A U.N. team investigating allegations of a mass rape in Sudan’s North Darfur say they have found no evidence of the reported attack. But a senior U.N. official says it is not yet possible to confirm that no rapes took place.
After denying them access for more than one week, the government of Sudan allowed a team from the U.N.-African Union mission in Darfur, UNAMID, access Sunday to the town of Tabit, where the reported rapes of 200 girls and women allegedly occurred earlier this month.
U.N. Spokesman Farhan Haq said the team including military, police and civilian members spent several hours interviewing people in Tabit, including the local Sudanese Armed forces commander.
“UNMID reports that none of those interviewed confirmed that any incident of rape took place in Tabit on the day of that media report. The team neither found any evidence nor received any information regarding the media allegations during the period in question," said Haq.
He said the mission plans to conduct further follow up actions, including further investigations and patrols.
The 15-nation Security Council was briefed on the situation by the U.N. deputy peacekeeping chief Edmond Mulet and the secretary-general’s envoy on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Hawa Bangura.
Security Council President, Ambassador Gary Quinlan of Australia told reporters after the briefing Bangura told the council she was concerned because there had been a heavy Sudanese military presence during the team’s visit.
“She stressed that while the rape allegations remained unverified, in her view, it was not possible to conclude that no sexual violence took place. Ms. Bangura said that it was critical that UNAMID continue to have unrestricted access to Tabit to complete its investigation and to provide any humanitarian and medical assistance that may be required," said Quinlan.
Ambassador Quinlan said several council members expressed concern about the allegations and the initial denial of access to UNAMID after the report of the rapes surfaced. He said council members were also concerned the presence of Sudanese military during the team’s interviews was intended to create an environment of threats and intimidation, and fear of reprisals.
The report of the mass rape was made on Radio Dabanga, a Netherlands-based station that broadcasts to Darfur. The allegations were attributed to a village elder, who said Sudanese soldiers raped the women in Tabit over an eight-hour period beginning on the night of October 31.