Title: Press Statement of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Sudan
Author: Sahar Yousif
Date: 06-05-2009, 06:45 PM
Press Statement of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Sudan
4 June 2009
As I conclude this visit as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, I would like to express my appreciation to the Government of National Unity, UNMIS and UNAMID who extended their kind cooperation and support to facilitate my visit from 25 May to 4 June 2009.
During my visit in Khartoum, I met with the Inter-Ministerial Committee convened by the Ministry of Justice and its Advisory Council for Human Rights, members of political parties, National Assembly, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Special Prosecutor on Darfur, civil society, and the diplomatic community. I also had the opportunity to travel to Juba, Bor and Yambio in southern Sudan where I met with the Government of southern Sudan, Southern Sudan Human Rights Commission, the judiciary, state officials, members of state legislature, and civil society. In addition, I travelled to three Darfur states, including visits to Zam Zam IDP camp and Siwillinga village in North Darfur, and Kalma IDP camp in South Darfur. I also met with the Walis of North and West Darfur, Deputy Wali of South Darfur, respective state officials, and civil society.
I note some positive developments and strongly welcome the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol by the Government in April 2009. I also note some efforts on legislative reform, including the passing of the Human Rights Commission Act. In this regard, I do recommend that the appointment of Human Rights Commissioners is made through a transparent, consultative, and inclusive process. The Commission should also be provided with financial autonomy and adequate staffing.
I also note the positive provisions in the 2009 Child Bill and request the National Assembly to include a provision criminalising female genital mutilation (FGM) in line with criminalisation of FGM in other parts of the country. I also welcome, in particular, the passing of the Southern Sudan Human Rights Commission Act and the Land Act, and encourage their availability and wide dissemination to all stakeholders.
One of the most notable developments in the Sudan has been the establishment of Human Rights Forums for Darfur and for other parts of Sudan, co-chaired by the Advisory Council for Human Rights (ACHR), UNAMID, and UNMIS. I had the privilege to observe a meeting of the ACHR-UNMIS Human Rights Forum in Khartoum on 26 May 2009 where there was discussion on follow up to detention cases concerning the May 2008 Omdurman attacks, and I hope that all cases of detention will be accounted for and resolved. I also note that North and South Darfur State Committees on Gender-Based Violence are beginning to address some of the problems of sexual and gender-based violence with the support of the UN system. I strongly believe that a spirit of cooperation is essential between the Government and the UN in improving the human rights situation in the country.
Despite some positive developments, I remain concerned about a number of human rights issues in the country. I continued to hear about cases of arbitrary arrests, detention, as well as allegations of ill-treatment and torture by security forces, including National Intelligence Security Service (NISS). In this regard I remain deeply concerned about the National Security Forces Act which provides powers of arrest and detention to NISS, and procedural immunity for acts that should be subjected to criminal liability. I also request the Government to improve and facilitate access of UNMIS and UNAMID human rights officers to places of detention across the country.
I remain particularly concerned about specific cases of arbitrary arrest, detention and allegations of ill treatment and torture of human rights defenders. I would also like to express concern about ongoing censorship of newspapers, and increased restrictions on journalists, human rights defenders, and members of the political opposition from freely expressing their opinion. In view of the upcoming elections in February 2010, it is imperative that restrictions on freedom of expression and association be removed to create a conducive environment for fair and free elections.
In my assessment, the revocation of licences of the Amel Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, Khartoum Centre for Human Rights and Environmental Development, and the Sudan Social Development Organisation has weakened human rights protection and reduced national capacity for monitoring and reporting. I strongly recommend that the appeals of these NGOs are ensured an independent judicial review, and their seized assets returned, along with provision of adequate compensation.
As a follow up to my last visit and report, I also raised a number of cases with the Government of National Unity, and urged them to make public the findings of all committees of inquiry and ensure accountability for human rights violations in Abyei, Gereida, Kajbar, Port Sudan, and within the vicinity of Torit. I raised the Torit case with the SPLA, who informed me that people responsible were arrested and under detention. I also raised the incident of Kalma IDP camp, and was informed by the South Darfur Government that those responsible for the incident have not been arrested or prosecuted.
In Darfur the security situation remains fluid and unpredictable. This has a direct bearing on human rights. While the government has made some efforts to protect civilians, protection remains an ongoing concern. Darfur remains a zone of conflict between the government, armed movements, and Chad. Inter-tribal clashes also continue to result in civilian casualties. Carjacking of UN personnel, and attacks on humanitarian workers also continue, and peaked during the months of March and April 2009. Since my last visit to the country, there have been incidents of NGO workers being abducted and detained, and three UNAMID Peacekeepers killed.
During my visit to Kalma IDP camps, people expressed concern over the expulsion of international NGOs, which has resulted in shortages of water. In particular with new arrivals to Zam Zam camp from the January and February 2009 fighting in Muhajeria between SLA Minni Minawi, JEM, and the Government, the needs have become more acute and there is an absence of educational programs for children. IDPs in Kalma camp expressed the urgent need for water and health care. Although the Government and UN agencies have made efforts to fill this humanitarian gap in the interim, they alone cannot fill these without the involvement of NGO partners, in particular those with capacities to work on sexual and gender-based violence cases.
The humanitarian and human rights situation in southern Sudan also remains of grave concern with killings, and displacement of civilians caused by recent conflict. I remain concerned over the killings of several hundred civilians in Jonglei state due to inter-tribal clashes. The size and scale of inter-tribal clashes over cattle rustling has been unprecedented, with the use of sophisticated firearms and targeting of women and children in villages. While UNMIS has deployed its forces in Jonglei state in preventive efforts, the sustainable solution to this problem will involve a proactive deployment of state security forces in areas of potential conflict, and a well designed and peaceful civilian disarmament campaign. I also remain deeply concerned about attacks by the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) in Western Equatoria and Central Equatoria states. The LRA has plundered and burnt villages, while committing horrendous abuses, including killings and abductions, with an ineffective response from the SPLA. While I recognise the logistical and resource constraints of the police, the SPLA and state governments concerned, the encouragement of self defence groups is not a substitute for the responsibility of the state to actively police these areas, and deter future attacks to protect civilians. The LRA problem also requires a solution through affected countries of the region.
I also note that the administration of justice in the southern Sudan is hampered by lack of capacity, including the shortage of professional police, qualified judged and lawyers. In addition there is a lack of training, infrastructure, transport and equipment for such officials. I encourage the Government and the international community to provide adequate means and resources to these institutions, including the provision of legal aid services.
I conclude this visit to the Sudan with a sense of hope for the future inspite of the many human rights challenges that the Government and its people continue to face. I strongly urge the Government to build on its positive efforts, and for these efforts to be directed towards concrete change on the ground, including through implementation of a number of recommendations in my current and previous report. The UN system stands ready to provide support to improve the human rights situation in the country.