Sudan: Human Rights Council should continue to support human rights in Sudan

In Arab Countries, International Advocacy Program by CIHRS

Ahead of the 48th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, 38 international, regional and local human rights organizations, including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), sent a joint letter to representatives of United Nations member states, urging them to push the Council to take a decision to provide technical assistance and capacity building to the Sudanese government and human rights actors in the country, while ensuring regular monitoring and reporting to the Council on the human rights situation and the work of the OHCHR country office.

The letter indicated that the Council should support national authorities and actors, including civil society organizations, in Sudan; in addition to maintaining the public monitoring and reporting capacity of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, given the incompleteness of  Sudan’s political transition.

The Human Rights Council should extend its support to, and scrutiny of, Sudan

 

To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, Geneva, Switzerland 

Excellencies,

Ahead of the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council (13 September-8 October 2021), we, the undersigned civil society organisations, write to highlight the need for the Coun­cil to continue supporting human rights reforms in Sudan, both through technical assistance and capa­city-buil­ding and by holding public debates on progress and challenges, as well as the work of the Office of t­he UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the country.

As Su­dan’s political transition re­mains incomplete, the Council has a responsibility to sup­port na­tio­­nal authorities and actors, including civil society organisations, and to maintain the moni­tor­ing and public reporting ca­pacity of OHCHR, which should form a basis for annual enhanced interactive dialogues at the Council.

Last year, by adopting resolution 45/25[1] by consensus, the Council decided to end the mandate of the Inde­pen­dent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan and to request OHCHR to report on progress made and ongoing human rights challenges in the country. Pursuant to the resolution, and on the basis of the High Com­mis­sioner’s universal mandate, the OHCHR has continued to provide valuable updates on human rights deve­lopments in Sudan.

In its last report,[2] the OHCHR said it was “encouraged by the positive steps taken by the Government of the Sudan to address systemic human rights and rule-of-law concerns […].” It added: “However, the prolonged precarious situation in Darfur and in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, coupled with the unresolved root causes of the conflict, often lead to the reoccurrence of violence, resulting in significant civi­lian displacements, with immediate human rights and protection implications. Following the termi­na­tion of the [UN/African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur, UNAMID] mandate in December 2020, civilian vulnerability increased, which mani­fested it­self in a series of violent incidents in Darfur. For the most part, the violence was triggered by inter­communal feuds and the impunity arising from weak law enforcement and judicial institutions.”

In its report, the OHCHR also expressed a series of other concerns, including the curtailment of the rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and participation, the targeting of jour­na­lists and human rights defenders by security forces, and sexual and gender-based violence against wo­men and girls.

The report identified protection gaps and formulated recommendations per­tain­ing to protection of civilians, economic, social and cultural rights, human rights mechanisms, accoun­ta­bi­lity, and legal and institu­tional reforms. Additionally, it endorsed all recommendations made by the Indepen­dent Expert in his final report.

This year, as a fully mandated OHCHR country office is operational,[3] and taking note of the latter’s capacity to identify and report on both positive developments and challenges and risks, the Council should acknowledge that monitoring and reporting complement technical co­ope­ra­tion.

Building upon the good level of cooperation between the Sudanese authorities and the UN human rights system, and cognizant of ongoing challenges on the ground and possible moni­tor­ing and reporting gaps due to the UNAMID draw­down,[4] the Council should signal its willingness to both continue supporting Sudan and extend its scrutiny of the country’s human rights situation.

The last two and a half years have brought about significant changes for the Sudanese people and Su­dan’s rela­tionship with independent human rights actors. Some of these changes have the potential to beco­me systemic, if they are sustained and complemented with wide-ranging institutional, legislative, and po­licy reforms. A joint civil society letter, issued in September 2020,[5] contains a summary of pro­gress in these areas as well as regarding Sudan’s peace process. Since then, further reforms have been announ­ced, including the ratification of key human rights instruments and enhanced cooperation with the International Criminal Court (ICC).

