The Sudanese government is directly responsible for crimes against humanity in its strife-torn western region of Darfur, including the widespread rape of women, rights group Amnesty Inter-national charged yesterday.
Refugees from Darfur have described a pattern of "systematic and unlawful attacks" against civilians by both a government-sponsored Arab militia and the Sudanese military forces, the London-based group said.
Much of this was directed at women, with rape and other forms of sexual violence endemic, said the 35-page report, titled Sudan, rape as a weapon of war.
Relief groups operating in Darfur have warned of a looming famine in the region, describing it as currently the world's most severe humanitarian crisis, Amnesty noted in the report.
"Today's `worst humanitarian crisis' has been directly caused by war crimes and crimes against humanity for which the Sudanese government is responsible," it said.
More than 10,000 people have been killed in Darfur since rebels rose up in February last year, prompting a heavy-handed response from Khartoum.
"In these attacks, men are killed, women are raped and villagers are forcibly displaced from their homes which are burnt; their crops and cattle, their main means of subsistence, are burnt or looted," the report said.
It continued: "These human rights violations have been committed in a systematic manner by the [militia], often in coordination with Sudanese soldiers and the Sudanese Air Force, with total impunity, and have targeted mainly members of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups and other agro-pastoralist groups living in Darfur."