assaults had begun in Tabit. Many have asked why UNAMID has such a poor communications network, making delays of this sort commonplace.

But more significant is the lie at the center of this press statement: "a UNAMID verification patrol was immediately dispatched to conduct an investigation but upon reaching the outskirts of the town was denied access by Sudanese military at a checkpoint." This is simply not true according to eyewitnesses from Tabit. Again, they report that in fact UNAMID did enter Tabit, specifically on Tuesday November 4 at 5:00am. Once in Tabit, UNAMID investigators spoke for at least ten minutes with four villagers at the transportation center in the town. There the UNAMID investigators received full confirmation of the sexual violence that raged from Friday, October 31 to Saturday morning, November 1.

It is a deeply disturbing and all too revealing fact that instead of admitting what investigators had discovered speaking with eyewitnesses, UNAMID claimed the team had been stopped at the checkpoint outside Tabit on November 4. As the conversation between UNAMID investigators and the four villagers continued, four cars containing Military Intelligence personnel roared onto the scene; those Darfuris present quickly walked away. They report that having walked some distance, they watched as Military Intelligence—which has long had the primary security role in Darfur—spoke with UNAMID investigators for half an hour. The UNAMID investigators then returned back to Shengil Tobaya.

Also on Wednesday, November 5, UNAMID is reliably reported to have attempted to investigate the Tabit reports by searching for recently displaced persons from the town at ZamZam displaced persons camp, just outside El-Fashir. No distinction between the two UNAMID missions is evident in the press release.

Thursday, November 6: Military officials impose a 5pm curfew in Tabit, according to a Darfuri reporting source.

Friday, November 7: A European Commission team visiting Kalma camp in South Darfur is apprised of what has occurred in Tabit by the well-established network of camp leaders. Several of the victims in Tabit have made it to ZamZam camp, just outside El-Fashir, and could easily have been interviewed at length by the EC team if it had been provided proper intelligence and weren’t completely under the control of Military Intelligence.

In a press release, Zainab Hawa Bangura, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, declares that,

UNAMID should be given access by the Government of Sudan to investigate and verify whether the incidents reported in the town of Tabit have occurred and, if they have, to ensure accountability. (UN News Center)

This statement comes six days after the frenzy of sexual violence had wound down in Tabit.

Sunday, November 9: The notorious liar and spokesman for the SAF, Colonel Al-Sawarmy Khaled Saad, tells reporters:

"[M]ass rape ’cannot be committed by any Sudanese institutions, military or otherwise.’ ’Mass rape is something completely new to us as Sudanese,’ he told a news conference. ’Tabit is a small village and our operation there is very small, and numbers around 100 soldiers,’ Saad said. (Agence France-Presse [Khartoum] 9 November 2014)

This is not evidence or reasoning but bald assertion, and a misrepresentation of the SAF military presence in Tabit. Certainly we know from reports by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Physicians for Human Rights, and Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières that "mass rape" is anything but new in Darfur. Such data as we have, coupled with the continuous individual reports coming from Radio Dabanga, strongly suggest that tens of thousands of Darfuri women and girls have been sexually assault over the past twelve years.

Moreover, Saad’s account comports poorly with what has been reported by The Times (London) and Radio Dabanga on the basis of first-hand conversations with the elders of Tabit:

"Commander admits to mass rape by soldiers in North Darfur," (Radio Dabanga [Tabit] 3 November 2014) - The commander of the soldiers who collectively raped women and girls in Tabit, near El Fasher, on Friday [October 31], admitted that his men committed the mass rape. He also acknowledged that they beat and humiliated the men in Tabit. The villagers have rejected his apology.

