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In 2004 the UN called on the Sudanese government to stop the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war in Darfur. A year later, what small efforts the government of Sudan had made were pitifully inadequate. In response, the UN made a series of recommendations for actions the Sudanese government and the larger international community must take if sexual violence is to end in Darfur.
 

In July of 2004, the Sudanese Government and the United Nations issued a joint communique committing the government of Sudan to immediately investigate and stop all human rights violations in Darfur. Those responsible for these violations were to be brought to justice.

Ten months later, the UN released a report on progress made in Darfur. What had the Sudanese government accomplished, especially in the area of the use of rape as a weapon of war?

Summing up their findings, the UN reported:

  • The government taken some small steps and investigated a few allegations of sexual violence, but the government had not done nearly enough and new cases of sexual violence were coming to light on a weekly basis,
  • Law enforcement officials generally didn't investigate allegations, and when they did the investigations were half-hearted and incomplete. It was generally impossible for a court to make a decision based on such shoddy work.
  • Soldiers and police were often the culprits in instances of sexual violence. It was difficult to prosecute them, however, because Sudanese law granted them immunity except when authorities allowed them to be prosecuted.
  • Victims were unlikely to report acts of sexual violence. They had no confidence in the police or the judicial system, and the threat of reprisals loomed over any attempt to seek justice.

In short, not only had the Sudanese government done next to nothing to stop sexual violence against the people of Darfur, in most instances it was government or pro-government forces behind the attacks.

What Should Be Done?

Based on its investigations, the UN made a series of recommendations to stop violence in Darfur.

General Recommendations

The tasks of investigating, prosecuting and judging crimes of rape need special attention. Personnel working in these areas need to take special care not to cause even more trauma for victims of sexual assault. Whether because of lack of capacity, competence or political will, efforts of the Sudanese government with respect to these efforts has been woefully inadequate.

Judicial and administrative processes need to be strengthened in order to provide victims access to fair, timely and inexpensive justice. The Sudanese government must establish a legal framework that meets international standards to protect women's rights.

The government of Sudan must admit the scope of the problem before there is any hope of addressing sexual violence in Darfur. The government must end the climate of impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence.

What Must the Sundanese Government Do?

The UN makes a series of recommendations targeting the government of Sudan. In the words of the UN report, the Sudanese government must:

  • Respect the wishes, the rights, and the dignity of the victim when taking action to prevent or respond to an incident of sexual violence,
  • Undertake prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into all reports of sexual violence to identify those responsible and bring them to justice, whether the crime is perpetrated by law enforcement officials, armed groups or private individuals,
  • Establish victim and witness units for courts, which will provide protective measures and security arrangements, counseling and other appropriate assistance during the investigation and trial process and any subsequent period when the safety of the victims or witnesses so requires,
  • Remove procedures that grant State officials immunity from prosecution in cases of serious human rights violations, such as rape,
  • Take appropriate disciplinary action (e.g. suspension from duties) during investigation and prosecution of any accused members of law enforcement agencies and armed forces,
  • Train police, prosecutors, judicial authorities and medical staff in the treatment of victims of sexual violence, and in the conduct of criminal investigations and the collection of forensic evidence,
  • Train doctors and medical staff on protocols for the clinical management of rape victims to ensure that the necessary medical evidence is collected and that victims are treated with dignity,
  • Create a safe and supportive environment for victims to seek and receive medical and legal services,
  • Implement a public awareness-raising campaign so that victims are informed of their rights in seeking redress through justice mechanisms,
  • Undertake a comprehensive review of the current legal framework, in the context of the work of the Legal Reform Commission under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, relating to sexual crimes to ensure its effectiveness in the prosecution of acts of sexual violence,
  • Amend the evidentiary requirements for adultery to remove discrimination on the basis of sex and to prevent rape victims who become pregnant being at risk of prosecution for the crime,
  • Ensure that the punishment of perpetrators and compensation for victims are in accordance with the gravity of the crime and international human rights standards, particularly those on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Finally, Sudan should enter into all relevant international agreements protecting human rights, and specifically the rights of women and children.

What Must the International Community Do?

The UN recommends that the larger international community provide:

  • Assistance to the Government of the Sudan in restructuring and training the police force and establishing a competent, impartial and independent judiciary with the necessary resources to function effectively and fairly,
  • Training to prosecutors, judges and other officials in handling cases involving rape and other forms of sexual violence, in accordance with current standards of international law—notably the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and jurisprudence of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia,
  • Training for the law enforcement officials and armed forces in international human rights and humanitarian law and women’s rights,
  • Technical assistance on the conduct of criminal investigations and the collection and processing of forensic evidence for law enforcement officials.

Bottom Line

What efforts the Sudanese government made in between 2004 and 2005 to stem the wave of sexual abuse in Darfur have been a dismal failure. The UN recommends a series of actions for the Sudanese government and for the larger international community that must be taken if sexual violence is to end in Darfur.

 
Data and Methods:

Data:

Information collected by human rights officers of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Four human rights officers from OHCHR were sent to Sudan in August 2004. By July 2005, there were 45 human rights officers deployed in four regional offices. Human rights officers also work closely with humanitarian organizations and the African Union Mission in Sudan.

Funding Source:

Not provided.

 
Full Text Availability:
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Reference

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 2005. Access to Justice for Victims of Sexual Violence. Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Geneva. July 29 2005.

 
 
 
 
 
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