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Cablegate: Darfur Human Rights Trends

VZCZCXRO7234
PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0763/01 1400509
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 190509Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0854
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0223
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000763

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, S/CRS, SE WILLIAMSON, DRL, NSC FOR BPITTMAN AND
CHUDSON
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF PHUM KPKO SOCI UNSC SU
SUBJECT: DARFUR HUMAN RIGHTS TRENDS

REF: A) KHARTOUM 749
B) KHARTOUM 719

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Recent bombings targeting civilians in rebel-held
areas of North Darfur have accompanied a deteriorating human rights
situation throughout the region. Human rights advocates have also
noted an increase in the incidence of rape, as well as domestic
violence, often taking place inside the camps for internally
displaced persons (IDPs). This is violence within and among IDPs as
camps become more lawless and traditions break down. Freedom of
movement, both of UNAMID teams and humanitarian workers, has
increasingly been restricted, especially because of banditry, and
Human Rights non-governmental organizations (NGOS) are routinely
harassed by government officials. Despite an existing agreement
with the Government of Sudan (GoS), UNAMID's access to detention
centers in Darfur is still spotty, and NGOs receive regular
complaints regarding unlawful detentions. The UNAMID Human Rights
Office will continue to track trends in the Darfur region, and will
produce its first bi-annual report on the human rights situation in
Darfur in July 2008. END SUMMARY.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
Sexual Violence "Unintended Consequence" in IDP Camps
--------------------------------------------- ---------

2. (SBU) The Amel Center, a Sudanese NGO with offices in El Fasher,
Khartoum and Nyala, provides medical and legal assistance for
victims of torture and sexual violence. The director of the El
Fasher office told FieldOff that he had seen a dramatic increase in
the number of women seeking treatment for sexual assault over the
past year. In April, the center received seven rape victims from
IDP camps, "that's one every four days - an important indicator of
declining social conditions," he commented. Amel Center had also
seen a dramatic increase in domestic violence complaints, handling
almost 150 over the past year. These too were primarily from IDP
camps. "They have nowhere else to go to escape death and hunger, so
they obviously have nowhere to go to escape abuse either," the
director remarked. This is largely abuse by IDPs against other IDPs
as opposed by janjaweed and GOS forces.

3. (SBU) UNAMID Human Rights (HR) officers supported these claims,
adding that the most dangerous camps were in Zalingei and Nyala. An
increase in IDP merchant "taxes" (payments made by merchants to camp
leaders, police, rebel movements, etc.) had forced small vendors to
close their legitimate businesses, they explained. Some of these
vendors, many of whom are widows raising families, had begun brewing
their own alcohol and selling it in makeshift "bars" inside the
camps. Soldiers, police, rebels and other IDPs get drunk at these
establishments and either rape unfortunate women they cross on their
way out of the camp, or, in the case of IDPs, abuse their wives.
"These rapes are not acts of war, although those still continue
outside the camps. These victims are the unintended consequence of
'economic development'" one officer lamented.

4. (SBU) In addition to this newer trend, reporting by UNAMID, UNDP
and other sources in the field indicates that rapes against IDP
women by militia, rebels and other armed groups continue to occur
with frequency. Although there are no comprehensive statistics on
these cases due to the sensitivity of the issue and the resistance
of the GoS to admit the problem, sexual violence against women
continues to play a damaging role in the Darfur conflict.

--------------------------------
Sexual Exploitation on the Rise
--------------------------------

5. (SBU) Prominent local human rights activist and attorney Khalil
Tukras told FieldOffs that he had witnessed a growing trend of
sexual exploitation, especially of "young girls." These girls, who
are generally very poor with no other means of livelihood, are
recruited to work in private homes as cooks or cleaners. Once in
these homes, they are pressured by male occupants to engage in
sexual acts, for which they are paid. Tukras charged that many of
these men were Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and UNAMID soldiers,
whose positions of relative power were intimidating. The girls felt
they had no choice, he claimed, calling the situation "forced
prostitution." Tukras warned that this type of exploitation would
have far reaching social consequences, including an increase in
teenage pregnancies, and possibly the emergence of so-called honor
killings in Darfur. The UNAMID dimension will further stain the
image of the international force and such abuses will be manipulated
further by the Khartoum media machine.

---------------------------------------------
Increasing GoS Restrictions on HR Activities
---------------------------------------------

KHARTOUM 00000763 002 OF 002

6. (SBU) Both the director of Amel Center and the UNAMID HR team
complained about restrictions on movement that had impeded
investigations or monitoring activities. UNAMID has faced ongoing
difficulties with both medical evacuations and military/human rights
investigations, with missions often canceled by GoS due to ongoing
security operations (reftel). Amel Center's director complained
that the GoS sometimes shuts down roads before planned attacks, or
after allegations of attacks, limiting Amel's access to victims, and
victims' access to treatment and assistance. He also said that six
months ago the GoS requested sensitive information about all members
of his staff, including bank account information. The director
claimed that this request had been made of all "independent" NGOS,
and said that he had personally been harassed both by phone and in
person several times by national security officers. (Note:
Harassment of human rights and legal aid workers appears to be both
widespread, as we have heard about it from many of our contacts. End
Note)

7. (SBU) The director of Amel said that unlawful detention by GoS
authorities continued to be a problem, with reasons varying from
ideological to personal. The Amel Center, through its legal
advocacy work, had managed to secure the release of 50 wrongly
imprisoned individuals over the past year. "It's a good average,
but unfortunately it is by no means all of those wrongly imprisoned,
and it does not take into account the condition in which they were
released..." the director said grimly.

8. (SBU) The UNAMID HR officers acknowledged that allegations of
abuse in Sudanese detention facilities persist, and expressed
frustration at their inability to verif9 such cliims Visit!thoj
rigxts8hAd!\ong"Be%n a,cjtmomnUsiqsu% `%|weg8TELaFin$$oRQQQQ~QmyQahlQymQf(!8owmvzgb d{nQ$grQi.mg$!}RefQO-hskJMQWkqryaoQQ+iOwfXd0t ~0UQQQyQ3rM)xQ2YlLQ{tz,k&EaQcation of the visit. While this agreement
appears to be working in West Darfur, access in North and South
Darfur is still spotty.

--------------------------------------------- -----
UNAMID To Begin Bi-Annual Human Rights Reporting
--------------------------------------------- -----

9. (SBU) The first UNAMID human rights report will be published in
July 2008, to cover the period from UNAMID's inception through June.
These reports will be produced by UNAMID bi-annually, although they
will officially be released by the Office of the High Commissioner
for Human Rights. The report will detail human rights abuses and
trends, and will be based on UN investigations and interviews with
witnesses. HR officers stressed that information was rigorously
cross-checked using multiple sources to ensure the highest degree of
accuracy. The report will be provided to GoS officials for
corrections and comments at least two weeks ahead of its public
release. However, staff noted that "GoS never reacts to UN reports
- they don't even bother to deny them. Instead, they react in the
press, to better reach their audience..."

10. (SBU) COMMENT: While UNAMID Human Rights officials maintain that
their reporting will be unbiased and unvarnished, there is
widespread fear throughout UNAMID of being PNG'd for being too
critical of GoS policies. Other UNAMID civilian employees prefer to
follow the path of least resistance in any case. The release of
this report through the High Commissioner's office provides some
distance between UNAMID officials and the reports' conclusions.
Despite the Khartoum regime's terrible human rights record, there is
no doubt that pressure and dialogue can mitigate some abuses and
both the UN and foreign embassies need to keep pushing and working
these issues.

FERNANDEZ

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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