Sudan: mass rape by army in Darfur

Sudanese army forces raped more than 200 women and girls in an organized attack on the north Darfur town of Tabit in October, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Feb. 11. The report, "Mass Rape in Darfur: Sudanese Army Attacks Against Civilians in Tabit," documents army attacks in which at least 221 women and girls were raped in Tabit over 36 hours beginning on Oct. 30. "The deliberate attack on Tabit and the mass rape of the town's women and girls is a new low in the catalog 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."

Allegations of mass rape first surfaced in a Nov. 2 report by Radio Dabanga, a Netherlands-based station. Sudan denied the report and refused peacekeepers access to the town. On Nov. 9, it gave the peacekeepers brief access, but security forces prevented them from carrying out a credible investigation, Human Rights Watch said.

In November and December, Human Rights Watch spoke to over 50 residents and former residents of Tabit by telephone due to access restrictions. Others interviewed included local human rights monitors, government officials, and staff of the AU-UN Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). Despite the lack of access, Human Rights Watch said it was able to verify many individual cases and allegations.

Sudanese army forces carried out three distinct military operations during which soldiers went house-to-house and looted property, arrested men, beat residents, and raped women and girls inside their homes. Human Rights Watch documented 27 separate incidents of rape, and obtained credible information about an additional 194 cases. Two army defectors separately told Human Rights Watch that their superior officers had ordered them to "rape women."

Tabit is largely ethnic Fur and has been under the control of rebel armed groups in recent years. Human Rights Watch found no evidence that rebel fighters were in or near Tabit at the time of the attacks. (HRW, Feb. 11)