The Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Sudan, Aristide Nononsi, today concluded his third visit to the country. He notes progress, but still laments aspects such as detention without trial, the security situation in Darfur, as well as ongoing attacks and sexual violence.
In a press statement to wind-up his visit, Nononsi thanks the Office of the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Khartoum, and Unamid for supporting and facilitating my visit.
“During this mission, I visited Khartoum, Northern and Western Darfur States. I met with a wide variety of stakeholders, including government authorities as well as specialised Government units and agencies, community leaders, academia, members of the civil society, students, UN entities and the diplomatic corps in Khartoum,” Nononsi says.
After my last visit in April 2016, Sudan was considered under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process at the Human Rights Council in May 2016. Out of 244 recommendations, Sudan accepted 180. The recommendations accepted by the Government are mainly related to constitutional and law reform, ratification of international human rights treaties, and the strengthening of the administration of justice. I am encouraged by the Government’s commitment to implement most of the recommendations stemming from the UPR as well as those contained in my report presented to the Human Rights Council in September 2016. In this regard, I welcome the Government’s decision to extend the cease fire in the conflict affected regions of Darfur and in the Two Areas of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, which is largely observed by the opposition armed groups. I am also encouraged by the Government’s decision to resume peace talks with the different armed opposition groups for a lasting peace in the country.
“I finally commend the Government for the reform undertaken ensuring greater separation of powers between the Ministry of Justice and the Office of the Attorney General. This reform will certainly enhance the rule of law and the effective functioning of the judiciary.”
Nononsi continues that “despite these noteworthy positive developments, I have just mentioned, I am still concerned about incidents of harassment, arrests, and prolonged detention targeting representatives of civil society organizations, without access to legal representation or to their families. I shared my concerns with the Director of the Legal Department of the National Intelligence and Security Service during my meeting with him a few days ago which I characterize to have been constructive. I raised in particular the cases of Dr Mudawi, Tasneem Taha, and Hafiz Idriss amongst others, and called on the Government to respect the rights and fundamental freedoms as enshrined in the Interim National Constitution, and to allow the Sudanese people to exercise them freely. Moreover, I urge the Government to release without delay all civil society actors who have been arbitrarily detained. I have received assurances from the relevant authorities that I will be allowed to visit some of the detained civil society actors, whose cases have been recently transferred to the Office of the Public Prosecutor after this press conference. I was informed that the National Assembly is about to consider amendments to the Constitution and various laws, including the National Security Act and the Criminal Act to bring them in line with international human rights standards. I would urge the National Assembly to consider once and for all, abrogating all provisions in these laws which infringe on fundamental human rights of Sudanese people.”
The frequency and scale of killings in the context of inter-communal violence shows that it has become a major feature of the conflict in Darfur.
Nononsi says that when he visited Darfur last week “the security situation remains calm, but unpredictable. Incidents of banditry, armed robbery, assault, killing, rape, abduction of locals and IDPs, inter-communal clashes over farmland and Sexual and Gender Based Violence remain major concerns and continue to impact on the peace, safety, security and co-existence of local communities. The frequency and scale of killings in the context of inter-communal violence shows that it has become a major feature of the conflict in Darfur. Since then, state governments, native administration and traditional leaders have undertaken considerable efforts to prevent and respond to such incidents through security measures, engagement with stakeholders and the facilitation of reconciliation processes in some areas of the Darfur region. Nonetheless, the underlying causes of such conflicts related to access to land, water and other resources, have not been addressed and the situation has been exacerbated by the overall impunity, a weak rule of law and justice institutions.”
Nononsi says that in his discussions with the Chief Justice and the Special Prosecutor for Darfur Crimes, “we agreed on the need for serious commitment to effectively combat impunity. I was informed about a number of steps taken by the authorities in this regard, in particular in the Darfur region where the authorities deployed additional public prosecutors, judges and police officers across the Darfur region as part of the efforts to improve access to justice."
'It is essential for the Government, with the support of its international partners, to effectively protect the rights of civilians in a sustainable manner…'
“I met with the local community in Adi Kong in the Western Darfur State. This community remains anxious about the security situation in the area. It expressed the need for an enhanced protection of the civilians by the authorities as well as the provisions of basic services, including access to water, education and health care. It is essential for the Government, with the support of its international partners, to effectively protect the rights of civilians in a sustainable manner.”
Nononsi also visited Sorotony and met with the representatives from the local camp for the displaced, “who informed me about the state of insecurity in which they live mainly due to the presence of various armed elements and criminality within and outside the camp. Sexual and gender-based violence also remains a serious concern in the Sorotony IDP camp. According to information I received, these incidents are perpetrated by armed individuals when the women are outside the camp engaged in livelihood activities, or inside the camp at night hours. I was informed about nine cases of rape committed reportedly in the Sorotony IDP camp between 27 January and 18 February 2017. Many incidents of sexual violence were not reported owing to fear of social stigma associated with rape, fear of reprisal and the absence of law enforcement institutions in Sorotony to effectively investigate and prosecute perpetrators. I urge the Government which bears the primary responsibility to protect civilians within its territory, to promptly conduct investigations to bring perpetrators to justice. I also urge the Government to abide by the UN Security Council call for an enhanced cooperation with Unamid in its efforts to protect civilians in Darfur.”
'Many incidents of sexual violence were not reported owing to fear of social stigma associated with rape, fear of reprisal and the absence of law enforcement institutions…'
The Independent expert expresses concerned about the non-issuance of working visas for Unamid human rights personnel “which undermines the ability of the Mission to implement its human rights mandate and therefore, appeal to the Sudanese authorities to take the necessary corrective measures, with a view to ensuring the continuity of the human rights mandate in Darfur. Neither the Mission’s mandate, nor its role in the Darfur Peace Process can be achieved without greater focus and mainstreaming of human rights; human rights are central to peace processes as evidenced in the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur chapters on human rights and fundamental freedoms, Justice and Reconciliation.
“During this third mission to the Sudan, various stakeholders I met reiterated the need for technical assistance and capacity-building for different institutions, both governmental and non-governmental.
“In my meetings with United Nations entities and members of the diplomatic corps, they reiterate their support to government bodies and non-governmental organizations in terms of funding their activities or providing technical assistance and advisory services.
“The UN Human Rights Council resolution 33/26 of 28 September 2016 called upon the international community to continue providing support and technical assistance to the Sudan in the field of human rights. I would encourage the Government of the Sudan to seek technical cooperation and assistance from relevant international and regional partners, particularly the UN entities and bilateral donors for supporting and strengthening its national institutions.”
Nononsi concludes by underscoring underscore the centrality of human rights and rule of law to peace and stability in Sudan: “In this regard, I urge and encourage the Government of the Sudan to continue making more concerted efforts with a view to improving the situation of human rights in the country.”