Sudan’s State Minister of Justice said that the formation of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) is on a voluntary basis and that they have followed military training. He cleared them of any abuses attributed to them in Darfur.
Upon his return in Sudan, Minister Ahmed Abu Zeid told the official Sudanese news agency (SUNA) that he and his delegation informed human rights organisations in Geneva, Switzerland that the RSF do not exist as a separate force in Sudan. Abu Zeid had just attended the 30th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that lasts until 2 October.
In an investigative report this month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) concluded that the RSF have committed systematic torture, killings and mass rapes against civilians in Darfur. Several first-hand accounts of orders from commanders to commit such crimes indicate that they were systematic, the report claims.
Tabit mass rape denied
Abu Zeid said that a workshop in Geneva, organised by the special prosecutor of crimes in Darfur, was attended by a large number of interested parties and human rights monitors. During the workshop he refuted the mass rape by soldiers in Tabit, North Darfur, on 31 October last year.
Radio Dabanga reported at the time that more than 200 girls and women were raped, which was confirmed by HRW investigations months later. However, Khartoum did not allow AU-UN peacekeepers to properly investigate the case. Government officials, military commanders, and traditional leaders threatened residents of Tabit to prevent them from speaking out, HRW found.
No steps have been made thus far by the special prosecutor in Darfur to prosecute suspects of the mass rape. He has pledged to train legal advisors and police officers in North Darfur state to cope with the developments in the field of human rights, according to a report by SUNA.
The prosecutor explained in Geneva that more prosecutors and mobile courts have been developed in Darfur, in line with the government’s plan to achieve stability and development. The government has shown great interest in Darfur in terms of development and justice through the rule of law, reconciliation, and peaceful coexistence, Abu Zeid told SUNA.
‘No press restrictions’
The Justice Minister also denied restrictions on the freedom of expression and said that the Sudanese government does not own the media or newspapers, which at times are highly critical of state policies. He acknowledged, however, that some newspapers have been suspended for violating the Press and Publications Law.