A new report by the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says sexual violence in strife-ridden Sudan's Darfur is prevalent. According to the report, members of the military and law enforcement officers are often among the perpetrators.
The report finds the Sudanese government is either unwilling or unable to take serious steps to repress sexual violence in Darfur.
Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour calls government efforts to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of rape and gang rape extremely poor.
"The deficit in the government ranges from an extremely unreceptive attitude towards even recognizing the magnitude of the problem. It seems to me that is the first thing that needs to be redressed. The government has to acknowledge that this is not a fabrication by humanitarian workers and NGOs. This is the reality for the lives of many women in IDP [internally displaced persons] camps, that they are preyed upon continuously by members of the armed forces, by militia, soldiers, policemen, people who should, in fact, be brought under control by the government," she said.
In addition, Ms. Arbour says Sudan's legal structure, including immunity for the armed forces, and its investigative capacity are obstacles to bringing perpetrators to justice. She says women have little incentive to report violence and are often arrested, along with witnesses, for providing so-called false information.
"We have asserted in this report that there is regular evidence of intimidation and harassment of victims and of humanitarian interveners who try to assist them," she added.
The U.N. report stresses steps the government can take to remedy the situation.
In May, the Sudanese government formed a committee on gender-based violence in Darfur. A Special Criminal Court for Events in Darfur has also been established, but Ms. Arbour says it is too early to know if progress is being made.