UNITED NATIONS – Human Rights Watch is accusing the Sudanese military of another mass rape in Darfur.
Members of Sudan's Rapid Support Forces raped at least 60 women in the country's troubled western region, after taking over the town of Golo in January, according to a new report by the rights group released Wednesday. It says many women were attacked in a hospital where people had taken shelter.
"Many of the women were gang raped, often in front of community members who were forced to watch," the report says. "Some of those who resisted were killed. The naked bodies of many dead women were later discovered in the streets; other women were burned alive."
Human Rights Watch interviewed 23 people who were in the village or neighboring villages at the time.
"My father was defending us so that we would not be raped and he was beaten to death," resident Nur al-Huda said in the report. "After they killed my father they raped the three of us. Me and my two sisters."
Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch reported on the mass rape in October of at least 221 women and girls in the village of Tabit. The attack added to the growing friction between the U.N., which has not been allowed to investigate, and Sudan, which has said its own investigation found not "a single case of rape."
The new report also describes a range of killing, looting and torture of civilians by the Rapid Support Forces during two major counterinsurgency campaigns over the past two years in Darfur, where it deployed last year.
Sudan's vast western region of Darfur dissolved into violence among rebel groups in 2003. More than 300,000 people have been killed in the conflict. The U.N. says nearly half a million were displaced last year alone, the most in a decade.
A U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force of more than 17,000 troops and police has a mandate to deter violence, among other duties, but its presence is increasingly fragile after President Omar al-Bashir last year called for an exit strategy. Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide and war crimes for atrocities linked to the Darfur fighting.
Human Rights Watch says it met this month with Sudan's incoming U.N. ambassador, Omer Dahab Fadl Mohemed, about the new report's findings. Sudanese officials in Khartoum and at the country's U.N. mission did not respond to a request for comment.
The report is based on interviews with 151 people who fled to Chad and 61 people in Darfur. The interviews included five defectors from Sudanese forces who said they saw rapes and other violence by follow soldiers.
Human Rights Watch is calling on Sudan to disband the Rapid Support Forces and hold perpetrators accountable. The group also calls on the peacekeeping mission, called UNAMID, to better protect civilians.
"Although UNAMID's mandate includes reporting on human rights abuses, the mission has failed to release any detailed documentation about abuses against civilians during either of the RSF-led counterinsurgency campaigns," the report says. There was no immediate U.N. comment on the report.
Human Rights Watch also wants the U.N. Security Council to demand immediate unrestricted access for the mission throughout Darfur.