Darfur: African-UN mission sets up unit to investigate gender-based crimes

12-year-old girl, displaced by conflict in Darfur region of Sudan, was raped by government soldiers

18 August 2009 – The police component of the joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping operation in Darfur has established a special investigations unit to monitor and report on crimes involving sexual and gender-based violence, a prevalent problem in the western Sudanese region.

The peacekeeping force, known as UNAMID, announced today that the seven-member unit has been set up in response to the high rates of sexual and gender-based violence recorded across Darfur in the past two years. Staff members have received specialist training for dealing with such cases.

The new unit will work to encourage victims of violence to report incidents to local law enforcement authorities, reduce the stigmatization of sexual abuse victims and help to rehabilitate victims.

It also aims to support local law enforcement agencies as they investigate a range of cases, including child abuse, child abandonment, prostitution, human trafficking, domestic violence and sexual harassment.

UNAMID said the unit would work closely with the police, non-government organizations (NGOs) and other agencies that deal with gender-related issues.

Sexual and gender-based violence remains widespread across Darfur, which has been beset by conflict and displacement for six years. An estimated 300,000 people have been killed and about 2.7 million others forced to leave their homes, with many women and children vulnerable to violent attacks, particularly when they are searching for scarce firewood.

Meanwhile, staff from the mission’s human rights and rule of law sections have completed a four-day training course on human rights standards and prison management for 30 corrections officials working in North Darfur state.

The training, the first of its kind in North Darfur, included such topics as the humane treatment of prisoners, particularly minors, pre-trial detainees and female prisoners.

The course, held in El Fasher, was funded by Switzerland through the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).


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