updated 8/21/2007 8:00:14 PM ET 2007-08-22T00:00:14

A U.N. report released Tuesday describes gruesome new details about the rapes of dozens of Darfur women last year, saying they were sexually assaulted in front of each other, beaten with sticks and forced to cook and serve food to their attackers.

Some of the victims became pregnant as a result of rapes, allegedly carried out by the Sudanese soldiers and allied militiamen, the report by the U.N.’s top human rights office said. It accused the Sudanese government of failing to investigate the rapes.

“The abuses may also constitute war crimes,” said the report by the office of Louise Arbour, U.N. high commissioner for human rights.

The report alleged Sudanese forces and militiamen subjected about 50 women to multiple rapes and other violence in an attack on the eastern Darfur village of Deribat in late December. They also abducted many children, it said.

Humanitarian disaster
Darfur has been the scene of a four-year conflict between government-backed militias known as the janjaweed and rebel forces. More than 200,000 people have died and at least 2.5 million have been driven from their homes in the humanitarian disaster, according to U.N. estimates.

A February report by the International Criminal Court alleged there have been “mass rape of civilians who were known not to be participants in any armed conflict” in Darfur.

The ICC issued its first arrest warrants for war crimes in the Darfur conflict in May, seeking to try a government minister and a janjaweed militia leader on charges of mass slayings, rape and torture.

Arbour has said in the past that women are systematically raped in Darfur, many as soon as they leave the house to perform essential chores such as collecting firewood.

She has described the war crimes prosecutions so far as “grossly inadequate.”

In the latest report, a woman who had been abducted from Deribat with her 16-year-old daughter described how the victims were raped in front of each other. Those who resisted would be beaten with sticks.

The women were forced to cook and serve food to their abductors, but received only leftovers to eat, according to the report.

“A number of women became pregnant as a result of the rape,” posing a further health risk to them, it said.

Physical, psychological trauma
The women suffered physical injuries and psychological trauma from the repeated rapes by many of the attackers, the report said.

Deribat was one of nine villages attacked in the eastern Jebel Marra region of Darfur at the time, it said, adding that 36 civilians were killed and many people were driven from their homes.

“Interviews indicate that the abducted women were systematically raped,” said the report, which was compiled by a team of U.N. human rights investigators. “Some children were beaten by their abductors and they were exposed to the traumatic scenes of rape,” it said.

Testimony from victims indicated that the attacks were committed by members of the Sudanese armed forces and affiliated groups, the report said.

Arbour’s office urged the Sudanese government to “establish an independent body to investigate abduction, rape and sexual slavery committed in the region,” and said the suspects should be brought to justice.

Arbour’s office said in a report last April that the military and its allies have been using rape as part of a wider assault on people belonging to the same ethnic group as some Darfuri rebels.

‘Weapon of war’
That report said that based on testimony collected by 30 U.N. human rights investigators working in Darfur, “it appears that rape during the December 2006 attacks was used as a weapon of war to cause humiliation and instill fear into the local population.”

The April report also said U.N. representatives presented the initial findings to local authorities in Darfur, but “no investigations were carried out by the authorities.”

Sudanese government reaction was not immediately available.

Rahma Slih Elobied of the Sudanese mission to the U.N. in Geneva said she was unable to comment because she had yet to see the report.

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