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U.S. Slams Sudan on Blocking U.N. Investigation into Mass Military Rape of 200 Women, Girls in Darfur

( [email protected] ) Feb 12, 2015 08:17 PM EST

A report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) claimed that over 200 women and girls were raped by the Sudanese military in October 2014, prompting condemnation by the United States.

The report, which is posted on the organization's website, claimed that soldiers from the Sudanese army carried out attacks against civilians in a Sudanese town in North Darfur called Tabit. HRW stated that its research came from first-hand accounts due to the fact the United Nations was barred from officially investigating the matter.

"The attacks included the mass rape of women and girls and the arbitrary detention, beating and ill-treatment of scores of people," HRW wrote. "The government of Sudan has denied that any crimes occurred and has prevented the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) from carrying out a credible investigation of the incident."

HRW added that the attacks happened over a 36-hour period. Witnesses told the organization that government soldiers engaged in looting, raping and beating of the civilian population.

"Soldiers forced many of the men to outdoor locations on the outskirts of the town, leaving the women and children especially vulnerable," HRW wrote. "The soldiers detained the men en masse, and threatened and physically abused them throughout the night."

The human rights organization contended that war crimes and human rights violations were committed in that region. Louis Charbonneau of Reuters reported that U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power cited the organization's report in a U.N. Security Council meeting.

"To this day, the government of Sudan has shamefully denied the U.N. the ability to properly investigate this incident," Power said.

Power accused Sudan's government, based in the capital Khartoum, of systemically denying "meaningful access" to UNAMID. According to Reuters, Sudanese Deputy Ambassador Hassan Hamid Hassan dismissed the allegations, citing the HRW report and Power's speech as "a flagrant attempt to level accusations."

"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," Power said.

Nina Strochlic of The Daily Beast reported on how much effort the Sudanese government has placed in restricting any official investigation of what happened in Darfur along with access to the area. An unnamed senior U.N. official told Strochlic that although U.N. peacekeepers were allowed inside, the Sudanese army was also there too, hampering the investigation.

"As you know, despite numerous requests, the authorities have not allowed us to access the area and to conduct an independent investigation," the U.N. official said. "As a result, the United Nations has not been able to verify these rape allegations. The seriousness of allegations contained in the HRW report makes further investigation all the more urgent."

The HRW report appeared to corroborate the account and observation from the U.N. official.

"They have threatened, intimidated, beaten, detained, and tortured residents of Tabit to prevent them from speaking out about what took place," HRW wrote. "The authorities have also repeatedly denied UNAMID and other investigators access to the town."

Strochlic reported that access to the area to verify what happened in Darfur has been difficult. She noted that many journalists, humanitarians and international observers were kicked out of Sudan or denied visas altogether.

"I haven't seen reports on this level since the height of the genocide," Daniel Sullivan, director of policy for United to End Genocide, said.

According to Reuters, the Darfur conflict originally began in 2003, when mostly non-Arab tribes decided to fight the Arab-led government in Khartoum because of discrimination accusations.

The U.N. told Reuters that the conflict has led to 300,000 deaths and millions of people displaced.

Tags : United Nations, U.N. Security Council, U.N., UN, UN Security Council, Human Rights Watch, Darfur, Sudan, Darfur genocide, Sudan genocide, Darfur mass rape, Darfur war crimes, Sudan war crimes, war crimes, Samantha Power, UNAMID, UN peacekeepers, Human Rights, human rights violations