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‘Historic step’ as Sudan ratifies conventions on torture, disappearance

February 24 - 2021 KHARTOUM / GENEVA
A prison cell in Sudan (File photo: ACJPS)
A prison cell in Sudan (File photo: ACJPS)

A joint meeting of Sudan’s Sovereign Council and Council of Ministers has approved two draft laws to join the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED) of 2006, and the Convention against Torture and Cruel Punishment (UNCAT) of 1984.

The ratification of the international conventions by Sudan’s transitional government was initially announced on Tuesday evening by Sudan’s Minister of Justice, Nasreldin Abdelbari as “a great step towards building a new Sudan a Sudan of dignity, freedom, justice and peace”.

The announcement was confirmed by Sudan’s permanent envoy to the United Nations, Ambassador Ali bin Abitaleb, in his speech before the general sitting of the 46th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

He said that the agreement to join the conventions is in line with the efforts that Sudan government has been exerting to enhance the respect and protection of human rights in the country, and also “comes in fulfilment of Sudan pledges, which it gave, on more than one occasion, to join international human rights conventions”.

Ambassador Abitaleb reviewed in his address the efforts exerted in the past year for enhancing human rights in the country, especially the signing of Juba peace agreement and the various legal amendments and reforms to the laws that violated the rights of women and children and the freedom of religion and belief.

He also renewed the full commitment of Sudan to cooperate with all the regional and international human rights mechanisms toward enhancing the human rights situation in the country.

Legal reforms

The news has been welcomed by human rights campaigners, who urge the Sudanese government to back-up the words with actions.

In a joint statement, REDRESS, a UK and Netherlands-based organisation of lawyers who campaign to obtain redress for survivors of torture and generate pressure to end impunity for torture, and the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) which works to monitor and promote respect for human rights and legal reform in Sudan, have applauded the news, and “urge the transitional government to take the necessary legislative, policy and institutional measures to ensure the implementation of the treaties’ provisions. This includes the criminalisation of torture and enforced disappearances in Sudan’s domestic laws, and reforming the policies and practices of the police, intelligence services and armed forces.”

“This development follows years of advocacy efforts by Sudanese activists and international partners, including the recent joint call issued by REDRESS, ACJPS and over twenty other civil society organisations,” the statement says.

“By ratifying UNCAT and ICPPED, the Sudanese government makes a legally binding commitment to prevent, prosecute and remedy cases of torture and enforced disappearance.”

Rupert Skilbeck, Director of REDRESS said: “We congratulate the transitional government on this important commitment. By ratifying the Convention against Torture, Sudan will join 171 other States Parties who have made a solemn commitment to eradicate the scourge of torture. The next step will be to implement the legislative, policy and institutional changes needed to end torture and enforced disappearances in Sudan for good. A priority is to ensure the protection of the historic targets of torture, including women, minorities, human rights defenders and others.”

Sudan must now formally deposit an instrument of ratification with the UN Secretary-General through the UN Treaty Section in New York. It remains unclear whether Sudan will enter any reservations or ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT), the statement suggests.

Mossaad Ali, Director of ACJPS, said: “We stand ready to assist the transitional government in the implementation process. Many Sudanese and international organisations are eager to support Sudan in undertaking the necessary legal and institutional reforms.”

“On the heels of the ratification of UNCAT and ICPPED, REDRESS and ACJPS call upon the transitional government to ratify other key human rights treaties and their optional protocols, including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), as well as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court,” the statement concludes.


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