Sudan (Darfur)

The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2015/203) issued on 23 March 2015.

 

Conflict-related sexual violence, including rape, attempted rape, abduction for the purposes of sexual exploitation, indecent assault, sexual humiliation and serious injuries or killings following rape, remains a dominant feature of the conflict in Darfur. In 2014, the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) documented 117 incidents involving 206 victims, as compared with 149 cases involving 273 victims in 2013. Victims ranged in age from 4 to 70 years; 204 of the victims were female and 2 were male (boys). In two incidents, six women were killed in connection with attempted rape and 30 per cent of the recorded rape survivors sustained serious physical injuries. The United Nations also documented one case of a child conceived following rape, which resulted in the marriage of the victim (aged 14) to the perpetrator as a form of traditional settlement. These numbers must be interpreted against the backdrop of a highly insecure environment beset by access restrictions.

 

Serious allegations were levelled against the Sudanese armed forces regarding a mass rape of some 200 women and girls in Tabit, north-east of El Fasher, North Darfur, over a period of 36 hours beginning on 30 October 2014. Despite several attempts by UNAMID to reach the area, government authorities granted access on only one occasion (9 November). The presence of Sudanese armed forces and members of military intelligence, observed during interviews with members of the community, may have influenced their reticence. The Government subsequently launched its own investigation and the Special Prosecutor for Darfur, who visited amid a large government presence, reported to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in December that the allegations could not be substantiated.

 

The highest number of cases of sexual violence was recorded in January, February, April and August, corresponding to periods of massive civilian displacement driven by military and search operations launched by the Government against villages suspected of sympathizing with opposition groups, as well as during clashes between government forces and armed groups. In South Darfur, on 27 and 28 February, in 10 separate incidents, women were subjected to sexual violence as they fled for safety following attacks on Hijer, Um Gunya and surrounding villages by armed elements believed to be members of the Rapid Support Forces. Several other incidents of sexual violence were reportedly committed by members of these forces following their deployment to Darfur.

 

Most sexual assaults (71 per cent), affecting 147 victims, occurred while women and girls were carrying out essential sustenance and livelihood activities, such as farming and the collection of grass and firewood, often in isolated areas. Twenty-eight victims were attacked in their homes, inside or in the vicinity of camps for internally displaced persons. The proliferation of small arms in such settlements, as well as in towns and villages, contributed to the prevalence of sexual violence: in 60 per cent of all reported cases, involving 119 victims, the alleged perpetrator(s) were armed. The majority of perpetrators were described by victims and witnesses as being armed men from Arab tribes targeting non-Arab women, with accounts indicating that the perpetrators sought to humiliate victims and their families to reinforce a sense of powerlessness. In 27 cases, the alleged perpetrators were identified as members of the Government’s security and law enforcement apparatus.

 

Of 63 incidents reported to the Sudanese police, representing 53 per cent of the cases documented, UNAMID has seen investigations initiated in 20 cases to date, with 14 arrests made and, in 2 cases, trials resulting in convictions completed. In terms of legal redress, underreporting of cases, owing to the limited reach of law enforcement and justice institutions, is the first hurdle in the fight against impunity. Of the documented cases, apart from the 63 cases that were reported, 44 cases (38 per cent) were not reported and 3 cases (5 per cent) were settled in a traditional manner. Even when cases are reported, the authorities generally fail to take action to bring perpetrators to justice. In 12 cases (10 per cent), victims pointed to the absence of police as a reason for non-reporting; in 16 cases (14 per cent), victims cited a lack of trust and confidence in the authorities; and in 6 cases (5 per cent) victims said that they did not report the incident because of the social stigma associated with sexual violence and for fear of reprisal attacks by the alleged perpetrator. For example, on 2 March, in El Geneina, West Darfur, UNAMID monitored the trial of a man accused of stabbing a woman to death on 25 September 2013 for having filed a case of attempted rape against him. Moreover, where cases concern members of the national security forces, immunity from prosecution for acts committed in the course of operational duties has provided a basis for delaying and denying justice. On 18 September, a Sudanese court in El Fasher convicted a man for raping a UNAMID police officer on 10 April 2014.

 

In a series of constructive steps, the Sudan has amended section 149 of its Criminal Act (1991) to more clearly define the crime of rape and align it more closely with international standards. The Minister of the Interior committed to deploy at least six women police investigators to West Darfur to investigate sexual violence cases. In East Darfur, a state committee on gender-based violence was established in March. The Government has conducted joint protection patrols with UNAMID in East and Central Darfur. In South Darfur, a joint Government of the Sudan/United Nations early warning and intervention committee was established in December and is expected to identify imminent threats to civilians, including sexual violence, and measures to mitigate them. The early-warning indicators of conflict-related sexual violence have been adapted to the situation in Darfur and proven useful in informing such strategies.

 

The United Nations has also provided technical and financial support to Sudanese institutions, including the state committees on gender-based violence. Community police trained by UNAMID have played an important role in improving the protection of internally displaced persons. United Nations agencies have trained medical personnel on the clinical management of rape, with UNFPA making post exposure prophylaxis kits available to victims via the Ministry of Health. UNFPA further supported the construction and rehabilitation of women’s centres across Darfur to enable women to access psychosocial support in a context where services have been disrupted or rendered inaccessible.

 

Recommendation

I urge the Government of the Sudan to facilitate access by the United Nations and partners to conflict- affected areas so that they may provide services and carry out monitoring activities. I also encourage the Government to reform national legislation in relation to sexual violence crimes and revise reporting protocols. I encourage the Government to engage with my Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict to develop a framework of cooperation to address conflict- related sexual violence.