Press Release


Geneva , 6 April 2007

-- The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights today released reports documenting incidents of widespread sexual violence during attacks by Sudanese Government forces and allied militia last December and the disappearance last September of at least 19 men allegedly at the hands of the former insurgent forces headed by Minni Arkoy Minnawi. High Commissioner Louise Arbour is calling for prompt and impartial investigations into the reported human rights violations.

The first report documents attacks in mid and late December 2006 in Deribat and eight other villages along the road from Kutur to Deribat in eastern Jebel Marra, Darfur . At least 15 cases of sexual assault, including rape, had occurred, according to the report. Victims were as young as 13 years old and at least two pregnant women were targeted in the violence. While some women were raped in the villages, others were abducted, taken away, raped, and later released. The attackers wore military uniforms and were described by the victims as soldiers. Based on testimony gathered, it appears that rape during the December 2006 attacks was used as a weapon of war to cause humiliation and instill fear into the local population. The attacks were indiscriminately aimed at a population of the same ethnicity as some rebel groups and also resulted in civilian death and displacement.

Along with other recommendations, the High Commissioner is calling on Government authorities to c onduct an impartial, timely, and transparent investigation into the attacks , with particular focus on the allegations of rape and other gross violations of international human rights law. " The investigation should aim to collect evidence to identify and prosecute those who planned, orchestrated, and/or conducted the attacks", the High Commissioner said following the release of the reports. " The results of the investigation should be made public, legal action should be taken against those found to be responsible and the victims of the attacks should be compensated" .

A second report concerns the enforced disappearance of at least 19 Massalit men arrested by SLA-Minnawi soldiers in Gereida in South Darfur on 29 September 2006 . The High Commissioner is calling on the head of the group, Special Presidential Assistant Minni Arkoy Minnawi, who is also Chairman of the Transitional Darfur Regional Authority, to immediately disclose the fate and whereabouts of these men. According to reports, several of the men have been found dead. On 22 January 2007 , relatives identified the corpses of eight men as being among those arrested on 29 September 2006 . Other information tells of these men having been beaten at an SLA-Minnawi base where leaders were present.

"If the detainees are alive", the High Commissioner said, "their physical integrity must be assured and they should be brought before a judicial authority. The Human Rights Unit of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) should be provided access to all the detainees".

"If the captured persons are dead, there must be an independent, transparent, and timely inquiry to identify those responsible and hold them accountable for crimes that may have been committed", she concluded

The information contained in the two reports was shared with the authorities prior to their public release.