Sudanese military forces and militia have used rape as a weapon of war in Darfur and other conflicts, Human Rights Watch said this week. Because no one is known to have been held accountable, Unamid should gather more information about allegations of sexual violence, 'even when Sudan blocks access'.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) wrote in its 'World Report 2016' that patterns of rape across Darfur in 2014 and 2015 show that various Sudanese units have deliberately committed rape against large numbers of women in many attacks at various locations and times.
“Sudan’s forces have frequently raped and terrorised civilians with impunity,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at the organisation. “The pattern, scale, and frequency of rape suggests that Sudan’s security forces have adopted this sickeningly cruel practice as a weapon of war.”
In Darfur, the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces – under the command of the national security service – used sexual violence in Jebel Mara and other areas throughout 2015. HRW reported in September 2015 that the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has gone on two sprees of killings and mass rape of civilians in dozens of Darfur villages and towns since February 2014.
In January, government attacks in the town of Golo, in Central Darfur, included killing, beating, and raping scores of women in Golo’s hospital. The soldiers “raped some women and they made the men carry stones from place to place as punishment,” Mariam (pseudonym), 42, told HRW. In June, dozens of women and their daughters in Golo told France24 reporters that they were raped by government-backed militiamen, and that men were beaten and threatened.
The African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission (Unamid) has come under pressure from Sudan to reduce its troop levels and exit the country. HRW said that 'even when Sudan blocks access, as it frequently does, the mission staff should gather information about alleged abuses. The need for Unamid to increase its investigations and public reporting on abuses is greater than ever.'
'The prevalence of sexual violence reflects wider discrimination against women and girls across Sudan.'
In October 2014, Radio Dabanga reported that government forces carried out a mass rape of more than 200 women and girls in the village of Tabit, North Darfur, in less than two days. Sudanese authorities blocked Unamid from independently investigating the crimes and has prevented aid groups from accessing the town. The government has denied the mass rape and has not held anyone responsible.
Radio Dabanga has continued to receive reports of rape by militiamen in Tabit and elsewhere. 181 girls and women in Darfur were raped in one year's time, from November 2014 to 2015. Nearly 50 of them were raped in the vicinity of Tabit – the majority by militiamen. Impunity in Sudan often ensures that police and soldiers go free from an accusation of rape, one of the causes of the relatively low number of filed rape cases.
In February, Sudan made amendments to the criminal code that could reduce the risk of women being accused of adultery when they report rape, HRW said in its report. The prevalence of sexual violence, however, reflects wider discrimination against women and girls across Sudan, in public, by the police, and in Sudanese laws. The crime of adultery, punishable by flogging, fines, and death by stoning, is also used discriminatorily against women.
The UN special rapporteur on violence against women traveled to Sudan for the first time in over a decade in May 2015, and her report is expected in 2016.
In its overview of Sudan's conflicts and abuses in 2015, HRW added that attacks on civilians by government forces, carried out through aerial bombardment and ground forces in South Kordofan, caused civilian casualties, including the deaths of at least 26 children in 2014 and 2015. Government forces committed serious attacks against civilians, causing a large-scale displacement in Blue Nile State starting May 2015.
Read our background story: Who are the Rapid Support Forces in Sudan?