(17 September 2010, Geneva) The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council appears to be on the verge of ending the mandate of the UN Independent Expert on human rights in Sudan at its 15th Session despite the worsening human rights situation in the country. A draft resolution circulated earlier this week by the African Group failed to renew this mandate.
According to Ziad Abdel Tawab of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, “Now is not the time for the UN to look away and pretend the human rights and humanitarian crises in Sudan will somehow disappear; it has a legal and moral obligation to ensure victims of human rights violations are given a voice and to work for an end to such violations.”
The 15th Human Rights Council’s review of the independent expert’s mandate comes at a crucial moment for Sudan’s future. The independent expert has a vital role in its reporting function to the Human Rights Council and in monitoring the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and recommendations made by the UN Group of Experts on Darfur.
Despite the latest report published by the independent expert in May 2010 noting progress in implementation of the CPA and recommendations of the UN Group of Experts on Darfur, the report concluded that “unresolved and serious human rights concerns overshadow the positive gains realized”. Since May, the human rights situation in Sudan has deteriorated severely, with pre-print censorship renewed from May – August 2010 and peaceful demonstrations violently suppressed.
Sudan faces a myriad of challenges at a variety of levels: the upcoming January 2011 referendum for self determination in the South and the status of the disputed Abyei territory will likely be accompanied by rights violations, and has the potential to divide the country and lead to an eruption of violence. Widespread human rights violations continue in Darfur, with attacks on villages and insecurity in IDP camps heightening in the past weeks and ongoing lack of humanitarian access. The Doha peace talks remain stalled and will soon be replaced with an internal “peace from within” strategy as declared by the government of Sudan. Civil and political rights, particularly the freedom of expression and association, remain repressed throughout the country, and there has been a dramatic tightening of space since the April 2010 elections, in which NGOs and the independent expert documented numerous cases of harassment, arrest, and detention of journalists and opposition members and their supporters.
A representative of the Darfur Bar Association said that “Wide-spread violations of human rights may lead Sudan down the path to another civil war if the situation continues to get worse. But the African Group seems more concerned with playing political games at the moment than protecting victims and ensuring the progressive realization of security and peace for the Sudanese people.”
Throughout Sudan the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) remain endowed with broad powers of arrest and detention, and arbitrary arrest and torture are systematically practiced against Darfuris, human rights defenders, journalists, and opposition members. Members of the NISS are granted immunities through the National Security Act 2010 and other legislation amended during the interim period, and there remains no judicial oversight. A comprehensive programme of legal reform articulated in the CPA has yet to be undertaken, and while key pieces of legislation protecting civil and political rights have been reviewed, they often directly contradict the gains made by the progressive Bill of Rights in the Interim National Constitution.
Osman Hummaida of the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies said, “The Human Rights Council has a critical role in ensuring an environment conducive to a peaceful and democratic referendum, and the independent expert is the only UN mechanism with a mandate on reporting on the whole of Sudan. Renewal – and strengthening – of the mandate would assert the Human Rights Council’s commitment to addressing the situation of human rights in Sudan at one of the country’s most pivotal moments. We urge the governments of the UN Human Rights Council to address the serious human rights violations present throughout Sudan by renewing the mandate of the Independent Expert.”
The Human Rights Council, and the African Group in particular, should address the failures of the Government of Sudan in addressing the lack of protection for civilians caught in areas of conflict and perpetual insecurity, particularly South Sudan and Darfur, lack of access to justice and protection for human rights, and restrictions on the freedom of expression and the existing culture of impunity.
African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies – Osman Hummaida (English, Arabic), [email protected]
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies – Ziad Abdel Tawab (Arabic, English, French), [email protected]
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) – Glenn Payot (English, French), [email protected]
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