July 23, 2019

Activists press U.S govt on supporting Darfuri survivors of rape

Readers of this blog know that the biggest takeaway for me from my time in Darfur this August/September was the impact that the post-ICC expulsions had on women, and in particular on survivors of rape. The women I spoke with were frustrated that the world writ-large seemed to have papered over this. While a joint assessment was done of gaps in the so-called “life saving” sectors following the expulsions, there was no subsequent attempt to address services that fell outside of these sectors.

But at the end of October, the UN Panel of Experts released a report which drew attention to the gaps in medical and psychosocial services for Darfuri women, at which point Reuters Khartoum-based reporter wrote on the issue. Now, activists and advocacy organizations are taking up the mantle.

Today Physicians for Human Rights, on behalf of 40 domestic and international organizations, will present the Office of the U.S. Special Envoy, with a letter (full text below) to Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton and Special Envoy, Scott Gration, requesting that Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) programming and prevention are treated as essential humanitarian services for Darfuri women, and that the restoration of these services is made a priority.

And this is not just an ‘elite’ advocacy concern. Grassroots activists are also raising the issue, with a letter (full text below) to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, requesting that a formal UN-AU assessment is done of the gaps in “non life saving” sectors, as was done in the immediate aftermath of the expulsions for the “life saving” sectors. They further request the results of the assessment be made public so that subsequent improvements can be monitored. (Note – It is not too late to add your signature to this letter. You can do so by emailing: martinaknee [at] gmail[dot]com]).

In short, advocates have begun to put this issue on the agenda of the U.S. government at least. Stay tuned for what policymakers do – or do not do – in response . . .

Text of letter to Hillary Clinton and Scott Gration:

November 20, 2009

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Room 7226

Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Clinton:

We applaud your leadership and commitment to addressing sexual violence in armed conflict. As you continue to monitor the situation in Sudan and work to facilitate effective humanitarian operations for Darfuris displaced in Sudan, Chad and the Central African Republic, we the undersigned organizations urge you to ensure that programming for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGV) is recognized as essential and incorporated into the basic needs objectives for humanitarian operations in the region. We hope that you will make the restoration of SGV programming a priority alongside the “life-saving sectors” of protection and food security, and we believe that with U.S. assistance programming can be immediately restored to pre-expulsion levels.

Many of the 13 international aid agencies expelled from Darfur in March 2009 worked to provide comprehensive humanitarian services, including support for women and girls who have experienced sexual violence.  Such attacks have been documented during the initial Government of Sudan/Janjaweed campaign in Darfur in 2003-2005, and both within and outside UNHCR Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps since their establishment in 2004.  These agencies were involved in painstaking negotiations with the Government of Sudan in order to provide SGV services, and since their expulsion SGV services have been eliminated in Darfur. The Government of Sudan controls the authorization of humanitarian operations under their domestic jurisdiction and had relentlessly obstructed the negotiation of technical agreements with these agencies in order to stymie SGV programming. The al-Bashir government continues to maintain that mass sexual violence has not occurred in the Darfur region and obstructs SGV programming in order to avoid even indirect recognition of these atrocities.

We request that you prioritize the restoration of SGV programs that were severed in March 2009 due to the expulsion of international aid agencies.  These services include emergency assistance for injuries, documentation of injuries sustained during these brutal attacks, access to HIV/AIDS prophylactic treatment, pregnancy testing, and psychological and social support. Furthermore, we ask that you work to achieve the following goals:

  • Humanitarian organizations must be supported by the U.S. as they renegotiate technical agreements with the Government of Sudan to incorporate SGV programs into their operations in Sudan.
  • Government obstruction of SGV services must be monitored in Khartoum and on the ground: SGV services must be restored and made available to all IDP populations, including West and South Darfur where humanitarian operations function at a lower level than in North Darfur state.
  • Coordination between aid agencies, camp residents and UNAMID gender desk officers is essential. The recruitment of gender desk officers must involve camp residents, and the work of gender experts should fully utilize the expertise and resources of aid agencies as well as camp residents, to ensure the establishment of culturally competent services.

As you know, the U.S. is the primary donor to the humanitarian operations in Darfur, and the recent engagement of the al-Bashir government by the Obama administration now presents the opportunity to ensure that SGV services are provided to survivors in Darfur, and across the Sudan-Chad border in Eastern Chad.  We need urgent action to protect the rights of victims and to ensure the Government of Sudan is no longer able to obstruct the delivery of these essential services.


