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Sudan again blocks Unamid's mass rape investigation

November 17 - 2014 KHARTOUM(UPDATE 19:20)

Sudan’s Foreign Ministry has denied access to Unamid who sought to enter Tabit in North Darfur for a second time, to investigate reports that government troops raped many women and girls there on 31 October. “The villagers are hostile against the mission, for staining the women's reputations.” A regional authority claimed that the accusations have affected the region's stability.

A Unamid team of investigators was barred entry to Tabit on Tuesday 4 November, but returned five days later. Afterwards, the peacekeepers stated that they had not found any evidence for the mass rape, but promised to follow up with further investigations. Later it became clear that during the visit, the investigators were accompanied by Sudanese military and police forces, who filmed the interviews with the villagers in Tabit.

The Foreign Ministry explained on Sunday that it banned the fact-finding team from entering the village a second time owing to a “breach in the agreement between the mission and the Ministry” and also to “protect the mission from the angry villagers”.

Hostility against Unamid

The Ministry justified that the presence of the army during the investigation was to protect the investigator from the villagers. The mass rape claims have raised anger in the region and amongst the villagers, the Ministry declared on Sunday, “and they are very hostile against Unamid, which stained the reputations and chastity of the women in the area”.

The press statement follows a meeting between Abiodun Bashua, the Joint Special Representative of the Unamid, and the Foreign Ministry's under-secretary Abdallah Hamad El Azraq, last Friday. Bashua told him the mission would like to pay a second visit to Tabit to follow-up, and that it would file a request on, or after, Monday. El Azraq explained that the mission would be notified about Khartoum's decision.

Sudan accuses UN of breaching agreement

Several contacts were made between the Sudanese government and the UN, the FM spokesman Youssef El Kordofani declared in the statement. “The government's view is that the mission has investigated the rape allegations, and confirmed that no cases of rape have happened... Sudan is sceptical about the motives for the mission's insistence to pay a second visit to Tabit.”

El Kordofani criticised the Unamid for filing its visit request to state authorities already on Saturday, two days before the date Bashua agreed upon with the Ministry's under-secretary. “The mission did not notify the Foreign Ministry […] which is another breach of what was agreed upon.”

He stressed that the security situation in the Tabit area has become alarming, after which the government decided not to allow Unamid to visit the village again. “Sudan will cooperate with the mission in accordance with the legal references agreed upon between the parties.”

Ministry finds allegations 'impossible'

The Foreign Ministry further pointed out that the allegations against the government troops is not logical. “A considerable number of military personnel in Tabit is married with women or is staying with families in the village. Also, it is impossible that all the military members of the garrison are transformed into monsters that assault and rape all the women of the village.” It concluded that the government has tasked the special persecutor of Darfur crimes to investigate the reports too.

'Claims affect voluntary returns'

The Darfur Regional Authority (DRA) has claimed that the allegations of a mass rape in Tabit have affected the stability and the voluntary return by displaced people to the area, the pro-government Sudan Vision reported. Taj Adeen Bashir Nyam said that a delegation of the DRA, the leading actor for the implementation of the Darfur peace agreement since 2011, has interviewed several chieftains in the area "who denied the fabricated news about the rape case".

File photo: A rebel in the nearly abandoned Tukumare village, near Tabit and East Jebel Marra, in February 2011 (Unamid)

Related:

Sudan Foreign Ministry summons Unamid head over Darfur rape allegations (14 November 2014)

Tabit men arrested, army transfers troops accused of North Darfur rape (13 November 2014)


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