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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Racial insults have often occurred alongside sexual violence according to the testimonies collected by Amnesty International. This suggests that women have been targeted for violence not only because of their gender, but also because they are from a particular ethnic group. In some cases certain women have repeatedly been raped, others gang raped. This may suggest an intention by attackers to forcibly impregnate women of particular ethnic groups. Some of the women have been repeatedly raped or gang-raped while they were held in Janjawid camps; while some were forced to cook food for their captors, others had limbs broken in the apparent attempt to prevent them from escaping. IDP camps outside large villages or towns in Darfur have been described as "virtual prisons". These acts may suggest that the Janjawid have attempted to confine women they have forcibly made pregnant through rape. Amnesty International does not at present have sufficient evidence to prove such intention, nor to state whether it may be widespread or systematic. However, the perpetrators of rape should anticipate that rape can lead to pregnancy. Because many of the perpetrators are from the same society as the people they attack, they cannot ignore the social stigma associated to survivors of rape, children borne out of rape, and the social and psychological consequences on the communities of the victims.

The horrific nature and scale of the violence inflicted on entire groups in Darfur appears to be a form of collective punishment of a population whose members have taken up arms against the central government. It may be interpreted as a warning to other groups and regions of what could happen to the local population if certain groups decided to rebel against Khartoum. Amnesty International characterised systematic and massive human rights violations committed in Darfur as war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Although some of the human rights abuses committed could be interpreted as acts aimed at destroying ethnic groups, the evidence remains inconclusive. The widespread destruction of houses and villages in combination with the looting and forced displacement appear to have as an objective to destroy livelihoods. Rape has been widespread and, at least sometimes systematic (for instance during Janjawid attacks on Tawila at the end of February 2004) with possibly an intention to destroy the social structures and community of specific ethnical groups. Mass summary executions took place, for instance in and around Kutum in July and August 2003 and in Deleij at the beginning of March 2004. Amnesty International believes that there was certainly intent to collectively "punish" the civilian populations, perceived of being associated or linked with the armed political groups. However the organization is not in a position to confirm or prove that the punishment had as an objective to destroy specific ethnical groups. Amnesty International has not been in a position to date to conclude that there was genocide or that there was "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group".

The need for an international Commission of Inquiry

Amnesty International believes that rape and other forms of sexual violence, as well as the widespread and systematic attacks against civilians and the massive forced displacement in Darfur are war crimes and crimes against humanity. Given the gravity and the scale of the human rights violations committed in Darfur, Amnesty International repeats its call made in April 2003 for an international Commission of Inquiry to investigate these and accusations of genocide, identify the perpetrators, including those who may have ordered such crimes, propose a method of effective prosecution and full reparations, including restitution and compensation to victims. In addition, the Commission should examine ways to start a reconciliation process with human rights at its heart, which will be essential to the future of Darfur.

8. Recommendations

8.1 To the Sudanese Government