The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2018/250) issued on 16 April 2018.
The reduction in military confrontations between Government forces and rebel groups and the sustained unilateral cessation of hostilities during 2017 resulted in an overall improvement of security conditions in Darfur. The situation remains precarious, however, owing to the presence of militia groups, and is fuelled by a volatile regional situation. Conflict-related sexual violence has primarily occurred around displaced persons camps, but has also been noted in villages and remote areas to which displaced persons have begun to return, where perpetrators typically prey upon victims when they are engaged in livelihood activities. In some cases, security fears have forestalled the return of civilians to their villages of origin. In one incident, a family living in West Darfur, which had previously fled to Chad as refugees, were forced back across the border into Chad after a relative was gang-raped, for fear of further attacks (see S/2017/1125). The government campaign to collect illegal weapons in Darfur, pursuant to Presidential Decree 419 (2017), is an important measure for the protection of vulnerable populations. Although those efforts were hampered by resistance from some communities, incidents of intercommunal armed violence appeared to have declined significantly, likely as a result of efforts by the Government to contain and mediate tribal disputes. While the rate of new displacements was lower in 2017 than in previous years, and humanitarian access had improved, sexual violence remained prevalent, owing to a volatile security environment awash with small arms and light weapons, criminality and sporadic clashes.
In 2017, the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur documented 152 cases of conflict-related sexual violence, affecting 84 women, 66 girls and 2 boys, across the five states of Darfur, a decrease from the 222 victims in 2016. The cases involved rape (90 per cent), attempted rape (6 per cent) and gang rape (4 per cent). In 2 per cent of cases, the victims were killed and, in many others, suffered grievous bodily harm. Sexual violence continues to be chronically underreported due to stigma, harassment, trauma, the lack of protection afforded to victims and witnesses and the perceived inaction of law enforcement, with police and service providers alike having been pressured to drop cases. Rape is often resolved through traditional justice mechanisms, which tend to order victims to marry the perpetrator.
The perpetrators of conflict-related sexual violence were identified by victims as armed men or militia members in civilian attire in 70 per cent of cases, and as members of the national security apparatus, namely the Sudanese Armed Forces, Rapid Support Forces, border guards and members of the Sudanese Police Force, in 30 per cent of cases. As in previous years, a spike in sexual violence coincided with the farming season, from July to October, especially along the migration routes of armed nomadic herders, with male farmers being physically attacked and women subjected to sexual assault. Data compiled by the Special Prosecutor for Crimes in Darfur indicated that the rape of minors, especially girls, is on the rise, with the highest rates of child rape recorded in South Darfur (58 per cent). Of 286 cases of the rape of minors reported in 2017, only 86 cases have been adjudicated, although in the view of the Special Prosecutor, none of those cases constituted conflict-related sexual violence. The Government attributes the increased numbers to efforts to raise awareness and improve evidence collection.
Although article 149 of the Sudanese Criminal Act (1991) was amended in 2015 to define rape in a manner more consistent with international standards, in practice, victims continue to fear that a failure to prove rape may expose them to being charged with adultery, a situation that perpetuates the reluctance of survivors to report. Local justice authorities have reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring accountability for such crimes, noting the deployment of additional prosecutors and police, including to rural areas. The United Nations has delivered training to justice and security sector personnel and supported the creation of “gender desks” in a number of police stations. UNFPA helped to build the capacity of medical personnel to deliver life-saving clinical management services for survivors of rape and to extend programmes on combatting gender-based violence to the newly-accessible areas. In February 2018, the Government facilitated the first visit of my Special Representative to the Sudan, which included several locations in North and West Darfur. I am encouraged by the constructive dialogue that began during that visit, with a broad range of stakeholders, including senior officials within the security, justice and health sectors.
I encourage the Government to swiftly adopt a framework of cooperation with the United Nations in line with Security Council resolution 2106 (2013), which will provide a basis for future support to national authorities to enhance prevention and response measures. I also encourage the Government to adopt and implement its draft national action plan on Council resolution 1325 (2000), which will enable progress to be measured against clear benchmarks with associated budget lines. I urge the international community to support the Government in addressing issues relating to the voluntary return of displaced persons.