Samantha Power, United States ambassador to the United Nations, has criticised the Sudanese government for preventing investigation into allegation of mass rape involving its soldiers.
A new report by New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) alleged that at least 221 women and girls were sexually assaulted over the course of three days in Tabit, a village in the northern part of Darfur.
She said it had become imperative for the council to rely on investigations by non-government organisations like HRW because Khartoum had “systematically denied meaningful access” to the UN, African Union Peacekeeping Mission (UNAMID) in Darfur.
“To this day, the government of Sudan has shamefully denied the UN the ability to properly investigate this incident, and rape has been used as a weapon of war in Darfur,” she said.
“For every Tabit we know about, there are so many more villages that have been the victims of unspeakable atrocities over the past decade in Darfur.”
The human rights advocacy group interviewed numerous locals who attested to the alleged atrocities committed by the soldiers.
“Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that during (the) attacks, government soldiers went house-to-house in Tabit, searching houses, looting property, severely beating residents, and raping women and girls,” the report read in part.
“On the two nights, soldiers forced many of the men to outdoor locations on the outskirts of the town, leaving the women and children especially vulnerable.
“No evidence of any rebel force in the town immediately prior to or during the attacks.”
A woman in her 40s said she was raped alongside her three daughters, two of whom were less than 11-year-old.
“Then they started beating us. They raped my three daughters and me. Some of them were holding the girl down while another one was raping her. They did it one by one,” she said.
Yusuf Kurdufani, spokesperson of Sudan’s foreign ministry, dismissed the report, tagging it “an attempt to reproduce an issue long closed after the world was convinced about the incredibility and illogicality of the claims of mass rape.”
“The United Nations itself said two months ago that its team had found no evidence supporting the claims, though the ultimate findings are inconclusive and require further investigation,” he said.
On his part, Hassan Hassan, Sudan’s deputy ambassador, described the report of HRW and the statement of Power as flagrant attempt to level accusations.
“In the first place, there is nothing like that, no such incident”, he said.
The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when mainly non-Arab tribes took up arms against the Arab-led government in Khartoum, accusing it of discrimination.
The conflict has taken up to 300,000 lives, according to the UN.