13 Feb 2015

Sudan army ‘raped more than 200 women and girls’

Sudan’s government has “shamefully” denied the UN access to investigate an alleged mass rape by Sudanese soldiers against hundreds of women, the US says.

Tabit, Sudan - where the alleged mass rape by the army took place

Above: military personnel walk past women in Tabit in November 2014, three weeks after the alleged attacks

A Human Rights Watch report released on Wednesday alleged the Sudanese army raped 221 women and girls over a 36-hour period in the village of Tabit, northern Darfur.

“The deliberate attack on Tabit and the mass rape of the town’s women and girls is a new low in the catalogue of atrocities in Darfur,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“The Sudanese government should stop the denials and immediately give peacekeepers and international investigators access to Tabit.”

Click on the link above to see a larger version of the map. Source: Human Rights Watch

However, the Sudanese government has been accused of “systematically denying meaningful access” to the UN/African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) so that an investigation can take place.

“To this day, the government of Sudan has shamefully denied the UN the ability to properly investigate this incident,” the US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, said on Thursday.

Sudan denies the incident took place. Sudanese Deputy Ambassador Hassan Hamid Hassan dismissed the HRW report and Power’s speech as “a flagrant attempt to level accusations”. He also said the UN peacekeepers had not been denied access.

I was in the house with my younger siblings. We were sleeping when the soldiers came into our house... They entered the house. I took firewood and hit one of them. One of them dragged me out of the room... They raped me... Two of them held me down while the other one raped me. Many others who were there were standing around... And then they brought me back (to my room), tied me (to the bed), and left.

Khadamallah, in her mid-teens

Human Rights Watch documented 27 first-hand accounts of the incident, which began on 30 October 2014.

The Sudanese army carried out three attacks on the village over 36 hours. Each time uniformed and armed military personnel went from house to house.

They raped both of us on the street... Three of them raped me and three of them raped my friend... They raped us all night. That's why I'm still sick. I cannot sit down for a long time like I could before.

Mahassan, in her twenties

Human Rights Watch said the accounts provided by victims and witnesses followed a similar pattern – the soldiers entered homes, accused residents of harbouring or killing a missing soldier, searched the premises, beat the men and then chased them from their homes or detained them, and then raped women and girls in their homes.

Witnesses and victims say large numbers of men were detained together, and were beaten by soldiers.

He said that if I didn't stop he would shoot me. I asked why. He said, "Your men killed our guy." ... I was on a donkey. Then he pulled me (off the donkey). Then three other (soldiers) came. They surrounded me. Then they beat me. They raped me. Then they went and left me.

Maria, in her forties

The reason for the attacks is not clear. Some of the soldiers were said to be recognised as having come from a nearby military base. People in plain clothes also took part in the alleged atrocities, and some were said to be resident of Tabit.

Two government soldiers who took part in the attacks told Human Rights Watch they were ordered to “rape women” because the women were said to be rebel supporters.

I refused to get up. Then one of them hit me with the butt of his gun. I fell down. My head was injured. Then my husband came out... He was badly beaten. Even now he is still confined to a bed. Then they grabbed me by my hand and took me inside the room. Then they raped me inside the room.

Jameya, in her late twenties

Sudan’s army has been fighting rebels in Darfur since 2003. The conflicts impact on the civilian population has been horrific, with 2 million displaced, hundreds of villages destroyed and widespread killings, torture and sexual violence.

An estimated 300,000 have been killed in the hostilities or due to conflict-induced disease and starvation.

Immediately after they entered the room they said: "You killed our man. We are going to show you true hell." Then they started beating us. They took my husband away while beating him. They raped my three daughters and me. Some of them were holding the girl down while another one was raping her. They did it one by one. One helped beat and the other raped. Then they would go to the next girl. Two were holding the girl and one would rape.

Khatera, in her early forties

Human Rights Watch added that rape and the other serious abuses against civilians are violations of international human rights law and the military personnel who participated in, added or abetted, or ordered the rape are “responsible for war crimes”.