There is no indication that UNAMID on Sunday, September 9 pursued this potential line of inquiry—or even knew of it. Moreover, Saad’s explanation of why the UNAMID investigators were initially denied access shows how completely irrelevant the SOFA has become:

The UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said it sent a patrol from state capital El Fasher to Tabit on Tuesday and Sudanese soldiers barred it entry. “We welcomed them, but we asked them about the official permissions which they have to have with them, and they returned to El Fasher,” Saad said. (Agence France-Presse [Khartoum] 9 November 2014)

Saad is echoed by officials in Khartoum, suggesting the regime understands just how serious this particular episode of sexual violence has become:

The special prosecutor for crimes in Darfur on Saturday [November 8] denied the allegations [of rape in Tabit], saying the minister of justice immediately after his return from Qatar ordered to probe the mass rape. The official said they inspected the situation on the ground where “they verified the inaccuracy of what has been circulating in social media, and some of the local radio stations.” He further indicated he contacted the state officials, adding, “all confirmed that the area is free of complaints in this regard.” (Sudan Tribune [Khartoum] 9 November 2014)

Khartoum has never hesitated to lie—brazenly, baldly, or even untenably. It should be noted that the "special prosecutor for crimes in Darfur" has done nothing to bring to justice to any of those responsible for the tens of thousands of rapes that have occurred over the past twelve years, or indeed to do anything to halt the avalanche of violent crimes that have now created a climate of total impunity, no doubt encouraging the behavior of the SAF soldiers from the Tabit garrison. There is no security anywhere in Darfur, and the victims at Tabit are far from alone in facing the continuing genocidal ambitions of a regime that believes assaults on camps and remote villages is a way to "change the demography of Darfur," to "empty it of African tribes," as Janjaweed leader Musa Hilal notoriously recommended in August 2004.

Saad announced that as of 3pm, November 9, "UNAMID is now heading to Tabit."

At the same time, I received from a Darfuri academic in the diaspora, who is in contact with the elders of Tabit, this urgent message:

The commander of the army is angry because the elders refused to accept his bogus apology. The victims are in a desperate need for medical treatment (they are very traumatized) shelter, food and security. The elders whom I spoke with told me that the SAF’s intelligence elements have been threatening them not to speak to any one about the incident. The victims know that they are vulnerable and SAF could continue beating and harassing them. People are willing to speak out but they are very sacred…. The number of the victims is far higher than 200; many family elders refused to reveal or report their victims, [as] they are trying to avoid the stigma and the burden of such situation.

Monday, November 10: UNAMID issues a wholly implausible account, one contradicted by every shred of evidence that has come from the people of Tabit to interlocutors outside Darfur:

The team spent several hours touring the village and interviewing a variety of Tabit’s residents; including community leaders, ordinary men and women, teachers and students to ascertain the veracity of the media reports. Village community leaders reiterated to UNAMID that they coexist peacefully with local military authorities in the area. The team also interviewed the local Sudanese Armed Forces Commander.

None of those interviewed confirmed that any incident of rape took place in Tabit on the day of that media report. The team neither found any evidence nor received any information regarding the media allegations during the period in question.

No mention is made of the fact that this press release is being issued nine days after the worst of the brutality had ended (again, SAF forces responsible for the rapes and beatings left Tabit as of Saturday, November 1). This is evidently in hopes that observers will not draw the obvious conclusion: that during this extended period of time Military Intelligence was able to sanitize the crimes scene, removing any victims who might serve as evidence—and silence all potential witnesses with threats to kill, indeed to kill the entire family of people who spoke the truth about what occurred. As UNAMID has consistently and persuasively demonstrated, it is not about to protect civilians under assault, or to investigate the aftermath of such assaults, no matter what assurances are given by the Status of Forces Agreement:

UNAMID, shall enjoy full and unrestricted freedom of movement without delay throughout Darfur and other areas of Sudan where UNAMID is operating in accordance with its mandate by the most direct route possible, without the need for travel permits or prior authorization or notification….

The SOFA is a preposterous non-document that is utterly irrelevant to the performance of UNAMID and does nothing to guide or constrain Khartoum’s behavior. And because this is so, there will be more Tabits in the future, as there have been too many in the past. This recent event is of further and particular significance because regular SAF soldiers were involved in massive sexual violence; previously this has been largely the work of the Janjaweed and other militia or paramilitary forces (see Appendix Two).

