Sudan: Statement by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Sudan

The Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Right Council on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, Sima Samar, issued the following statement following her fourth visit to the country from 25 July to 2 August, 2007.
"This is my fourth visit to Sudan since my appointment as Special Rapporteur. I would like to thank the Government of National Unity, the Advisory Council for Human Rights and the Government of Southern Sudan for facilitating my visit to the country. I would also like to thank UNMIS Human Rights for their support.
I visited Khartoum, El Fasher, Juba, Wau and Kadugli and held extensive consultations with officials of the Government of National Unity, the Government of Southern Sudan, the Southern Sudan Human Rights Commission, civil society representatives and UN staff and received information about the human rights situation in the country.

I will present my findings to the UN Human Rights Council in September and a full report will be provided to the UN General Assembly. I would like to take this opportunity at the end of my visit to brief you on my preliminary findings.

The protection of human rights in the Sudan is a challenge. I am glad that the CPA is in place. However it is hampered by slow implementation due partially to the magnitude of the task and also the difficulties of transition from conflict to peace. Some 60 laws need to be reformed in line with the Interim National Constitution, including the National Security act, and laws need to be passed to create key national institutions such as a National Human Rights commission.

The GNU informed me that a number of bills have been prepared including a draft Armed Forces act, which reportedly contains a chapter on international humanitarian law and affirms individual responsibility for crimes committed by members of the armed forces, a draft Police act, a draft National Security and Intelligence act, and a draft Elections act which have been presented either to the Council of Ministers or to the National Assembly. I call on all concerned to ensure that new legislation is consistent with Sudan's obligations under international human rights law and the Interim National Constitution.

Other developments include Sudan's signing of the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, a new National Policy for Women Empowerment (March 2007) which includes eradication of harmful traditions and application of laws that protect women's rights, and the Khartoum state guidelines on relocation based on international standards (April 2007).

Despite the potential for democratic transition and optimism created by the Interim national constitution and bill of rights, violations of civil and political rights continue. One case of concern is the situation in the area of the dam construction in Kajbar Northern Sudan which remains tense after four people were killed by security forces on 13 June during a peaceful community protest against the dam. I call on the authorities to ensure that the perpetrators are identified and brought to justice for the killings.

National Security reportedly continues to arrest and detain people without charge, in some case detainees are held incommunicado for long periods of time placing them at risk of ill-treatment. Several people remain detained following the protests in Kajbar including two community leaders Mohammed Jalal Hashim and Osama Ibrahim. On 14 July, in a separate case, Mubarak El-Mahdi, Chairman of the Umma Party (Movement for Reform and Renewal) and Abdeljalil El-Basha, Secretary General of the Party where arrested by National Security. This week Ali Mahmud Hussanain, Deputy Chief of the Democratic Unionist Party was also arrested. In none of the cases reported have the arrested been charged with any criminal offence or allowed access to a legal representative. I call on the authorities to ensure the physical integrity of all detainees and ensure they are charged and brought before a judicial authority or released without further delay; detainees should be allowed access to lawyers, doctors and relatives.

Limitations on freedom of expression were highlighted by measures taken by the authorities against Al Sudani and Al Sahafa newspapers in Khartoum in May 2007. Restrictions were imposed in response to critical reporting by the newspapers and undermine constitutional guarantees for freedom of expression. In a positive development on 21 May, a court ruled that Article 130 could not be applied to order the suspension of the newspaper.

Justice and accountability is another challenge. Several investigative committees have been formed following allegations of serious violations of human rights however the findings of the investigations have not been made public and according to information received no perpetrators have been prosecuted.

Darfur remains a region where gross violations of human rights occur perpetrated by all parties to the conflict. I have recently received allegations of serious violations of human rights in areas under SLA/MM control. In particular harassment, extortion, torture, and sexual violence in Tawila and Shangil Tobayi, North Darfur. I also received information about forced disappearances and killings in Gerida, South Darfur. These cases should be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.

