The Sudanese government is directly responsible for crimes against humanity in its strife-torn western region of Darfur, including the widespread rape of women, Amnesty International charged.
Refugees from Darfur had described a pattern of "systematic and unlawful attacks" against civilians by both a government-sponsored Arab militia and the Sudanese military forces, the London-based rights group said.
Much of this was directed at women, with rape and other forms of sexual violence endemic, said the 35-page report, entitled "Sudan, rape as a weapon of war".
The report cited a Sudanese refugee woman as telling Amnesty, "Five to six men would rape us, one after the other, for hours during six days, every night. My husband could not forgive me after this, he disowned me."
Relief groups operating in Darfur have warned of a looming famine in the region, terming it as currently the world's most severe humanitarian crisis, Amnesty said in the report.
"Today's 'worst humanitarian crisis' has been directly caused by war crimes and crimes against humanity for which the Sudanese government is responsible," it said.
Over 10,000 people have been killed in Darfur since rebels rose up in February 2003, prompting a heavy-handed response from Khartoum.
Amnesty described the government attacks as constituting both war crimes and crimes against humanity.
"In these attacks, men are killed, women are raped and villagers are forcibly displaced from their homes which are burnt; their crops and cattle, their main means of subsistence, are burnt or looted," the report said.
It continued, "These human rights violations have been committed in a systematic manner by the (militia), often in coordination with Sudanese soldiers and the Sudanese Air Force, with total impunity, and have targeted mainly members of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups and other agro-pastoralist groups living in Darfur."
Amnesty International's report - Sudan: Rape as a weapon of war demonstrated that despite the regional and international focus on Darfur and promises by the Sudanese government to disarm the Janjawid militia, there is still no protection for women and girls.
There was "a large amount of information" pointing to the responsibility of the Sudanese government for the human rights violations in Darfur, Amnesty said.
Of particular concern was widespread rape, as well as other crimes targeted at women such as abduction, sexual slavery and torture, the report added.
Although it had not been able to visit refugee camps within Sudan, Amnesty workers at three camps in neighbouring Chad were able to collect the names of 250 women who have been raped during the conflict in Darfur, as well as information about an estimated 250 further rapes.
"This information was collected from testimonies of individuals who represent only a fragment of those displaced by the conflict," it said.
The report "can therefore only present a fraction of the reality of violence against women in the context of the current crisis in Darfur", Amnesty added, calling for an immediate end to the conflict and moves to bring those responsible for rights violations to justice.
Meanwhile, international efforts to broker a peace between the Sudanese government and two rebel groups in Darfur ran into trouble over the weekend after the government rejected rebel preconditions for talks.
Despite efforts by the African Union and United Nations, the two sides have only managed to sit down together once, an encounter which degenerated into a prolonged shouting match.
In its report, Amnesty International called on all parties to the conflict to stop and publicly condemn the use of rape as a weapon of war and to put adequate mechanisms in place to ensure the protection of civilians.
In addition, it called on the Janjawid militia to be disarmed and disbanded and placed in a position where they may no longer attack the civilian population.
Furthermore, Amnesty International called on an International Commission of Inquiry to be established immediately to examine evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other violations of international humanitarian law including rape, as well as allegations of genocide.
The human rights group also called for the perpetrators of attacks on civilians, including sexual violence against women, to be brought to justice in trials that meet international standards of fairness. (Albawaba.com)
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