Buses carrying Sudanese people traverse the Nile River on a ferry after crossing the border from Sudan, in Abu Simbel, southern Egypt, 20 May 2023. EFE/EPA/FILE/KHALED ELFIQI

Paramilitary forces allegedly raped dozens women in Sudan, says HRW

Cairo, Aug 17 (EFE).- Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported on Thursday that the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and its allied militants have allegedly raped “several dozen women and girls” in the West Darfur region of Sudan since starting a war against the country’s regular army on Apr.15.

“The Rapid Support Forces and allied militias appear responsible for a staggering number of rapes and other war crimes during their attack on (West Darfur’s capital) El Geneina,” HRW’s associate director for crisis and conflict, Belkis Wille, said in a statement.

The rights watchdog has documented 78 cases of rape between April 24 and June 26, after interviewing up to 20 people, including sexual violence victims, witnesses and health workers, it said.

The paramilitary forces’ attacks on El Geneina began on April 24 and continued through late June, causing hundreds of deaths and injuries, and forcing over 366,000 civilians to flee to neighboring Chad, HRW noted.

According to the statement, RSF and its predominantly Arab allied militants mainly targeted towns and villages inhabited by Masalit people, one of the main non-Arab communities in West Darfur.

The survivors have told HRW that most of the armed assailants, who carried out the sexual violence, were dressed in RSF uniforms and arrived in RSF-marked vehicles.

The victims had said the attackers explicitly mentioned their ethnic identity and used ethnic slurs against the Masalit or non-Arabs during the attacks.

Since 2019, the RSF and allied militias have repeatedly fought Masalit armed groups in West Darfur.

Historical grievances based on ethnicity, including the Sudanese government’s failure to address land access and ownership, have also fueled these tensions.

“The UN Security Council should show those responsible for abuses that the world is watching by taking urgent steps to bring an end to these atrocities” HRW underlined.

Sexual violence has been a central feature of the conflict since 2003, with Sudanese armed forces carrying out large-scale rape and other sexual violence in Darfur.

In 2008, the International Criminal Court stated that “Rape is an integral part of the pattern of destruction that the Government of the Sudan is inflicting upon the target groups in Darfur.” EFE