Sudan: UN official - Darfur authorities bully rape victims

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS, July 28 (Reuters) - Gang rapes in Sudan's Darfur region, especially by soldiers and police, often go unpunished with authorities more willing to arrest the victims than the perpetrators, a U.N. official said on Thursday.

Louise Arbour, the Geneva-based high commissioner for human rights, told the U.N. Security Council that complaints against military and other law enforcement personnel were delayed indefinitely or dismissed outright.

"When rape is not established by the courts, rape victims risk facing criminal charges themselves," she told the council in a closed session before releasing her briefing notes.

Arbour, who intends to release a report on Friday on access to justice for Darfur rape victims, said "rape and gang rapes continue to be perpetrated by armed elements in Darfur, some of whom are members of law enforcement agencies and the armed forces."

"The government appears either unable or unwilling to hold them consistently accountable," Arbour said.

Victims and witnesses had faced arrest for "providing false information" after reporting sexual violence, she said.

At least 180,000 people in Darfur have died from violence, hunger and disease and 2 million have been driven out of their homes, most into squalid camps or neighboring Chad.

The Darfur conflict, in Sudan's west, broke out in February 2003 after rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated government, complaining of discrimination. The government is accused of arming Arab militia, known as Janjaweed, who pillaged, killed and raped. It has denied the charge.

The Sudanese government in May formed a committee on gender-based violence in South Darfur to assist law enforcement agencies in investigations. Khartoum has also established a special criminal court on events in Darfur but Arbour said it was too early to judge its impact.

The actions by Khartoum were "signs that the government is starting to address the issue," she added.

Arbour's report on Friday is aimed at evaluating a year-old agreement with the United Nations in which the Sudan government pledged to investigate abuses in Darfur immediately and "to ensure that all individuals and groups accused of human rights violations are brought to justice without delay."


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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