- The police component of the joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping operation in Darfur has established a special investigations unit to monitor and report on crimes involving sexual and gender-based violence, a prevalent problem in the western Sudanese region.
The peacekeeping force, known as UNAMID, announced that the seven-member unit has been set up in response to the high rates of sexual and gender-based violence recorded across Darfur in the past two years. Staff members have received specialist training for dealing with such cases.
The new unit will work to encourage victims of violence to report incidents to local law enforcement authorities, reduce the stigmatisation of sexual abuse victims and help to rehabilitate victims.
It also aims to support local law enforcement agencies as they investigate a range of cases, including child abuse, child abandonment, prostitution, human trafficking, domestic violence and sexual harassment.
UNAMID said the unit would work closely with the police, non-government organisations (NGOs) and other agencies that deal with gender-related issues.
Sexual and gender-based violence remains widespread across Darfur, which has been beset by conflict and displacement for six years. An estimated 300,000 people have been killed and about 2.7 million others forced to leave their homes, with many women and children vulnerable to violent attacks, particularly when they are searching for scarce firewood.
Meanwhile, staff from the mission’s human rights and rule of law sections have completed a four-day training course on human rights standards and prison management for 30 correctional officials working in North Darfur state.
The training, the first of its kind in North Darfur, included such topics as the humane treatment of prisoners, particularly minors, pre-trial detainees and female prisoners.
The course, held in El Fasher, was funded by Switzerland through the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
The UN launched a new initiative earlier this year aimed at ensuring gender equality and promoting the participation of women in the search for peace in Darfur.
Under a cooperation agreement, police serving with the joint African Union-UN hybrid operation in Darfur were to team up with the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) to support innovative measures to boost the standing of women in the region, further aiming to create an enabling environment for women’s equal and meaningful participation in the process to bring peace to Darfur.
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