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Medical Evidence of Widespread Torture in Darfur Released by PHR in PLoS Medicine

90 percent of patients at Darfuri center for torture victims were attacked by Government/Janjaweed

For Immediate Release

Today’s issue of PLoS Medicine features a peer-reviewed study led by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) that provides rare forensic medical evidence of widespread, sustained torture and other human rights violations by the Government of Sudan (GoS) and allied Janjaweed forces against non-Arabic-speaking civilians in South Darfur.

In the study, PHR’s forensic medical experts reviewed the medical records of 325 patients seen in 2004-2006 at a clinic in Nyala, South Darfur for torture victims. The documentation from this review of medical records provides important validation of extensive testimonies gathered by many organizations and UN agencies over the years

“The killing, rape, torture, and other human rights violations documented in our study appear to have been committed as part of widespread, systematic and coordinated attacks directed against non-Arab speaking civilian populations in Darfur,” said Vincent Iacopino, Senior Medical Advisor at PHR and senior author of the study. “These apparent crimes against humanity demand investigation, accountability and justice. Inaction in the face of such inhumanity would be complicity by default.”

Key findings of the study include:

  • 90% of patients from 12 different non-Arabic-speaking tribes alleged that they had been attacked by GoS and/or Janjaweed forces in 23 rural areas across Darfur
  • Of those attacked, 16% stated that GoS and Janjaweed forces attacked in concert, often with aerial bombardment coordinated with simultaneous ground assault by GoS and Janjaweed forces
  • The most common abuses were beatings (50%), gunshot wounds (43%), destruction or theft of property (37.2%), and involuntary detainment (30%)
  • Villages were repeatedly attacked, with 5 villages reportedly attacked a total of 41 times during the study period
  • Virtually all (99%) of the reported attacks occurred in the absence of active armed conflict between Janjaweed/GoS forces and rebel groups
  • Forensic review of these medical records by PHR’s medical experts corroborated the allegations of abuse in 100% of cases in which there was adequate information on which to base an expert opinion.
  • Approximately one-half (49%) of all women disclosed that they had been sexually assaulted, and one-half of sexual assaults were described as having occurred in close proximity to a camp for internally displaced persons

“This study underscores the necessity of peace and reconciliation for the people of Darfur,” said Dr. Mohammed Ahmed Eisa, Sudan Fellow at PHR and co-author of the study. “Hundreds of thousands of civilians who have been attacked and tortured during the past decade are living in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps and desperately need security and protection. Once they are safe, these survivors deserve compensation and restitution for what they have endured.”  

Despite the historic referendum that created the state of South Sudan in July 2011, recent border skirmishes and bombing attacks by Government of Sudan Antonov aircraft on civilian populations and food supplies in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states indicate continuing human rights violations similar to those documented in Darfur in the PLoS study.  

PHR has emphasized that no political agreement will be long-lasting if it is not based on accountability for egregious violations – either in Darfur, or with regard to South Sudan and the disputed areas.

PHR also remains concerned that sexual violence continues to be perpetrated in Darfur, including in IDP camps, while access for journalists and human rights investigators is severely restricted.

The other study authors are Alexander Tsai, Sondra Crosby, Susannah Sirkin, Michele Heisler, and Jennifer Leaning.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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