I began an essay in The New Republic (1 February 2008) by recalling a particularly brutal incident from February 2004 involving Janjaweed leader Hilal:

On February 27, 2004, in the Tawilla area of North Darfur, 30 villages were burned to the ground, over 200 were people killed, over 200 girls and women raped (some by up to 14 assailants at a time, in front of their soon-to-be-murdered husbands and fathers), and 150 women and 200 children were abducted. The man who directed this atrocity–and many others of similar barbarity–was Musa Hilal, the most notorious of the Janjaweed militia leaders who have done the genocidal bidding of Khartoum’s National Islamic Front regime for the past five years. The U.S. State Department has publicly identified Hilal as one of six figures most responsible for the Darfur genocide; Human Rights Watch has labeled him the central Janjaweed leader in atrocity crimes.

The brutal attack in Tawilla—which is very close to Tabit—was part of a systematic campaign by the Janjaweed militias, including those led by Hilal, to “change the demography of Darfur and empty it of African tribes,” as Hilal explained in a memo sent to his commanders and to Khartoum’s intelligence services.

And yet again and again we hear in some quarters that now is a different time in Darfur, that the conflict is less violent, that there are mere "remnants" of genocide. These are dangerous half-truths: the "demography" has indeed already been changed, but it continues to change rapidly as internal displacement increases at a staggering rate—more than 2 million people newly displaced since UNAMID took up its mandate in 2008—and more and more non-Arab or African tribal groups have seen their farmlands appropriated as pasturage by Arab militias or opportunistic pastoralists and nomads. The process of "emptying Darfur of Africa tribes" continues unabated, if by different means. In the leaked minutes of an August 31, 2014 meeting of the most senior security and military officials in the regime [ http://wp.me/p45rOG-1wk ], First Vice President Bakri Hassan Saleh offers as part of his concluding recommendations this terse imperative for dealing with Khartoum’s "Darfur problem":

"Support the mechanism intended to disperse or empty the IDP camps." [Arabic original at: http://sudanreeves.org/2014/09/29/arabic-original-hand-written-english-translation-of-31-august-2014-meeting/]

The "mechanism" is unspecified. But like the increasingly violent assaults on the IDP camps, incidents such as the massive sexual violence at Tabit give us a sense of just how destructive this "mechanism" is certain to be. Those "dispersed" from the camps will lose access to humanitarian assistance, such as continues to be available, and will have been cast adrift in a land without law and order, where rape, murder, robbery, and other forms of violence are the norm.

APPENDIX ONE: Radio Dabanga dispatch on response of civilians in Tabit to UNAMID finding

Denial of rape case by UNAMID shocks victims Tabit

Radio Dabanga [Tabit] 11 November 2011 - The villagers of Tabit are shocked after UNAMID concluded that it had not found “any evidence or information” about the reported mass rape on Monday. The UN-AU peacekeeping mission visited the village, accompanied by government officials, six days after a verification patrol was denied access to investigate the mass rape of many women and girls in Tabit.

A delegation of five members of the Coordination Committee of Refugees and Displaced Persons in Darfur had also visited the village: “We just returned from Tabit on Friday with a delegation, after two days of investigation. There we met 60 women and girls, we looked into their eyes while they told us they were raped by soldiers from 8 pm [on Friday, October 31] until 5:00am [on Saturday, November 1].

“Then we read the UNAMID statement. It was deeply shocking audio quote 1 … How can they conclude the rape did not take place? We talked to those women and young girls. We spoke to seven minors, who were raped. We have very strong evidence,” the leader of the committee told Radio Dabanga audio quote 2. The committee will hand in a more detailed report on the mass rape in the next coming days, urging the international community not to believe UNAMID and to start independent inquiries.

UNAMID reports not finding evidence

Despite the mounting evidence that the mass rape took place, UNAMID published a statement on Monday 10 November that it “neither found any evidence, nor received any information regarding the allegations in the media during the period in question.” It did not mention that its verification team was accompanied by the government’s security officials.

