Expulsions hit Darfur rape victims: Aid groups

Wed Nov 11, 2009 11:22am GMT

By Andrew Heavens

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Rape victims in Sudan's Darfur region have lost vital medical and psychological support since Khartoum expelled aid agencies working against sexual violence this year, the United Nations and aid workers said.

A Sudanese minister on Wednesday dismissed the reports as "propaganda" saying there was no widespread rape in the region and that foreigners were free to come and investigate.

Sudan ousted 13 foreign aid groups and closed three local organisations in March after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al- Bashir to face charges of masterminding atrocities in Darfur.

Khartoum accused the groups of passing information to the Hague-based court, a charge they deny.

Ten out of the 13 expelled foreign groups were doing work related to protection and sexual violence, said an official from one of the ousted organisations who asked not to be named.

"Women are now feeling a lot less safe in reporting rapes and there's been a resurgence of the bad old days when women victims are treated like criminals if they report it," the official said.

Rights groups say women who report attacks risk prosecution for having sex outside marriage under Islamic law in Sudan.

A U.N. report this month said sexual violence was "rampant" in Darfur. The conflict surged in 2003 when mostly non-Arab rebels revolted, accusing Khartoum of neglect.   Continued...

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