Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Sudan refuses to turn over Colonel and gov't minister accused of mass rape

from Independent Online Edition: Rape in Darfur persuaded charity to act

By Anne Penketh, Diplomatic Editor, 13 August 2007

When observers from Amnesty International visited Darfur in 2004, they were appalled by the number of rape victims they encountered.

The women and girls fall victim to rape as they collect firewood outside the refugee camps. Many have been gang-raped in front of their families as the conquering Janjaweed militia burnt down their homes.

Hundreds of rape cases, including against girls as young as seven or nine, were documented by human rights workers at the height of the ethnic cleansing in Darfur in 2004.

To allow the victims of mass rape to give birth is arguably tantamount to complicity in genocide. Because the most horrible conclusion of rape as a weapon of war is that it can change the ethnic makeup of a country. In the case of Darfur, it could mean the steady Arabisation of the next generation.

In 2005, about 100 countries took a landmark decision agreeing that rape should be acrime against humanity, which could be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The court's statutes include "rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilisation, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity" as a crime against humanity, when used as part of a "widespread or systematic attack" against the civilian population. Today, the former Sudanese former interior minister, Ahmad Harun, and Ali Kushayb, have been accused by the court of acting together to commit war crimes, including mass rape, against Darfur's civilians.

According to ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Ali Kushayb - known as "colonel of colonels" in west Darfur - victimised the local population "through mass rape and other sexual offences". Mr Harun was quoted as saying: "Since the children of the Fur had become rebels, all the Fur and what they had, had become booty" of the Janjaweed.

Last May, the court issued arrest warrants for the pair. However, although Mr Kushayb is reportedly in custody in Sudan, the Sudanese authorities have refused to hand over the men for trial. The loophole for Sudan, which the government has exploited by saying that its own judicial process is under way, is that the ICC can only come into play when a state is unwilling or unable to prosecute the crimes in national courts.

The systematic use of rape has been documented in Liberia and Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia. But it was most reported in Rwanda, where according to the World Bank and Unifem,as many as 500,000 women were raped during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis.

The ICC is also hearing cases against the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and the Central African Republic.

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