. . . . .

cc:           Major General J. Scott Gration (Retired), Special Envoy to Sudan

Text of letter to Susan Rice:

The Honorable Susan E. Rice

Permanent U.S. Representative to the United Nations

United States Mission to the United Nations
140 East 45th Street
New York, NY  10017

Dear Dr. Rice:

We write to you about the absence of medical care and counseling services for victims of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in Darfur since the expulsion of aid workers on March 4, 2009. We respectfully request that you take all actions within your power to have a formal assessment made of the status of such services to establish a baseline for the evaluation of their reinstatement.

The October 29, 2009 UN Panel of Experts Report confirmed:

“After the expulsion of the international non-governmental organizations on 4 March 2009, internally displaced persons women who were already suffering from lack of adequate humanitarian services lost access to the medical and psychosocial support offered by those organizations. That support has not been replaced, either for lack of capacity on the part of the Government of the Sudan or because of distrust on the part of internally displaced persons women. One consequence is that no independent monitoring of localized violence and sexual and gender-based violence currently exists. UNAMID has not been able to fill this gap.” [Emphasis added]

http://www.humanrightsfirst.info/pdf/PoE-S2009-562.pdf (See, in particular, paragraphs 60-72.)

The joint Government of Sudan (GoS)/African Union/UN assessment of humanitarian aid post-March 4 does not include an assessment of services to SGBV victims. It is also our understanding that such services are not included in the measurements made by the US Special Envoy’s Office when monitoring the status of humanitarian aid in Darfur.  Moreover, the U.S. Sudan policy makes no mention of the need to restore these services.

In response to the UN Panel of Experts Report, “[GoS] State Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Abdelbagi Al-Geilani, dismissed the report as ‘propaganda’. He reportedly said that there was no widespread rape in Darfur and that foreigners are free to come and investigate.” UNMIS Media Monitoring Report, November 12, 2009 at http://unmis.unmissions.org/Portals/UNMIS/MMR/MMR%2012%20Nov%2009.pdf.

Aside from the humanitarian considerations of the need for such services, their absence supports the GoS in continuing the use of rape as a weapon of war in Darfur. Without the services, the reports of rapes will disappear or greatly diminish. Within a short period of time, the GoS denials will become increasingly more difficult to refute. This is, of course, the result intended by the GoS.

We, therefore, request that a formal assessment of the status of services to SGBV victims in Darfur be completed as promptly as possible by the African Union – United Nations.  We urge that the assessment and the specific services to be reinstated be made public.  Such reinstatement should be a benchmark measured by the U.S. Special Envoy in evaluating incentives and disincentives for the GoS. It could also be used as a benchmark for the U.N. Security Council in evaluating sanctions and other measures to be taken against the GoS leadership.  In the event the GoS impedes or prevents such an assessment, we believe the U.S. Special Envoy and the U.N. Security Council must make it clear to the GoS that such behavior will not be tolerated.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of this request.  As November 25 is the 10th anniversary of the U.N. International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, we believe it would be meaningful for you to announce publicly your call for the assessment on this day.

Very truly yours,

. . . . .

[Email: martinaknee [at] gmail[dot]com]if you want to sign on]


  1. Do we send each individually to that email or both at the same time?

  2. Bec Hamilton says:

    The letter to Clinton and Gration is being presented today (in an hour!) so it is too late for additional signatures to that one. But if you want to add your signature to the letter to Rice, email martinaknee [at] gmail [dot] com

    I have heard that some U.S.-based activists are now also now texting Sec. Clinton on this issue at 90822

  3. clarita karlin says:

    the fact that this horror has never been fully addressed by way of a major move at aid for the women of darfur (sudan) is unbelievable….it is beyond immoral that no action is taken in true aid by the global community for a serious and sustained implementation of acts to end the barbaric acts against the people of darfur…..that in this day and age the world turns a deaf ear and a blind eye to an ongoing genocide…..it was thot that after the world war 2 experience of the holocaust of the jews and others the world would never turn its back on the kind of horror that is being done in darfur today…..we need to act on aid for the wwomen and children of darfur…..


  1. […] has been several weeks since U.S. activists made a concerted effort to get the collapse of SGBV services in Darfur onto the radar of Secretary Clinton, General Gration […]

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