Mass Rape In Tabit Village: Why UNAMID Found no evidence?

By: Elhadi Idriss Yahya
According to the Radio Dabanga, (https://www.radiodabanga.org/node/83429), on Friday, 31st, October , 2014, it was reported that Sudanese soldiers belonging to Tabit military garrison invaded Tabit Village which is located 45 Kilometers South-West of El-Fasher the capital city of North Darfur state. It’s alleged that they beat the village residents with rifle butts and chased all men out of the village before they started looting and raping about 200 women and girls (80 of whom were school girls, 105 unmarried girls while the rest were married women). These violent acts of inhumane started from 6pm on Friday as per the aforementioned sentences at the beginning of this paragraph, in the evening until the morning of Saturday, this seemed to be a retaliation of claims that one of their soldiers went missing on Thursday evening. The 29 year old soldier went missing, but was reported to have a love affair with a lady from the village and had decided to reside permanently in the lady’s house without the consent of her family. The behavior of the soldier was not approved by the villagers. As a result, they decided to move as a group and confront the soldier. On their arrival, the soldier got scared and ran away carrying his own gun, AK24 rifle. Thus his disappearance led to the above aforementioned incidences in that village.
Upon receiving such news, on 4th November, 2014 UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) sent a verification field mission from Shangil Tobaya team-site (nearest UNAMID sector to Tabit). The verification field mission was denied access outside Tabit by Government of Sudan (GoS) military on the pretext of not obtaining permission from GoS authorities. Meanwhile, the Government completed the relocation of all forces associated with the incidents in Tabit, replacing them with new forces under the leadership of the new commander. The new commander was working under the strict instruction from his superiors in El-Fasher that nobody would be allowed to enter Tabit without proper inspection.
Furthermore, the new military commander summoned all male residents older than 20 to a meeting at the Grand Mosque near to the market square to take oath that none of them would utter one word about what the army did in Tabit on 31 October to UNAMID or any other agency, warning them that violation of the oath could have a dire consequence. A week later, GoS allowed UNAMID to send a Review Team to investigate the rape clams. Surprisingly, on 10th of November, UNAMID issued statement that “The team neither found any evidence nor received any information regarding the media allegations of mass rape in Tabit”. Interestingly, this came after the new commander of Sudanese force acknowledged that his forces ‘committed a mistake’ against Tabit people and offered an apology to the residents. This implies that his troops indeed committed acts of rapes against Tabit’s women. (Sources: Sudan Tribune, Radio Dabanga, UN News Centre)
It’s against this background that, questions are posed on why did UNAMID find no evidence in Tabit? First and foremost, for anyone to carry out an investigation or research, some ethical methodologies must be followed. The heart of these ethical standards/ norms is the respect of human subject/ victim/ survival dignity. This dignity includes the right of victim to privacy. The UNAMID review team conducted all the interviews with the victims while the military personnel were present in an environment that is full of fears, intimidation and trauma. Hence, the victim’s testimonies were compromised. As such, the findings did not meet the minimum threshold of validity and reliability. It should be noted that on the word go, it’s still hard to get such information from a traumatized person and as psychologists clearly put.
Secondly, the ethical methodologies also require that the benefit/good of carrying out an investigation should outweigh the risks/ bad effects. In this case, the lives of victims are under great threat and risk if they were to reveal any information about the perpetrators. This is because the fact that the locals know that UNAMID is a toothless “Dog” and serve at the pleasure of GoS. Thus, the approach of data collection was wrong from the onset.
The third ethical aspect that was absence in the said case is the competency of the investigator. Beside the fact that UNAMID works under a weak mandate, it lacks professionalism and competent research body. In the words of Aicha Elbasri, former UNAMID, spokeswoman “UNAMID on a number of occasions, deliberately withheld critical information from the UN and UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations”. She further confessed that “UNAMID is deliberately under-reporting and non-reporting of serious crimes including rape cases”.( See, Eric Reeves, article of 20th Nov,2014 on the theme; What UNAMID really said about their investigation of mass sexual assaults on Tabit: The internal report on what investigators found)
Fourthly, the investigator deliberately ignored to look at the past history/ literature of the problem. Using the rape as the weapons of war in Sudanese conflicts is not something new either abnormal. Looking at the track records, the same culprits committed heinous acts of mass rape against the schoolgirls in Tawilla in 2003. Such insanity crimes have taken place several times in different places throughout the 12 year conflict in Darfur and justice has not been delivered.
Lastly, to find out a firsthand evidence of rape, the medical checkup for both victims and suspects must be taken place within 72 hours. It also advised that the victim should not wash herself and her clothes. This is to ensure that the evidence such as the blood and sperm cannot be destroyed. In Tabit case, the perpetrators had enough time to hide and destroy all evidence. Firstly they redeployed all the suspects. Secondly the victim’s tests and interviews took more 72 hours, barely a week.
In a nut shell, one may come to a stand that there was no doubt that the sexual violence and harassment took place in Tabit village. The other fact according to personal analysis, is that, UNAMID in its current structure does not have a mandate, capacity and willing to carry out a thorough, reliable and valid investigation due to unavoidable intervening variables. It’s therefore recommended that, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon not to send another investigating team from the same UNAMID which failed before, but would rather constitute a new independent fact finding team with strong mandate from UN Security Council to carry out a competent investigation. Otherwise Mr. Ban Ki-moon would end up with the same findings.
Elhadi is a lecturer at Kampala International University (KIU). For comments on the article he can be reached at (elhadih95@yahoo.com)

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