Sudan Forces Using Rape as Weapon of War in Darfur, HRW Says

  • Sexual violence seen as trend in country over past 18 months
  • Government forces said to be behind mass rapes in North Darfur

Sudanese armed forces and militias have committed mass rape against women in the western region of Darfur, using sexual violence as a weapon of war, Human Rights Watch said.

Sexual violence has emerged as a “major trend” in the North African country in the past 18 months, with pro-government forces killing and raping scores of women, the New York-based group said Wednesday. In a town in Darfur’s Jebel Marra area last January, soldiers committed rapes while residents were forced to watch, it said. Human Rights Watch also documented the rape of more than 200 women and girls in the North Darfur town of Tabit in October 2014.

“The pattern, scale, and frequency of rape suggests that Sudan’s security forces have adopted this sickeningly cruel practice as a weapon of war,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

Sudanese army spokesman Ahmed Khalifa didn’t answer phone calls seeking comment. The military has previously denied its troops carried out sexual assaults, including those alleged at Tabit.

Insurgents in Darfur took up arms in 2003, accusing President Umar al-Bashir’s government of neglecting the region. The International Criminal Court has indicted al-Bashir for alleged war crimes in the area. The conflict has led to the deaths of as many as 300,000 people, mainly due to illness and starvation, with about 2.5 million people currently displaced, according to United Nations estimates.

Fighting in the mountainous Jebel Marra, which straddles three states of Darfur, has forced as many as 34,000 civilians to flee their homes in the past two weeks, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Sudan, Marta Ruedas, said Wednesday in a statement.

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