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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In May 2004 Amnesty International delegates returned to Chad(6) in order to obtain further information on the violence perpetrated against women in Darfur. At the time of writing this report the organization had not yet been granted visas to revisit Sudan.(7)In Chad, Amnesty International visited three of the refugee camps set up by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): Goz Amer, Kounoungo and Mile, where they obtained more than one hundred personal testimonies from refugees. In these camps, women appear to form the majority of the adult refugee population. The organisation was able to collect the names of 250 women who have been raped in the context of the conflict in Darfur and to collect information concerning an estimated 250 further rapes. This information was collected from testimonies of individuals who represent only a fragment of those displaced by the conflict. Other human rights violations which have specifically targeted women and girls are: abductions, sexual slavery, torture and forced displacement. Amnesty International also examines in this document the consequences of the violence perpetrated against women, such as social stigmatisation, the consequences on their economic, social and health rights, and the destruction of the social fabric of their communities.

[Shelter, Mile refugee camp, eastern Chad ©AI]

The testimonies collected have made clear that the majority of the women who have been raped have, for several reasons, stayed in Darfur or at the Sudan-Chad border; relatively few have made the journey to the UNHCR-run refugee camps in Chad. There is, in addition, considerable hesitation among the women of speaking openly about sexual violence. This report can therefore only present a fraction of the reality of violence against women in the context of the current crisis in Darfur. However, the testimonies collected, combined with the reports of sexual violence collected by the UN, independent journalists and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Darfur, indicates beyond doubt that the occurrence of rape and other forms of sexual violence is widespread(8). The rapes and other sexual violence in Darfur constitute grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Abuses against women are an integral part of the conflict and are too often neglected. They must urgently be taken into account in the Sudanese government and the international community's responses to the crisis. Amnesty International is urging all parties to the conflict to immediately cease perpetrating violence on women and for those who have committed these crimes to be brought to justice in fair trials, without the possibility of the death penalty. Amnesty International is further calling for the urgent provision of medical and psychological care to women affected by violence in Darfur and Chad, measures to enable the communities affected to minimise stigma of these women and work for the reintegration of survivors, and preventive measures to reduce the suffering of women in the longer-term.

1.2 Immediate actions needed