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UN Rights Chief Blames Sudanese Government Forces, Militia for Widespread Rapes in Darfur


The U.N.'s Chief Human Rights Official blames widespread sexual violence in conflict ridden Darfur on Sudanese Government Forces and allied militia. Louise Arbour is urging the Sudanese government to conduct an impartial investigation into the allegations. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

The U.N. Human Rights Office report documents incidents of widespread sexual violence during attacks by Sudanese government forces and allied militia in eastern Jebel Marra in central Darfur in December.

U.N. spokesman, Jose Diaz, says the 15 cases of reported rapes include a 13-year-old girl and two 25-year-old pregnant women. One of the women, who was five months pregnant, reports she had a miscarriage after being raped by four men.

Diaz says the attacks were part of a campaign to humiliate the rebels.

"It is used as an instrument of war. It is meant to demoralize the enemy," he said. "It is meant to destroy the enemy in the most fundamental way."

"It is a way of destroying the sense of dignity of the enemy by getting at the women. The villages attacked in December were attacked by air and by land by government forces and their militia allies," he added.

The Sudanese government denies responsibility and blames rebel groups for the attacks.

However, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, is calling on Khartoum to investigate the allegations of rape and other gross violations of human rights. She says those responsible for the attacks should be put on trial and the victims compensated.

A separate report raises concerns about the enforced disappearance of at least 19 Massalit men arrested in South Sudan in September. Arbour is demanding that former rebel leader Minni Arkoy Minnawi disclose their whereabouts.

Jose Diaz says the bodies of eight of the 19 men have since been found.

"We are extremely concerned about the fate of the men because there are reports of torture of people who have been disappeared and the fear is, judging from the bodies that have been discovered so far, that they may have been victims of summary execution, which would be extremely grave violations of human rights," he said.

Minnawi's Sudan Liberation Movement was the only rebel group to sign a peace deal with the Sudanese government last May. He now is chairman of the Transitional Darfur Regional Authority.

Arbour is calling on Minnawi to ensure the physical well being of the detained men and to allow human rights officials to see them.