Arusha, February 12, 2015 (FH) – Sudanese army forces carried out mass rape in Darfur in October 2014 which may constitute crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Wednesday. It called on the international community, including the International Criminal Court, to act.

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Over 36 hours beginning on October 30, 2014, Sudanese army troops carried out a series of attacks against civilians in the town of Tabit in North Darfur, according to the report. It says at least 221 women and girls were raped, including girls under 15.

“The attacks included the mass rape of women and girls and the arbitrary detention, beating and ill-treatment of scores of people,” says Human Rights Watch. “The government of Sudan has denied that any crimes occurred and has prevented the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) from carrying out a credible investigation of the incident.”

Tabit is largely ethnic Fur and has been under the control of rebel armed groups in recent years. Human Rights Watch said it found no evidence that rebel fighters were in or near Tabit at the time of the attacks.

The group said the UN and the AU should take “urgent steps to protect civilians in the town from further abuses” and for an international investigation. It also urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the incident “to the extent possible”.

The ICC has issued arrest warrants for five Sudanese nationals, including President Omar al-Bashir, for serious crimes committed in Darfur, but Sudan has refused to cooperate with the ICC and none of them have yet been brought before the Court. In December 2014, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced she was suspending her Darfur investigations and blamed UN lack of action. She said the situation in Darfur continued to worsen and that women and children were the main victims of attacks on civilians. What was needed, she told the UN Security Council, was a “dramatic shift in this Council’s approach to arresting Darfur suspects”. The Council referred Darfur to the ICC in 2005.