Prior to the arrival of the UNAMID delegation in Tabit and surrounding settlements, the commissioner of Tawila locality, Alumda Alhadi Abdallah Abdelrahman, openly threatened the population that any person who would speak to UNAMID about the rape, “would face the consequences.” “No one even dared to speak up to UNAMID, they just had to deny everything in front of them,” several attendants explained to Radio Dabanga.

Witnesses’ reports

Radio Dabanga last week recorded testimonies of several victims and two local leaders. They confirmed that government forces raped around 200 women and girls on Friday 31 October, when the soldiers were looking for a comrade that had gone missing in the area. They suspected the local population for being responsible for his disappearance.

One of the witnesses speaking to Radio Dabanga described the arrival of the UNAMID in Tabit on Sunday 9 November: “They only passed by on the main road, but they did not come to us.” According to a UNAMID officer, even national security staff, police forces, and military personnel accompanied the convoy of the UN delegation. “I think that every UNAMID staff member was accompanied by at least three people, from the security, police, or military. No one could speak freely to anyone. When we asked some people in Tabit, they only answered: ‘You should speak to the army commander and the authorities.’” UNAMID confirmed that it also interviewed the local Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) Commander during its visit.

Khalid Ewais, a reporter for al-Arabiya TV, tweeted on Monday that a source in Tabit confirmed to him that the army commander and several soldiers ordered the villagers on 8 November not to talk with the UNAMID. “It was very clear for the team that the villagers felt fear, and were not able to talk,” his source said. He added that Sudanese soldiers were taping interviews with their phones and taking photos.

"50 women treated"

A woman who works in a group that helps the victims of the rape, said that UNAMID did not come into the area where they live, and where they had faced the soldiers’ attacks. “We treated at least 50 women. We did it ourselves, but there is nothing to treat them with. We can only throw warm water on them. I am very disappointed with the situation. Many girls still suffer. We can’t send them anywhere; we treat them with only water, like I said.”

In addition, the women group said it had not seen any person from UNAMID: “No, none came here in our area.” UNAMID said that during their 3-hour-visit, it interviewed “a variety of Tabit’s residents; including community leaders, ordinary men and women, teachers and students.” The women speaking to Radio Dabanga cried in disbelief when they heard about he conclusion of UNAMID: “Where is that? How come [they say] nothing happened? And what about all those girls? Here they are suffering…” Two witnesses said that they are ready to testify if they can be protected: “We are ready and I have enough evidence to show, there are many abused girls and they should be medically examined.”

Another witness, who gave the account of his sister being raped, said that he found it painful that they “cannot bring the victims to a hospital, because we need a permit to go there and they will never give it to us.” UNAMID concluded its press statement with its intention to conduct further follow-up actions on the matter, including possible further investigations and patrols “in coordination with relevant host authorities and in accordance with the Status of Forces Agreement between the Government of Sudan and UNAMID."

APPENDIX TWO: Radio Dabanga has reported on a number of other rapes over the past month (for a much fuller account of rape as a weapon of war in Darfur, see:

[1] "Rape as a Continuing Weapon of War in Darfur: Reports, bibliography of studies, a compendium of incidents," 12 March 2012 | http://sudanreeves.org/2012/03/04/rape-as-a-continuing-weapon-of-war-in-darfur-reports-bibliography-of-studies-a-compendium-of-incidents/

[2] "Rape as a Weapon of War in Darfur," 11 November 2011 | http://sudanreeves.org/2011/11/20/rape-as-a-weapon-of-war-in-darfur/

[3] "Genocidal Rape and Assault in Darfur" (Dirksen Senate Office Building & Rayburn House Office Building, July 21, 2005 (Sponsored by members of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus & the Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues) | http://sudanreeves.org/2005/08/12/congressional-briefing-genocidal-rape-and-assault-in-darfur-july-21-2005/

[4] "In Darfur, rape is systematically used as a weapon of warfare," Jan Egeland, UN Under-secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, June 21, 2005 | http://sudanreeves.org/2005/08/02/rape-as-a-strategic-weapon-of-war-in-darfur-june-21-2005/

From Radio Dabanga:

Young woman abducted, raped in West Darfur

SIRBA (9 November 2014) - A 17-year-old displaced woman was kidnapped and raped east of Sirba town, West Darfur, on Saturday. The spokesman for the Sirba camps reported the incident to Radio Dabanga. He said that two members of a pro-government militia attacked the girl in the afternoon as she was working on one of the farms near the camps. They abducted her to Arafa area, where they and other militiamen raped her.

