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GET justice for victims of mass rape in Tabit, Darfur

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We, the Sudanese women in the Diaspora, write to express our grave concern over the mass rape of more than 200 women and young girls in Tabit village, North Darfur that occurred on October 31, 2014. We are deeply troubled by the fact that the overwhelming majority of the victims were elementary schoolgirls, some as young as eleven years old.  This horrendous act was committed by Sudanese soldiers from a nearby military garrison and has been confirmed by their force commander, who visited Tabit the following day and acknowledged the rape of the women and girls, along with the beatings and humiliation of the men. Despite this public admission, the government of Sudan has obstructed investigations and completely denies that the rape and beatings even occurred.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident; it’s a pattern of the longstanding and ongoing genocidal attacks on innocent civilians that are part of a systematic and calculated plan to eliminate the indigenous Africans in Darfur. For the past 11 years, the campaign of killing, raping, pillaging, and burning of villages by pro-government militias has gone unhindered and therefore continues today. The Sudanese government has extended its attacks against indigenous African people in Nuba Mountains/South Kordofan and the Blue Nile, where thousands have been terrorized by killings, aerial bombings, forced displacement, and rape.

The Sudanese government militias deliberately use rape as a weapon of war and tool for terrorization as ill strategy to punish, humiliate, and control the indigenous African people in Darfur. Female civil society leaders and teachers from Nuba Mountains/South Kordofan and the Blue Nile have also been constantly targeted for rape and other forms of sexual assault and humiliation.

Over the past five years, systematic targeted attacks against female Darfuri students, activists, civil society leaders, and human rights defenders in the capital, Khartoum, and other regions of Sudan have intensified. These Darfuri women are constantly arrested, tortured, and in most cases, sexually assaulted and raped by the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Service Personnel while in custody. The international community, including UN agencies focused on women’s issues, has largely ignored these crimes thus enabling the abuses to continue unhindered.

We are outraged and extremely disappointed by the inaction of the international community on this horrible crime. Today, we stand in solidarity with the women and young girls of Tabit and strongly condemn this brutal incident of mass rape.

 We appeal to the international community to demand justice and protection for the women of Tabit and Sudan at large who have endured unimaginable suffering and oppression while forced to stay silent.

We are gravely concerned that there has not been any credible investigation of the incident. We have learned that Sudanese military forces obstructed the United Nations African-Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) investigation team. But instead of telling the truth, UNAMID re-victimized the victims by issuing a statement claiming that the incident did not take place. This was shocking and extremely painful for the victims and their families who had just experienced the most brutal night of their lives.

UNAMID was created to protect the people of Darfur. Instead, it has been accused of covering up reports on crimes committed by government militias against civilians. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has yet to investigate these serious accusations. UNAMID is failing to protect civilians and to adequately report the extensive incidents of rape and other forms of sexual violence against women in Darfur.  UNAMID’s lack of reporting has severely limited the ability of humanitarian organizations to respond and provide support for the victims and prevents any possibility of intervention to mitigate the attacks and protect innocent civilians.

UNAMID must be held accountable and an independent investigation team should be formed to seek the facts and to mitigate the harm caused by UNAMID and the government of Sudan’s denial of the rape incident.

We demand that the UN Secretary General, UNSC Member States, and the US Ambassador to the United Nations lead the process to independently investigate the horrific crimes committed in Tabit in addition to all other incidents of rape committed against the women of Darfur and in other parts of Sudan. Victim protection must become a priority and the government soldiers who committed the rapes must not be allowed to enter Tabit as they will further intimidate the survivors and jeopardize their safety.

As American citizens, we call on the Obama Administration to hold the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) accountable for their failure to require UNAMID troops to provide protection and accurate reporting.  DPKO must also be held accountable for misrepresentation of evidence of crimes and for blocking the results of UNAMID’s investigation regarding the allegations of cover-up for Khartoum’s crimes in Darfur.

We call on the UNSC Member States to uphold their obligation toward the UN principles and to empower UN agencies such as DPKO and UNAMID to fulfill their mandates and to hold them accountable in case of failure.

We call on the world leaders, the international community, and those who stand for the protection of human rights to speak up and demand protection, justice and lasting peace for the women and people of Darfur and Sudan at large.

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