Review of Reports on Violations in Darfur

In May 2005, in anticipation of the opening of an investigation into Darfur and in preparation for the Prosecutor’s first report to the Security Council, the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice conducted an internal review of 20 reports on the situation in Darfur, including the Report from the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur.

This review analysed the reported crimes, existing documentation of gender based crimes, news articles, and identified critical information in relation to the experience of women during the conflict.  It is clear from this research that gender based crimes are widespread.

Some of the key issues we identified in this review are:

  • There is extensive reporting of rape and sexual violence as widespread and systematic, and the use of rape as a deliberate strategy in the conflict.
  • Raids on villages are most often accompanied by rape and other forms of sexual violence, including public rapes and gang rapes are common. Women are regularly abducted during raids and around camps and sites for internally displaced people, and after capture women report having their arms and legs broken to prevent them escaping.
  • Overwhelmingly the majority of crimes are committed by the Janjaweed and Sudanese military who are working in close collaboration.
  • Although rape and sexual violence are noted in each of the 20 reports we reviewed, the extent and range of gender based violations, inclusive of and beyond rape and sexual violence, are not sufficiently addressed.
  • The recognition and conceptualisation of gender based crimes in the reports, including the Commission’s Report, is narrow and does not adequately reflect the multiple crimes committed against women nor their impact on victims.
  • There are aspects of the Commission Inquiry and report that are to be commended. The inclusion in the investigation team of investigators with gender
    expertise, the acknowledgement that rape is used strategically in war, and the length of the section regarding findings of violations of international law in relation to rape and other forms of sexual violence, indicate a serious attempt by the Commission to address these crimes. Additionally, the characterisations of the abduction of women as enforced disappearance, and impact of the threat of rape and sexual violence for women in IDP camps as deprivation of liberty are creditable.


The analytical review formed the basis of our advocacy work with the ICC in the lead-up to the Prosecutor’s first report to the Security Council in June 2005, on the progress and intentions of the ICC’s investigations.  In the lead up to this report we wrote to the Prosecutor urging the explicit inclusion of gender based crimes in the ICC oral and written reports to the Security Council.

Letter to Prosecutor on Darfur (doc)

Although ‘rape and sexual violence’ were mentioned in the oral report to the Security Council, reference to these crimes was cursory.

In response we issued a Press Release expressing our concern at the lack of adequate investigative focus regarding crimes of sexual violence, particularly given reports by the United Nations Security Council, UN agencies, human rights organisations and the media all reported rape and sexual violence in Darfur as widespread and used as a deliberate strategy in conflict.  We communicated our concerns to senior officers in the Court.

Press Release (pdf)

Since this time the ICC has confirmed that sexualised violence and gender based crimes are a priority during their first investigations in Darfur.


During 2005 we produced outreach resources – Rights and the Rome Statute – in Arabic for distribution in the Sudan, and specifically Darfur.

Rights and the Rome Statute (pdf)

We established strong local contacts and partnerships for monitoring the situation in Darfur.


In October 2005, we conducted a one-day Gender Training Seminar for the ICC Investigation Team on Darfur on effective investigations of gender based crimes; interviewing victims/witnesses of sexual violence; political and historical aspects of conflict in Darfur; contextualizing violence against women; and legal framework including key jurisprudence from ad hoc tribunals

Activities in Darfur 2006-2008

  • Conduct a field mission to Darfur/southern Chad to meet with women affected by the conflict, to further the process of establishing relationships, contacts and networks with local women’s NGOs, human rights NGOs and other key actors to assess the conflict and the gender based crimes committed in this context.  The mission will gather information about the crimes being committed, consult with women about who they identify as responsible for the violations, what justice means to them and what form of justice will be most meaningful, assess levels of awareness about the ICC and their ideas, concerns and questions about the Court.
  • Provide training for women’s and victims groups in Darfur on the ICC.  The training will address ways to engage with the Court as a mechanism for justice, the rights of victims and witnesses and the mechanism for reparations.
  • Provide training for Sudanese lawyers and human rights actors. The purpose of this training is four-fold:
    • to raise awareness of the Rome Statute amongst lawyers and key NGOs;
    • to develop an informed and supportive legal environment for women victims/survivors of gender based crimes in Darfur;
    • to support local law reform initiatives within Sudan and use of the Rome Statute towards legal equality and women’s human rights;
    • to inform and support Sudanese (women) lawyers to be on the list of counsel authorised to represent victims before the ICC.
    • Facilitate a Roundtable meeting for lawyers to assess the ICC’s progress in investigations and prosecutions of crimes committed in Darfur; to continue development of an informed and supportive legal environment within the Sudan for victims/survivors (especially women) of the conflict and to support local strategies strengthening the national justice system inclusive of legal equality for women;
  • Continue to liaise with women’s groups who work with or are based in Darfur;
  • Continue to monitor the situation in Darfur and the ICC’s investigation plans, work and progress in the region;
  • Continue to monitor the efficacy of the ICC investigations in relation to gender based crimes in Darfur;
  • Continue to monitor the Prosecutor’s six-monthly reports to the UN Security Council on the Darfur situation;
  • Continue to update our analysis and overview of new reports on the conflict in Darfur.