However, Sudan continues to face significant human rights, humanitarian, political, economic, social, and health challenges. In recent months, violence against civilians in Darfur and intercommunal con­flicts in the Eastern part of the country have increased. Significant steps are yet to be taken to address systemic human rights issues and achieve meaningful, sustainable progress. Justice and accountability remain elusive for the egregious violations and abuses committed under the 30-year Al-Bashir dicta­torship, including violations that may amount to crimes under international law, especially in Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan, and the 3 June 2019 massacre. Freedom of opinion and expression, as well as the right of access to information, continue to suffer from legal provisions and practices that undermine fun­damental rights. Barriers to the enjoyment of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, as well as of freedom of religion or belief, remain in place.

In this context, the Human Rights Council has a responsibility to keep Sudan high on its list of priorities and to contribute to meaningful progress in the country.

For its part, in line with its announced “full cooperation policy” and the positive steps it has taken in multilateral arenas, the Sudanese Government should con­tinue to use all possible avenues of work with the UN human rights system. It should continue to send positive signals to the international community by taking the lead in the development and adoption of a resolution that extends the holding of enhanced interactive dialogues on Sudan at the Human Rights Council. This multilateral effort would constitute the perfect corollary to the Govern­ment’s bilateral coope­ration with OHCHR.

At its upcoming 48th session, the Council should adopt a resolution extending technical assistance and ca­pa­city-building to the Sudanese Government and human rights actors in the country, while en­su­ring regular monitoring of, and reporting to the Council on, the human rights situation and the work of the OHCHR country office.

We thank you for your attention to these pressing issues and stand ready to provide your delegation with further information as required.

Sincerely,

  1. Act for Sudan
  2. Africa Initiative for Media & Journalists Safety (AIM – Journalists Safety)
  3. African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS)
  4. AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network)
  5. Al Khatim Adlan Centre for Enlightenment and Human Development (KACE)
  6. Amnesty International
  7. Brooklyn Coalition for Darfur & Marginalized Sudan
  8. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  9. CIVICUS
  10. CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide)
  11. Darfur and Beyond
  12. Darfur Bar Association
  13. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  14. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  15. Human Rights Advocacy Network for Democracy
  16. Human Rights Watch
  17. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  18. International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI)
  19. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  20. Investors Against Genocide
  21. Jewish World Watch
  22. Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) – Sudan
  23. Justice Center for Advocacy and Legal Consultations
  24. Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur
  25. Never Again Coalition
  26. Nubia Project-USA
  27. PAX
  28. REDRESS
  29. Sudan Civil Society Initiative
  30. Sudanese Human Rights Initiative (SHRI)
  31. Sudanese Lawyers and Legal Practitioners’ Association in the UK
  32. Sudanese Rural Association for Peace and Development (SRAPD)
  33. Sudanese Transitional Justice Organization (STJO)
  34. Sudan of The Future
  35. Sudan Social Development Organisation (SUDO)
  36. SUDO (UK)
  37. Sudan Unlimited
  38. Waging Peace

  1. [1] United Nations General Assembly, “Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council on 6 October 2020; 45/25: Technical assistance and capacity-building to further improve human rights in the Sudan,” Doc. A/HRC/RES/45/25, 14 October 2020, available at: https://undocs.org/en/A/HRC/RES/45/25
    [2] United Nations General Assembly, “Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in the Sudan,” Doc. A/HRC/48/46, 27 July 2021, available at: https://undocs.org/A/HRC/48/46 (para. 55 and infra).
    [3] According to OHCHR, “As of 1 January 2021, in line with the 2011 policy on human rights in United Nations peace operations and political missions, the OHCHR country office in the Sudan has been integrated with the [UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS)] Office of Support to Civilian Protection, referred to in the present report as the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office in the Sudan. Currently, the Joint Office has 21 staff, including 3 staff in three field offices (El Fasher, Kadugli and El Damazin), and recruitment is ongoing.” OHCHR officers have also conducted field missions (Ibid., paras. 1-2; 4).
    However, a more regular presence in conflict-affected areas is yet to be established. There is also a need to integrate human rights monitoring and reporting of OHCHR fully into UNITAMS.
    [4] United Nations Sudan, “UNAMID completes drawdown, begins liquidation,” 29 June 2021, https://sudan.un.org/en/133581-unamid-completes-drawdown-begins-liquidation (accessed on 26 August 2021).
    [5] DefendDefenders et al., “The Human Rights Council should support systemic human rights reforms in Sudan,” 9 September 2020, https://defenddefenders.org/the-human-rights-council-should-support-human-rights-reforms-in-sudan/ (accessed on 26 August 2021).

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