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Rape by Sudan’s RSF militia used to ‘punish and terrorise’ warn rights experts

Sudan’s military leadership plunged into protracted conflict for control of Sudan with former partner turned rival, the Rapid Support Forces, four months ago, leaving thousands dead and millions forcibly displaced, the group of more than 30 rights experts said.

Around 700,000 refugees and asylum seekers have been forced to flee across Sudan’s many borders into neighbouring countries, destabilizing the entire region.

Tool for punishment

“It is alleged that men identified as members of the RSF are using rape and sexual violence” against women and girls “as tools to punish and terrorise communities. Some of the reported rapes appear to be ethnically and racially motivated,” the experts said. 

While calling on both parties to the conflict to end violations of humanitarian and human rights law, the experts expressed specific concern at consistent reports of widespread violations by the RSF.

Hundreds of women have been detained by militia members, held in inhuman or degrading conditions, subjected to sexual assault, and are vulnerable to sexual slavery, the experts warned.

“Sudanese women and girls in urban centers as well as in Darfur have been particularly vulnerable to violence.

“The lives and safety of migrant and refugee women and girls, primarily from Eritrea and South Sudan, have also been seriously affected,” they said.

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Hard to reach

The capacity to support victims of violence has been severely limited due to the fighting which has been hampered access to all areas impacted by the war. There is also evidence that local women human rights defenders have been deliberately targeted.

The experts noted that despite the RSF’s declared zero-tolerance policy for sexual and gender-based violence, the commission of these alleged crimes, among others, have repeatedly been attributed to the RSF.

End the abuses

“The RSF must demonstrate its commitment to upholding humanitarian and human rights obligations, including preventing sexual and gender-based violence and trafficking in persons, facilitating humanitarian access and holding perpetrators accountable”, the independent experts said. 

“Assistance and protection to victims and access to effective remedies must be provided to women and girls.”

The Special Rapporteurs and other rights experts reminded all parties to the conflict that fighters must strictly follow applicable international humanitarian and human rights law, calling for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

They also called on the international community to investigate alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. 

Independent experts are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary, and they are not paid for their work.

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