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Patterns of sexual assault across Darfur make it clear that the Sudanese government is at least grossly negligent. However, evidents points to pro-Government militia members, soldiers and police as the main culprits.

What has the Sudanese government done to prevent rape in Darfur? The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights released a report in July 2005 assessing the progress the government of Sudan has made in complying with a the UN Security Council resolution (2004).

The report states that the government in Khartoum has made some progress. The large-scale killings and massive displacement that occurred in the first two years of the conflict have decreased. However, at the time of the UN report, nearly one third (1,880,000) of the Darfur population was still internally displaced and another 300,000 people from Darfur had sought refuge in neighboring Chad.

There is still much to be done, however, especially in the area of sexual assault on the people of Darfur. Even in the face of improvements, human rights monitors report new instances of rape on a weekly basis.

Characteristics of Sexual Assault in Darfur

What does sexual assault look like in Darfur?

Who is raped? Where does it happen? Who is to blame? What is the nature of the sexual assault? How do the victims respond?

While the answers to these questions vary by region, there are some common patterns across Darfur:

Who? Women and girls who live in camps for internally displaced persons (IDP camps) are the most frequently victimized.

Where and when? Women are commonly attacked when they leave the IDP camps to gather firewood. Firewood is not available in the camps and women are forced to leave the camp in order to get the firewood they need to cook. Women and girls are also frequently attacked when they are traveling.

Who are the perpetrators? In the vast majority of cases where the perpetrator could be identified, they are members of the Government armed forces, law enforcement agencies or members of the pro-Government militia (the Janjawid).

What is the nature of the assault? Women and girls are often gang raped by men who arrive on camels or horses. Frequently, more than one woman or girl is raped in a single assault. The victims are insulted and humiliated. They are generally threatened with death, are beaten and in some cases killed.

How do victims respond? Usually, women in Darfur do not approach authorities when they have been sexually assaulted. Women fear reprisals. They feel that any attempt to gain justice is a waste of time since pro-government forces are almost always behind the attack. Additionally, because of the harrowing procedures a woman has to go through to lodge a complaint, she is “revictimized” through humiliation and insensitivity by the system that is supposed to help her.

Sexual Assault Is Different in Different Regions of Darfur

Even though there are common characteristics of sexual assault across Darfur, there are some differences among the Western, Northern and Southern regions of Darfur.

Western Darfur

Northern Darfur

Southern Darfur

How many sexual assaults are reported?

August 2004 to May 2005:

39 incidents of rape.

82 victims (half of incidents involved more than one victim).

August 2004 to June 2005:

20 incidents of rape.

29 victims (multiple victims in seven incidents).

Multiple perpetrators in 11 cases.

October 2004 to June 2005:

27 incidents of sexual violence.

119 victims, the highest number of rapes in one incident reported during attacks on villages.

Who are the victims?

Ages of victims ranged from 7 to 60.

In 15 cases the victims were between 7- and 12-years-old.

The majority were female minors.

In five cases the victim was between 5 and 12-years-old; 12- to 18-years-old in 14 cases.

17 victims were female minors between 11- and 17-years-old. One was a male minor age 14.

34 were female victims between 17 and 40.

Who are the perpetrators?

The majority were armed men in khaki uniforms or Janjawid, usually with their faces covered.

The perpetrators were not identified in nine incidents. They were soldiers or policemen in seven incidents.

In 21 incidents the perpetrators were Janjawid.

In six incidents they were identified as soldiers or policemen.

Where does the assault commonly happen?

They commonly occurred on the outskirts of IDP camps.

The majority occurred close to military camps.

The majority occurred outside IDP camps.

When does the assault happen?

The women and girls are usually collecting firewood or grass.

Not reported.

The women and girls are usually collecting firewood or grass.

Three assaults occurred during attacks on public vehicles (e.g., a bus). One victim was raped at an unofficial military detention facility

What happens when the assault is reported?

16 incidents were not reported to officials.

The prosecutor in W Darfur filed complaints in six cases.

Victims lodged complaints with the police in 18 cases (no action was taken).

In eight cases the prosecutor or police refused to investigate.

In two cases the perpetrators were prosecuted, convicted and sentenced.

Two incidents were not reported to officials.

Complaints were filed in 11 incidents (involving 17 victims). Eight of these cases are under investigation.

Only one perpetrator has been held accountable (for the rape of a 7-year-old boy).

14 incidents were not reported to officials.

In 13 other cases, the police refused to file a complaint.

Out of 51 cases, only six made it to court. Two cases resulted in a conviction, three are pending.

Bottom Line

Of the 86 incidents (230 victims) of sexual assault reported to human rights monitors in Darfur between August 2004 and June 2005, only five resulted in convictions at the time of the UN report. Patterns of sexual assault across Darfur make it clear that the Sudanese government is grossly negligent. Additionally, evidents points to pro-Government militia members, soldiers and police as the main culprits.

Data and Methods:


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:
Full text available at

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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