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NGO Letter Regarding Human Rights Situation in Sudan at the 27th session of the Human Rights Council

To Permanent Representatives
of member and observer states
of the UN Human Rights Council

Geneva, 18 July 2014

RE: Human rights situation in Sudan at the 27thsession of the Human Rights Council

Excellency,

The undersigned organizations urge your delegation to recognize and respond to the gravity of the human rights situation in Sudan, and to contribute fully to ensuring that the Human Rights Council (HRC, or “the Council”) addresses the serious and widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the country under the Council’s agenda item 4 during its upcoming 27th session.

In late September and early October 2013, Sudanese government security forces violently cracked down on popular protests prompted by economic austerity measures in Wad Madani, Khartoum, Omdurman, and other towns across Sudan. They used excessive force, including live ammunition, against the protesters, resulting in the death of at least 170 people, including children, and the wounding of hundreds more. Authorities also arrested large numbers of opposition political party members and activists in the lead-up to, during and after the protests. To date the government has failed to hold to account those responsible for these acts.

During the same week as the government’s violent crackdown, on 27 September 2013, the Council adopted a resolution on technical assistance for Sudan that ignored the ongoing violations and the repression of basic civil and political rights.[1] The Council also failed to condemn in the strongest terms the Sudanese government’s continued indiscriminate attacks including aerial bombardments, attacks on civilians, and other violations in Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states. The Council fell short of urging the government of Sudan to take key actions to promote accountability and improve the human rights situation in the country.

One year on, and despite President Omar al-Bashir’s promise in April 2014 to release all “political detainees,” arbitrary detention of activists, human rights defenders, and political opposition figures has continued unabated, against a backdrop of ongoing  restrictions on free expression and peaceful political activities. On 8-9 July 2014, the UN Human Rights Committee lamented the lack of constructive dialogue with Sudan during its review, emphasizing that issues raised in previous reviews, some of them dating back to 1997, had not been addressed.

Authorities failed to investigate allegations that those detained have been subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Media and journalists continued to be forced into silence through systematic censorship and arbitrary detentions. In the conflict zones of Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur, Sudanese government forces, including the “Rapid Support Forces” formed in late 2013 and comprised in large part of former “Janjaweed” militias now formally integrated into government forces – and armed opposition groups – have continued to carry out serious human rights violations and abuses in all three areas.

In May and June 2014, the government intensified aerial bombardments in Southern Kordofan, using both indiscriminate and targeted attacks on civilian areas. In Darfur, in 2014 alone, more than half a million people were displaced by renewed fighting, including both aerial bombardment of populated areas and ground attacks.

HRC Resolution 24/28 of 27 September 2013 was regrettably illustrative of the Council’s persistent failure to respond effectively to the situation in Sudan, focusing solely on technical assistance. There is a critical need for independent human rights monitoring and reporting in the country whilegovernment forces continue to perpetrate serious human rights violations unchecked, not only in the conflict zones in states throughout Sudan, but also in the country’s capital. Violations include extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and prolonged detentions without due process, torture and ill-treatment, and repression of the rights of speech and assembly.

In light of the gravity of the human rights situation in Sudan, we urge your delegation to work to ensure that the Human Rights Council addresses that situation in a manner that corresponds to its gravity by adopting a resolution under item 4 at its 27th session that would:

  • Condemn the excessive use of force leading to the death of scores of protesters and the continued impunity of security forces in the context of such killings; condemn the continued restrictions on the media, on human rights defenders, on the rights to freedoms of association and of peaceful assembly, and urge the Government of Sudan to complete and make public the result of its investigations into the killings and injuries of protesters that occurred in September and October 2013; to investigate other allegations of human rights violations and abuses during the protests; and to hold perpetrators of such acts to account;
  • Call for the release of individuals who have been arbitrarily detained by the National Intelligence and Security Services for their real or perceived political opinions and for the Government of Sudan to conduct impartial and prompt investigations into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment; call for the reform of Sudan’s repressive National Security Act of 2010 to bring it into line with international standards; call for the repeal of provisions of Sudan’s security laws that effectively grant immunity to abusive government officials;
  • Condemn in the strongest terms the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Darfur, Southern Kordofan, and Blue Nile states, including indiscriminate and targeted aerial bombardments of civilian areas, and other indiscriminate attacks on civilians by government forces and allied militia;
  • Urge the Government of Sudan to allow unfettered access by the African Union – United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur  (UNAMID) and humanitarian agencies and NGOs to all parts of Darfur; facilitate unhindered access by humanitarian agencies, human rights monitors, and NGOs to all parts of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile;
  • Establish an independent investigation into human rights and humanitarian law violations committed in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states since the armed conflict broke out in 2011;
  • Strengthen the special procedure mandate on Sudan by establishing a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Sudan under item 4, with a mandate to monitor and publicly report on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in all parts of Sudan, and mandate the Special Rapporteur to report to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.

We annex to this letter a detailed briefing note on the situation of human rights in Sudan since the adoption of the Human Rights Council’s previous resolution on Sudan in September 2013. Once more, we call upon your delegation to play a leading role to ensure that the Human Rights Council stops failing the many and diverse victims of human rights abuses and violations in Sudan.

We thank you for your attention to these very pressing issues.

Sincerely,

  • Action pour les Droits Humains et l’Amitié
  • African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS)
  • Amnesty International
  • Arry Organisation for Human Rights and Development
  • CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  • Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation (CEPO)
  • Conectas Direitos Humanos
  • Darfur Bar Association
  • Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre (DRDC)
  • East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project
  • Gambian Union for Forced Migrants (GUFM)
  • Human Rights and Development Organization (HUDO)
  • Human Rights Concern – Eritrea
  • Human Rights Watch
  • International Center for Policy and Conflict
  • International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
  • International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  • Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) Sudan
  • South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network (SSHRDN)
  • Sudan Consortium
  • Sudan Democracy First Group
  • Sudan Social Development Organization (UK)
  • Union des Ressortissants Rwandais au Sénégal (URRS)
  • Waging Peace
  • West African Human Rights Defenders Network (WAHRDN)
  • West African Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons Network (WARIPNET)
[1] Human Rights Council, Resolution 24/28, Technical assistance for the Sudan in the field of human rights, 27 September 2013 – http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/RES/24/28

View the full letter, and annex providing an overview of the human rights situation in Sudan since September 2013, here.

 

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