More action is needed to protect civilians from violations of international law. Whilst the Government has the primary responsibility in this regard I welcome the recent approval of the AU-UN peacekeeping force for the region and the Aruhsa DPA non-signatory conference which aim to end the violence and bring peace to Darfur.

The UN Human Rights Council took a number of initiatives this year on Darfur including deciding to appoint an expert group to work with the Government of Sudan to foster effective implementation of previous human rights recommendations. I preside over the expert group and we have prepared a set of priority recommendations in the areas of protection of civilians, accountability and justice and humanitarian access as a plan of action to further the protection of human rights in Darfur with a timeframe for implementation and indicators for measurement of compliance.

The Government has committed itself to implement many of the recommendations and we look forward to receiving information that action has been taken and the situation has improved. We will provide our first update on the status of implementation to the Human Rights Council in September and the final report to the Council in December.

I welcome the Governments acknowledgement of the seriousness of the situation and strongly encourage them to take action without delay to implement the recommendations so the situation in Darfur improves and people can fully enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms in the region.

The transitional areas are facing particular problems as although officially administered by the North, large parts of its population are ethnically and linguistically close to the south. Pockets of clearly divided SPLA and SAF control areas prevail, namely in Southern Kordofan and north and south of Abyei town. The administration of justice faces enormous challenges as two parallel judicial systems are in place. A division of roles between the police and the military remains unclear as SPLA and SAF continue to conduct patrols and arrest civilians. Clashes over land, water points and cattle have resulted in numerous killings and large displacement of civilian population. The demarcation of the border line will be paramount to determine the status of this region and hence, the future of the livelihoods of its populations. As a positive development, NCP and SPLM have actively engaged in intensive talks to address border demarcation, oil field arrangements and the status of Abyei.

In Southern Sudan progress is going at a slow pace and I would encourage the international community to continue to support the new Government to develop the region. The damage caused after twenty-one years of war will take enormous efforts to reconstruct the affected society.

The delivery of basic services such as health, education and water are lacking. In order for the return of southerners basic services need to be in place and also job opportunities need to be created.

Primary legislation such as the Southern Sudan Criminal Procedure, the SS Civil Procedure Code, the Police Act, the Child Act, and the SSHRC Act are pending. Delays occur as both executive and legislative bodies review the proposed bills. The limited capacity within these bodies is also a major cause for the delays.

Law enforcement agencies are ill-equipped and under-resourced. There is concern about the interference of the SPLA in activities of law enforcement and there is a need for stronger institutions and separation of roles. Abuses committed by the police, namely in the form of illegal and prolonged detention and ill-treatment continue to be reported, however I was encouraged by the recognition of the current challenges and the openness for technical assistance in this regard.

Detention conditions both in police premises and state-run prisons are not in conformity with international standards. Prisons are overcrowded, the infrastructure and facilities is largely inadequate, juveniles are detained along with adults, mentally ill are not provided with adequate care and a large part of the prison population is in detention for periods even exceeding their penalties if found guilty.

Tribal clashes namely over water points, land and cattle continue to affect the area. In one case 54 civilians, namely women and children from the Didinga tribe were killed allegedly by Toposa tribesmen in Baudi county, Eastern Equatoria in May 2007. The Government established an ad hoc Commission to investigate the killings however the findings of this Commission have yet to be revealed.

On a positive note the Southern Sudan Human Rights Commission has started its work and should be supported. Furthermore to improve the administration of justice over 200 legal counselors and prosecutors for the southern states were appointed and in certain areas mobile courts have been created in order to address the hundreds of cases of people in remand detention."

By: Sima Samar

6 August 2007

Dr. Sima Samar is the current United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Darfur, Sudan; the Chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission; and served as the Deputy President and Minister of Women’s Affairs in the Interim government of Afghanistan under Hamid Karzai after the fall of the Taliban in 2001.