Rape and sexual violence in Sudan's ongoing conflict may amount to war crimes, a new UN report says

By Isaac M February 23, 2024

The U.N. human rights office said in a new report Friday that scores of people, including children, have been subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence in the ongoinng conflict in Sudan, assaults that may amount to war crimes.

Sudan plunged into chaos in mid-April when clashes erupted in the capital, Khartoum, between rival Sudanese forces — the country’s military, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, and a paramilitary faction known as the Rapid Support Forces, under the command of Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo.

The fighting quickly spread across the African country, especially urban areas but also the restive western Darfur region, and has so far killed at least 12,000 people and sent over 8 million fleeing their homes, the report said.

The report, which covers a period from the outbreak of the fighting up to Dec. 15, documents abuses in a country that has been largely inaccessible to aid groups and rights monitors recently, clouding the impact of a conflict that been overshadowed by wars in places like Gaza and Ukraine.

The report found that at least 118 people had been subjected to sexual violence, including rape — with many of the assaults committed by members of the paramilitary forces, in homes and on the streets.

One woman, the U.N. said, “was held in a building and repeatedly gang-raped over a period of 35 days.”

The report also pointed to recruitment of child soldiers on both sides of the conflict.

“Some of these violations would amount to war crimes,” said U.N. human rights chief Volker Türk, calling for prompt, thorough and independent investigations into alleged rights abuses and violations.

The report is based on interview of more than 300 victims and witnesses, some conducted in neighboring Ethiopia and Chad where many Sudanese have fled, along with analysis of photographs, videos, and satellite imagery from the conflict areas.

The ravages of the war, beyond the period examined, are continuing, the U.N. said.

The U.N. cited video that emerged last week from the country’s North Kordofan State showing men wearing Sudanese army uniforms carrying severed heads of members of the rival paramilitary faction.

“For nearly a year now, accounts coming out of Sudan have been of death, suffering and despair, as the senseless conflict and human rights violations and abuses have persisted with no end in sight,” Türk said.

“The guns must be silenced, and civilians must be protected,” he added.

Speaking from Nairobi, Kenya, by videoconference to the U.N. briefing in Geneva on Friday, Seif Magango, a regional spokesman for the U.N. human rights office said that “the number of people displaced (in Sudan) has now crossed the 8 million mark, which should concern everyone.”

Earlier in February, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres told reporters that there is no military solution to Sudan’s conflict and urged the rival generals to start talking about ending the conflict. He stressed that continued fighting “will not bring any solution so we must stop this as soon as possible.”

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