Rights group says sexual violence rife in Darfur

Girls as young as 11 have suffered rape by Sudanese government forces and armed groups across Darfur more than five years after war began there, a United States-based rights organisation said on Monday.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said sexual violence is rife in Darfur, where neither Sudanese security forces nor international peacekeepers are properly protecting women and girls from rape and other brutal attacks, even during periods of calm.

“The government of Sudan has failed to rein in the abuse, much of which is carried out by their own soldiers and allied militia,” the report said.

International peacekeepers “have to date been under-resourced and unable to protect women and girls from rape and other forms of violence”, it added.

The Sudanese army last month rejected as biased and baseless lies a UN report accusing its soldiers of rape and extensive looting in western Darfur.

But HRW said it has documented rape and sexual violence carried out by Sudanese government soldiers, the Khartoum-backed militia known as Janjaweed, rebels and former rebels across Darfur since early 2007.

Soldiers, militia, rebels and former rebels are also raping women and girls outside displaced-persons camps and in rural areas.

One 11-year-old girl who was raped by three armed men when she went to collect grass with her seven-year-old sister was so badly injured that she had to be evacuated to hospital by an African Union helicopter, HRW said.

“The victims of these horrific attacks have little or no hope of redress in Darfur’s current climate of impunity,” said HRW Africa director Georgette Gagnon.

“By failing to prosecute the perpetrators, the government is giving them a licence to rape,” she added.

The UN says that since the Darfur conflict broke out in February 2003, at least 200 000 people have died and 2,2-million fled their homes. The Sudanese government maintains that 9 000 have been killed.

The conflict began when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated regime and state-backed Arab militias, fighting for resources and power in one of the most remote and deprived places on earth.—AFP

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