Khartoum — Large sectors of the Sudanese civil society have condemned various reports of rape and sexual harassment during the fighting between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Khartoum, most of which were reportedly carried out by the RSF, possibly on a large scale.
Seleima Ishag, the head of the Combating Violence Against Women Unit at the Ministry of Social Affairs, reported at least five cases of rape in Khartoum in a press statement on Friday. Three of the victims are refugees.
Two victims stated that they were assaulted by members of the paramilitary RSF were recorded in Khartoum last week whilst the other three reported being raped by unknown armed men.
A medical doctor reported three other cases of rape in the Sudanese capital, reportedly carried out by the RSF.
The Emergency Lawyers reported yesterday that two foreign women at El Ahfad University for Women in Omdurman were raped by an armed group affiliated with the RSF.
NGO Hadhreen recorded seven cases of sexual violence, all of which took place in areas under the control of the RSF militia.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also accused the RSF of sexually assaulting five families in Soug Libya in Omdurman, where the RSF has been accused of looting before.
These different reports might only be the tip of the iceberg.
Ishag told the Guardian that she believes the real numbers are much higher. “I believe that the cases are way more than that, but because of what has been going on, not all the victims can reach us and get the support needed.”
‘I believe that the cases are way more than that’Seleima Ishag
In response to the accusations, the Rapid Support Forces command stated that it will hold their members accountable in the event of violating the law and accused other parties of impersonating their forces.
The paramilitary organisation, and Sudan’s own military, have been accused of using rape as a weapon of war in Darfur in the past.
Especially the RSF have a bad reputation and have been found to use rape on a large scale in times of conflict. There have been several reports and witness statements on RSF commanders explicitly instructing their troops to employ rape as a tactic of oppression.
Reports and condemnation: Hadhreen
Sudanese NGO Hadhreen published a statement on Sunday in which it gathered reports of sexual violence since the outbreak of the clashes between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the RSF, predominantly carried out by the RSF.
“Since the beginning of the fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support [Forces] Militia, it has been confirmed to Hadhreen from multiple sources that seven cases of sexual violence have occurred, all of which took place in areas under the control of the militia,” their statement read.
An eyewitness confirmed that the men who gang-raped two of the victims were wearing RSF uniforms.
Five other reported rapes are being verified, all of which also come from areas under the control of the RSF, the NGO explained.
“We condemn such heinous practices that violate the dignity of women and cannot be ignored alongside other violations that are not surprising to be committed by members of the Rapid Support Forces.”
‘We condemn such heinous practices that violate the dignity of women […] that are not surprising to be committed by members of the Rapid Support Forces’Hadhreen
Hadhreen has previously documented similar violations in its report ‘The Price of the Transition’ on the June 3 Massacre in 2019, when the sit-in in front of the military command in central Khartoum was violently dispersed.
“We call on the international community to monitor these violations and work to stop them immediately through all means and channels, especially since some of the confirmed incidents occurred after the signing of what is known as the Jeddah Declaration of Commitment to Protect Civilians,” Hadhreen said.
The NGO is sounding the alarm over the continuation of these “heinous violations” and said that such actions amount to full-fledged war crimes according to international law.
It also argued that these crimes will only increase without any pressure from the international community and from Sudanese society on the militia leadership to control the actions of its members and hold the perpetrators of sexual violence, looting and robbery accountable.
Another organisation, the Siha Network, said it is “extremely concerned about the increased prevalence of sexual violence against women and girls, particularly in the peripheries of Khartoum, and the lack of protection services and an official response from the international community”.
“Mechanisms to investigate and prosecute perpetrators should be set up,” it stated on Friday.
Reports and condemnation: Civil Front
The Civil Front for the End of War and the Restoration of Democracy, a broad alliance of Sudanese activists, political parties, unions, rights groups, and regional coalitions, also commented on the reports by the Combating Violence Against Women Unit on Friday.
The Civil Front also mentioned unverified reports of rape and sexual harassment in areas controlled by the Sudanese army.
“Rape and sexual harassment are heinous acts and a flagrant violation of human rights that cannot be justified, accepted, or tolerated,” the organisation wrote.
‘Rape and sexual harassment are heinous acts and a flagrant violation of human rights’Civil Front
“Based on the Declaration of Principles for the Protection of Civilians they signed in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, the Civil Front calls on both warring parties to condemn these crimes, conduct an immediate and transparent investigation, arrest the perpetrators, hold them accountable publicly, and oblige their members to protect civilians.”
The Civil Front further condemned all forms of violations that continue to affect civilians, despite the signing of the Jeddah Agreement, especially the aerial and artillery bombardment of residential neighbourhoods and the continuation of clashes in residential areas, “which resulted in a significant increase in civilian casualties such as deaths and injuries” and the destruction buildings.
It also condemned “the continued encroachment on citizens’ property” and called for an immediate cease-fire.
Transparency and record-keeping are another demand of the group, which asks for “the preparation of a comprehensive inventory of the martyrs, the wounded, and the missing and the partial and total losses of property belonging to civilians or legal entities, such as factories, companies, banks, etc.”.
The group also demands “that the two warring parties conduct a comprehensive and transparent investigation into all these abuses, identify those involved, and bring them to justice to ensure that the perpetrators of the abuses do not go unpunished”.