Experts Release New Data on Sexual Violence in Sudan
(Washington, DC). The international community—including the US and members of the Arab League and the African Union—must act now to resolve the political and humanitarian crises facing Sudan and bring stability to the region. This, according to a panel of leading Sudan experts at a briefing today hosted by Nobel Laureates Jody Williams and Wangari Maathai held at the National Press Club. Some of the panelists warned that peace will not come to Sudan if efforts at justice are not respected, including the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for Sudanese President al-Bashir.
“We were heartened by the Qatar process, and the efforts of Arab leaders to advance progress on peace talks between the government of Sudan and the main rebel group. However, these peace talks are now disintegrating, and Bashir is not being held accountable for the further suffering of the Sudanese people,” said Jody Williams, chair of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. “What Sudan needs now are real brokers for peace, instead of support for leadership that is wreaking yet more havoc in the region.”
Williams, Maathai and other panelists also addressed the unique role of the Arab League and African Union countries in Darfur. Since the ICC’s arrest warrant was issued on March 4, Bashir traveled to the Arab League summit in Doha, Qatar at the end of March and visited several other Arab countries (including Libya, Saudia Arabia and Egypt) as well as Eritrea.
“We are calling on the leadership in Africa and in Arab League to do their part in working to solve this political and humanitarian crisis,” said Wangari Maathai, who just last week published a new book, The Challenge for Africa, which calls on African leadership to step up to the plate on solving Africa’s biggest problems including Darfur.
“It is not acceptable that Bashir is not only traveling in defiance of his arrest warrant, but more gravely, has expelled humanitarian agencies from the area around Darfur. Sudan must allow these groups back in, or we are looking at more lives lost due to starvation and lack of basic services.”
In retaliation for the ICC’s arrest warrant, Bashir forced 13 major humanitarian organizations out of Darfur, causing massive suffering in the already war-ravaged region. These organizations include 3 leading indigenous Sudanese organizations, whose staff have since been harassed, interrogated and detained. According to the United Nations, 1.1 million people will go without food, 1.5 will go without healthcare and over 1 million will go without water as a result of the expulsions.
“It is critically important that US Senator Kerry, who is in Khartoum this week, take the opportunity to push hard for the restoration of humanitarian services in the area around Darfur,” noted Williams. “It is not acceptable that the government of Sudan be allowed to use his people’s suffering to make a political point.”
Williams and Maathai also emphasized the importance of restarting the faltering Qatar peace talks, which stalled after the withdrawal of the rebel group the Justice and Equality movement, and incorporating both the Sudanese rebel groups as well as women.
“It is vital that any and all peace talks include the women of Sudan, who are already building a path to peace through their efforts to create dialogue and a consultation process. When women are not part of the peace process, their access to justice, reparations and the full range of their rights is jeopardized,” said Maathai.
At the briefing, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) released new data on the rape of Darfuri refugees. After interviewing nearly 90 women at the Farchana Refugee Camp in eastern Chad, PHR found that 19 percent of respondents had been raped in Darfur, 17 percent had been raped in Chad, and that most rapes occurred outside of the refugee camp when they left to collect firewood. Experts on the panel noted that the current humanitarian aid crisis will likely lead to an increase in sexual crimes against women.