FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
New York, NY
February 12, 2015
Thank you. In November, this Council was confronted with reports of an alleged mass rape in Thabit – a town in North Darfur, Sudan. The UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur attempted to investigate, but was systematically denied meaningful access. The one time the peacekeepers were permitted to reach Thabit, Sudanese military and intelligence officials refused to let them interview alleged rape victims in private, and in some cases recorded the interviews. To this day, the Government of Sudan has shamefully denied the UN the ability to properly investigate this incident, despite this Council’s mandate for UNAMID to do precisely that.
Yesterday, a report released by Human Rights Watch alleged that at least 221 women and girls were raped in an organized attack on Thabit, over a period of thirty-six harrowing hours beginning on October 30, 2014. According to the report, Sudanese soldiers went door to door – looting, beating, and raping inhabitants. Over 50 current and former residents provided testimony corroborating the crimes, as did two reported army defectors who separately told Human Rights Watch that their superiors had ordered them to rape women. Because the Government of Sudan denied the UN a proper investigation, we have to rely on organizations such as Human Rights Watch to gather witness and perpetrator testimony and to shine a light on what happened.
One woman told Human Rights Watch that soldiers entered her home and said, “You killed our man. We are going to show you true hell.” Then, she said, “They started beating us. They raped my three daughters and me. Some of them were holding the girl down while another one was raping her. They did it one by one.” Two of her daughters were younger than 11-years-old, she said. Many of the witnesses interviewed told Human Rights Watch that government officials had threatened to kill them if they told anybody what happened.
Nearly ten years after the Security Council first adopted Resolution 1591 with the aim of protecting civilians in Darfur and stopping the violence there, the horror of Thabit is just one attack, in one place, out of too many to count.
In 2014 alone, more than 450,000 additional people were displaced in Darfur – the highest number of new IDPs in any year since 2004 – adding to the approximately two million people already displaced. In the first six weeks of this year, humanitarian organizations estimate an additional 36,000 people have been driven from their homes in North Darfur State.
People living in areas afflicted by violence are in desperate need of humanitarian aid, yet obstruction, harassment, and direct attacks by the Sudanese government have made them increasingly hard to reach. Two weeks ago, Medecins Sans Frontieres shut down its operations in three states in Sudan – including two in Darfur – citing the “government’s systematic denial of access” to communities in the greatest need.
In one example MSF cited, the Government of Sudan prevented its emergency workers from traveling to the IDP camp in El Sereif, in Darfur, where the organization said residents did not have enough drinking water to survive. MSF also suspended operations in South Kordofan State, where its hospital was bombed by a Sudanese Air Force jet.
Today we renewed the mandate of an important UN panel that monitors the sanctions imposed by this Council – sanctions the government of Sudan continues to flout. The government and armed groups it supports routinely violate the arms embargo – a fact that they openly acknowledge. They continue to launch deliberate attacks on civilians, as well as on UNAMID peacekeepers; between December 2013 to April 2014 alone, 3,324 villages were destroyed in Darfur, according to the Panel of Experts. And the Sudanese government continues to allow individuals subject to sanctions to travel and access their finances.
Today we renewed a sanctions monitoring panel that has provided thorough, independent monitoring of the Government of Sudan and other armed groups in Darfur, with a resolution that is more forward-leaning than its predecessors.
But even as we take this important step, we are reminded that the sanctions regime is impotent when the Sudanese government systematically violates it, and the Council cannot agree to impose sanctions on those responsible for the violence and the abuses.
Nonetheless, today’s resolution matters. It speaks to our deep concern with these ongoing violations, it presses the Government of Sudan to take the long-overdue steps necessary to protect the people of Darfur and stop the violence. For the first time, it condemns the violence perpetrated by the government-backed Rapid Support Forces, the heirs to the Janjaweed. And, for the first time, it urges the Sudanese government to account for the situation of civilian populations, who are suffering from devastating waves of attacks in North Darfur, like the reported mass rapes at Thabit.
Yet encouraging as it is to see some very modest improvements to today’s renewals resolution, the most important measure of our efforts will be our ability to alleviate the immeasurable suffering of the people of Darfur. And on that front, this Council – and the international community – has failed. Our complacency is deadly for the people of Darfur. So perhaps today, with a slightly more robust sanctions resolution, we can reignite this Council’s engagement on this continuing crisis.
People’s lives depend on it, and so too does the credibility of this Council – because our ability to promote international peace and security depends on our ability to keep our word, and implement the measures that we impose. And we need to do it because for every Thabit we know about, there are so many more villages that have been the victims of unspeakable atrocities over the past decade in Darfur. They demand we find a way to stop this, and we must.