Young women gang-raped in Central Darfur

NIERTETI (4 November 2014) - Two young women from Neirteti in Central Darfur were repeatedly raped by four militiamen on Monday night. A witness told Radio Dabanga that the two women (25 and 18) were returning from tending their farms on Monday evening. They were seized by a group of for militiamen who raped them repeatedly for 12 hours. Their ordeal lasted into Tuesday morning. The two victims have been taken to hospital in poor mental and physical condition. The source said that while the incident was reported, nothing has been done owing to lack of police in the area.

Soldiers rape two women in East Jebel Marra, Darfur

EAST JEBEL MARRA (29 October 2014) - Three members of the Sudan Armed Forces [the identity of the rapists is of considerable significance—ER] raped two young women in the area of Khazan Tunjur in East Jebel Marra on Tuesday. A relative of one of the women told Radio Dabanga that army troops stationed in the area of Khazan Tunjur assaulted the two young women, while they were tending their farmlands today (Wednesday). “The farmlands are located within 5 km from the military garrison,” the source explained. “They raped the women alternately, after which they left them in very bad physical and mental state.”

Girl raped by three gunmen in Central Darfur

NIERTETI LOCALITY (27 October 2014) - A 15-year-old girl was gang-raped in Nierteti locality, Central Darfur, on Sunday. “Three militiamen attacked the girl while she was tending her farmland in the area of Boruru, east of Nierteti town, on Sunday,” a relative of the victim reported to Radio Dabanga. “They raped her alternately,” he said. “Passers-by found her lying on the ground in a bad physical and mental state, and transferred her to Nierteti hospital for treatment.”

Three women raped by seven men in North Darfur

TAWILA LOCALITY (16 October 2014) - Militiamen gang-raped three women of Rwanda camp for the displaced in Tawila locality, North Darfur, today. “Seven Janjaweed on camels and wearing military uniforms assaulted three women of Rwanda camp while they were tending their farmland in the area of Bir Timsah, 3 km west of Tawila town,” a relative of one of the victims reported to Radio Dabanga. “They raped the women, 21, 25, and 27 years-old, alternately.” The source called on the authorities and UNAMID to “protect the displaced women, and put an end to abuses of the government-backed militiamen."

Two women raped for six hours in South Darfur

KASS LOCALITY (8 October 2014) - Gunmen gang-raped two young women in South Darfur on Tuesday. “The women (22 and 17) were assaulted while they were tending their farmland in the area of Erli, Kass locality, on Tuesday afternoon,” an activist told Radio Dabanga from Kass town. “Janjaweed on camels and horses beat the women before they raped both alternately for six hours. The victims were transferred in a bad physical and mental condition to a hospital in Kass for treatment,” the source added.

Two women gang-raped in Darfur’s East Jebel Marra

EAST JEBEL MARRA (6 October 2014) - On Monday morning, two women were gang-raped in the area of Dubo in East Jebel Marra. “The women were on their way from Faluja village, located 5 km south of Dubo, to a nearby village to visit relatives on the occasion of Eid El Adha, when three Janjaweed on camels assaulted them,” a relative of the victims reported to Radio Dabanga. “The Janjaweed, who wore military uniforms, raped the two women (27 and 21) alternately at gunpoint. The gunmen then left the victims, taking their money, sweets and dates with them.” The relative said that the victims were transferred to Dubo El Madrasa, where they received traditional treatment, as there are no health services in the area.



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