The United Nations is accusing armed groups backed by the Sudanese government of systematic rapes and other forms of sexual abuse in South Darfur. In its report, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights says these acts may constitute war crimes.  Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

This is a follow-up to a report issued by the United Nations Human Rights Office in April.  It contains additional information gathered from victims, witnesses and subsequent field missions. 

The new report describes in graphic detail the manner in which women were abducted and systematically raped after their village of Deribat came under attack at the end of last year.  

U.N. human rights monitors say about 50 women and many children were abducted.  They say the victims were held for about a month.  

A U.N. human rights spokesman, Yvon Edoumou, says most of the women were kept as sex slaves and were subjected to multiple rapes and other forms of abuse at the hands of forces loyal to the government.

"The report stresses that the government holds the responsibility for the actions of its armed forces and all these affiliated armed groups, notably the Popular Defense Forces and the Sudan Liberation Army, Abu Gasim faction," he said.  "The report also deplores the fact that no investigation has been carried out by the authorities, although some of the acts committed may constitute war crimes."  

According to witnesses, in late December, armed men, some in vehicles, some on horses and camels, attacked Deribat and eight other villages. A total of 36 civilians were killed in the attacks.  The witnesses report some of the attackers spoke Arabic, although others were described as being of African appearance.

The report says women and children who were victims of multiple rapes are suffering grave health risks from physical injuries and psychological trauma.

Edoumou says the U.N. High Commissioner's Office is calling on the government of Sudan to protect women and children from violence.

"Among the recommendations from the report, the government is urged to cease all attacks against civilians, especially women and children: to establish an independent body to investigate the cases of abduction, rape and sexual slavery committed in the region and to hold those suspected of being responsible on trial under international standards of fairness," he added.

The report names three people who, it says, may share criminal responsibility for possibly leading or authorizing the attacks on Deribat and the abduction and abuse of the women: Ali Mohammed Hussein, a former sergeant in the Sudanese Armed Forces; Hamid Mohammed Hamdan, an Arab militia commander; and Yousif Ali Yousif, a leading member of the government-backed Popular Defense Forces. He allegedly coordinates all the attacks launched in the Deribat area.