Report: Sudanese Refugees Face Rape Daily in Chad

Published September 30, 2009

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- Women and girls who fled the fighting in Darfur face rape and other violence daily in eastern Chad, even inside the very refugee camps where they have sought sanctuary, according to a report released Wednesday.

The Amnesty International report says the women and girls are attacked by villagers living nearby, members of the Chadian army and aid workers in the camps. The global human rights body says it is difficult to give the exact number of victims because they rarely report the violence.

"Many people know that women who venture outside refugee camps in eastern Chad to collect firewood and water face harassment and rape," said Tawanda Hondora, the deputy director of Amnesty International's Africa program.

"What people don't realize is that there is little safety inside the camps for these same women," said Hondora in a statement. "They face the risk of rape and other violence at the hands of family members, other refugees, and staff of humanitarian organizations, whose task it is to provide them with assistance and support."

Officials with the U.N. refugee agency that manages the camps declined to comment on the report, saying they had not read it.

Chadian government spokesman Mahamat Hissene denied that any Chadian had attacked the Sudanese refugees.

"Before the refugees came, we did not have rape cases in Chad," Hissene told The Associated Press. Rape cases started, "when the Sudanese came. If there are cases of rape in the camps we cannot prevent them. The government is not responsible for security in the camps."

Eastern Chad is a temporary home to about 250,000 refugees who have fled the conflict in neighboring Sudan's Darfur region. There are also camps for 187,000 Chadians displaced by fighting locally and in Darfur.

The United Nations has a peacekeeping force of about 2,300 soldiers in the region with a mandate to help protect civilians, improve security and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid. Chad also has an 800-strong unit of specially trained police and soldiers to guard the camps.

The Darfur conflict began in February 2003 when ethnic African rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Sudanese government in Khartoum, claiming discrimination and neglect. U.N. officials say the war has claimed at least 300,000 lives from violence, disease and displacement.

Written by Associated Press

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