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The Sudanese government responded to the 2004 United Nations call to stop the sexual violence in Darfur with some small changes. Another UN report, released a year later, indicates that these small changes, while perhaps encouraging, had made very little impact.

What has the Sudanese government done to stem widespread and systematic sexual assault in Darfur?

As of the time of a 2005 UN report on the situation, precious little had been done. What few steps had been made by the Sudanese government in response to 2004 UN calls for action appeared to have had little effect.

A Few Small Steps by the Sudanese Government?

By the time of the July 2005 UN report, Access to Justice for Victims of Sexual Violence, the Sudanese government had made a small series of changes to address the atrocity of rape in Darfur. How much these changes accomplished was an open question at the time of the report.

In July 2004, the Sudanese Ministry of Justice created National Judicial Committees to investigate allegations of rape. After three weeks of work the Committees reported back to the Ministry of Justice. These findings were included in a report by the National Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of Human Rights Violations Committed by Armed Groups in the States of Darfur. It claimed that the Committees' investigations lead to the indictment of a number of persons including 10 from the military.

However, the International Commission of Inquiry criticized the work of the Committees stating that it did not provide a sound basis for drawing conclusions about rape in Darfur. Nor, said the Commission, did the work of the Committees meet the requirements the government needed to respond to rape in Darfur.

A State Committee on Combating Gender-Based Violence was established in Southern Darfur in March 2005. The mandate of the Committee was to monitor and evaluate efforts to end sexual violence and provide solutions and provide technical aid toward that end. A number of international organizations served as monitors for the Committee's work.

However, the UN report said that no appreciable impact had been made as of June 2005.

The Security Committee for Northern Darfur informed military commanders at the end of May 2005 of a number of attacks that were allegedly carried out by soldiers. The Committee called on the leaders to clamp down on any sexual violence by members of the military.

However, the commanders' response was that many of the perpetrators were unidentified even though they were wearing military uniforms. They stated that any non-military person caught wearing a uniform would be arrested and prosecuted.

Judges and prosecutors were reportedly being deployed to Northern Darfur. This was to increase access to courts.

However, judges from four towns around Al-Fasher had to be recalled because of security concerns. Even though two judges were redeployed, most judges are concentrated in the state capital. Outlying areas still have little access to courts.

The Special Criminal Court for the Events in Darfur was established in June 2005 by the Chief Justice of Sudan.

However, as of July the court had only 12 cases before it. In addition, the court did not always provide a reasonable amount of time when announcing a hearing. When lawyers in one case requested that a hearing be postponed a day (the attorneys were only informed of the hearing on the same day it was to occur) the request was denied by the Chief Justice. The attorneys were told that because this was a special court, they should be prepared for a hearing even with only “five minutes notice.” The attorneys withdrew the case in protest.

Hopeful Developments?

Even if many of the government's efforts were half-hearted and had accomplished little by July 2005, there were hopeful developments.

Local women's organizations, community-based organizations, academics and national human rights organizations were actively working at the time of the UN report to raise awareness about women's rights and sexual violence. They also worked to build capacity to provide services and support for rape victims in Darfur.

In May 2005 new criminal investigation teams were deployed to Darfur following a decision by the Minister of the Interior, the Minister of Justice, and the Head of Police for the Sudan. These teams were to provide technical support and training for police and to help establish criminal investigation departments. They were also to provide doctors with evidence collection kits for use in rapes (with victim consent). The focus of these teams is exclusively on investigation and review of rape cases in which no progress has been made.

In a few instances, human rights observers reported that perpetrators of rape had been prosecuted and punished.

At the time of the UN report, even these small steps seemed hopeful.

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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