Sudan: Darfur: Rape as a weapon of war: sexual violence and its consequences

July 18, 2004

Sudan: Darfur: Rape as a weapon of war: sexual violence and its consequences

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Darfur: Rape as a weapon of war: sexual violence and its consequences

"I was sleeping when the attack on Disa started. I was taken away by the attackers, they were all in uniforms. They took dozens of other girls and made us walk for three hours. During the day we were beaten and they were telling us: "You, the black women, we will exterminate you, you have no god." At night we were raped several times. The Arabs(1) guarded us with arms and we were not given food for three days."

A female refugee from Disa [Masalit village, West Darfur], interviewed by Amnesty International delegates in Goz Amer camp for Sudanese refugees in Chad, May 2004

1. Introduction

In March 2004, Darfur, western Sudan, was described by the then United Nations (UN) Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Mukesh Kapila, as the world's greatest humanitarian crisis". (2) Humanitarian organisations operating in Darfur are warning about malnutrition and famine in the region.(3) Today's "worst humanitarian crisis" has been directly caused by war crimes and crimes against humanity for which the Sudanese government is responsible.

The testimony of the Sudanese woman given above echoes hundreds of others, collected by Amnesty International, other human rights organisations, UN fact-finding missions and independent journalists. They all describe a pattern of systematic and unlawful attacks on civilians in North, West and South Darfur states, by a government-sponsored militia mostly referred to as "Janjawid"(armed men on horses) or "Arab militia" and by the government army, including through bombardments of civilian villages by the Sudanese Air Force. In these attacks, men are killed, women are raped and villagers are forcibly displaced from their homes which are burnt; their crops and cattle, their main means of subsistence, are burnt or looted. These massive attacks are the response of the Sudanese government to the insurgency of two armed political groups. These armed groups, mainly of Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnicity were founded in 2003.

The attacks have led to the displacement of at least 1.2 million persons. At least one million people have become internally displaced persons (IDPs) and been forced to move to the vicinity of towns or big villages in Darfur, and more than 170,000 have taken refuge across the border into Chad. Others, of which the exact number is unknown, are in hiding in mountains, valleys or areas held by armed political groups(4).

Massive human rights violations committed in the region include: extra-judicial executions, unlawful killings of civilians, torture, rapes, abductions, destruction of villages and property, looting of cattle and property, the destruction of the means of livelihood of the population attacked and forced displacement. These human rights violations have been committed in a systematic manner by the Janjawid, often in coordination with Sudanese soldiers and the Sudanese Air Force, with total impunity, and have targeted mainly members of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups and other agro-pastoralist groups living in Darfur. Many of the crimes committed in Darfur constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity(5).

There is a large amount of information pointing at the responsibility of the Sudanese government in the human rights violations committed in Darfur. In addition to the military and logistical support and the impunity that it provides to the Janjawid, the Sudanese government has used a policy of repression to deal with the problems of Darfur. It has engaged in arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detentions, "disappearances" and torture in order to punish human rights activists, lawyers, leaders and members of communities in Darfur. The Sudanese government has also used unfair and summary trials, using confessions sometimes extracted under torture without the right to defence, and applied cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments, such as amputations, floggings and the death penalty.

1.1 Gender-based violence is an immediate concern