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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Women and Children Systematically Raped and Assaulted in Darfur

A senior United Nations official told the Security Council that women and children are being systematically raped and assaulted in Darfur and urged Sudanese authorities to do more to protect civilians and end a culture of impunity.

One medical charity has treated 500 victims of sexual violence in Darfur in four months and this is just a fraction of such attacks in the Sudanese province, Under Secretary General Jan Egeland said.

Addressing the UN Security Council on the need for more international effort to protect civilians in armed conflicts, Egeland said Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo were among the countries where sexual violence was worst.

Egeland said medical charity Medicins Sans Frontieres had reported treating 500 survivors of sexual violence in Darfur in just four months.

"We believe this represents only a fraction of the total victims," he said, adding that the impact of the violence was compounded by Sudan's failure to acknowledge the scale of the problem and to act to stop it.

"Not only do the Sudanese authorities fail to provide effective physical protection, they inhibit access to treatment." He said in some cases unmarried women who became pregnant after being raped had been treated as criminals and subjected to further brutal treatment by police.

"In Darfur ... rape is systematically used as a weapon of warfare," Egeland said.

Meanwhile, a Chadian delegation to peace talks where the African Union (AU) wants to end the Darfur conflict accused rebels there of scheming to scapegoat Chad.

One top envoy from Ndjamena, Ahmad Allam Mi, said the team "deplores a misinformation campaign accusing Chad of being behind obstacles to the smooth running" of the AU's long bid to end a war between the Khartoum government and two rebel groups in Darfur.

Allam Mi, a diplomat and adviser to Chad's President Idriss Deby, said the delegation "denounces scheming intended to use Chad as a scapegoat ... to ends contrary to the mediators' mandate, exclusively about settling the conflict."

His target was the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), one of the two rebel groups in Darfur alongside the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), which has said Chad is biased and stepped up the rhetoric to accuse it of "committing genocide."

Since Chad's delegation arrived in the Nigerian capital on June 15 to join the AU as co-mediators, every bid to get all participants round one table to end a war that has killed at least 180,000 people and displaced 2.4 million has stalled.

A spokesman for the AU mediators, Sam Ibok, said four hours of separate talks on a draft Declaration of Principle (DoP) key to a settlement were held on Tuesday, but a planned plenary session was postponed by 24 hours and the Chad issue had been taken up by heads of state.

The DoP, the latest stage in a process that stalled for months over truce violations by both sides before resuming on June 10, lays the groundwork for a political deal, in the wake of military measures and ahead of discussion of power-sharing and the distribution of wealth.

The SLM, after objecting, has agreed to Chad's role in the talks, but the JEM has adopted an increasingly hard line.

And in Eritrea's capital Asmara, a JEM spokesman said forces from the movement had taken part in a completely separate joint rebel offensive in east Sudan launched on Monday.

Meanwhile, the chief of Southern Sudan's ex-rebel movement has expressed sympathy with armed dissidents who launched their first offensive against government troops in eastern Sudan's Red Sea state.

On a visit to Eritrea, John Garang also said he sympathized with inhabitants of the western Darfur region who complain of marginalization by Khartoum. - Agencies

Copyright (c) 2005 The Daily Star


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