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UN Women’s Rights Expert Concludes Visit to Sudan

UNITED NATIONS

Press Document

GENEVA – October 11, 2004

Prof. Yakin Ertürk, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights today issued the statement below. The statement contains preliminary findings following her visit to the Sudan and its Darfur region from 25 September to 2 October 2004.

The situation in Darfur is one of a human crisis exasperated by mutual mistrust between the people and the Government; the lack of effective follow-up regarding allegations of human rights violations, including the rape of women and girls; the distortion of the reality through conflicting claims and assessments of the situation; and an apparent lack of security for internally-displaced persons (IDPs).

Women and girls have suffered multiple forms of violence during attacks on their villages, including rape, killings, the burning of homes and pillage of livestock. Women have also been tortured during interrogation by security forces for being relatives of suspected rebels. I heard numerous accounts of continuing violence against the displaced women and girls allegedly by government-backed militia and security forces. In particular, rape and beatings take place when women and girls leave the IDP camps to fetch wood or other necessities. Consequently, many women and girls endure the trauma of rape and loss, health problems and heightened risk of HIV/AIDS infection, as well as domestic violence and poverty. The fact that women head the majority of the households in the camps exasperates their vulnerability to violence and exploitation.

In view of my observations in Darfur, I would like to make a few initial recommendations:

The Government of Sudan must adopt a transparent and participatory approach to handling the crisis in Darfur and ensure the safety of civilians.

Accountability for perpetrators, without exception, is fundamental in addressing violations of human rights and restoring people’s faith in Government institutions. In this regard, all allegations of violence against women must be fully investigated and the witnesses and victims protected from any retaliation.

While the establishment of the National Commission for the investigation of rape is a positive initiative, it is necessary that the Commission broaden its mandate to investigate all forms of violence against women; diversify its composition to include social workers, medical staff, international observers and the like; improve its data collection methods and collaborate with the United Nations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in this regard.

Finally, I strongly encourage the Sudanese Government to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the rights of women in Africa, thus commencing a dialogue for the improvement of the legal protection of women’s rights in Sudan, and also implement effectively current obligations under international law.

Also during my visit to the country, I attended, along with Angela Melo, Special Rapporteur on women’s rights of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, the first Africa Regional Consultation on violence against women. This was followed by a National Consultation with Sudanese women’s NGOs.

In order to assess reports and allegations regarding Darfur I met with Sudanese officials and civil society as well as representatives of the United Nations and of international NGOs. I traveled to Nyala in South Darfur and El Genina in West Darfur. I undertook field visits and interviewed internally displaced persons in Kalma, Kass and Ardamata camps. In Nyala I also visited the female section of Nyala prison.

I wish to thank the Government of Sudan for inviting me to visit Darfur and facilitating my mission. I am particularly grateful for the assistance provided by the Advisory Council for Human Rights. I also wish to thank the team of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the country for their assistance, and the African Union for their logistical support.

I will present a full report to the sixty-first session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 2005.