At the UN, Sudan defends a piecemeal approach to its legal human rights obligations

Press release

(Geneva, Kampala) Sudan’s failure to accept key recommendations made during its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) has confirmed the lack of political will to take concrete steps to implement its international legal obligations with regards to fundamental human rights, FIDH and its member organization, the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) said today.

“Sadly, Sudan failed to accept many of the key recommendations made by Human Rights Council member States that simply correspond its existing international legal obligations. Critical issues, such as the need to repeal laws that grant immunity from prosecution for officials, and to cease aerial bombardments of civilian areas, were side-stepped by the Government delegation.”

Mossaad Mohamed Ali, ACJPS Executive Director

During the review, the government of Sudan failed to accept nine recommendations to reform Sudan’s notorious National Security Act of 2010 which grants the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) wide powers of arrest, search and seizure, allows detention for up to four and a half months without judicial review, permits incommunicado detention without prompt unequivocal access to a lawyer of one’s choice or the right to medical care, and grants immunity to officials. [1] Sudan failed to accept similar recommendations made during its first UPR, and has failed to implement recommendations made by the UN Human Rights Committee and African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to the same effect. Just one month ago the UN Human Rights Committee, monitoring Sudan’s commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), reminded Sudan for a second time to submit, without further delay, information on progress towards addressing this priority issue. [2]

Although the Sudanese government pledged to adopt legislation that defines and criminalizes torture, and to bring its laws in line with international treaty obligations, officials failed to accept multiple recommendations calling for a moratorium on executions, with the view to the absolute abolition of the death penalty, implemented by hanging in Sudan. Sudan similarly did not accept recommendations to repeal laws that provide for corporal punishments, such as lashings, which are routinely implemented in Sudan. These laws and practices violate the absolute prohibition of torture to which Sudan has committed under regional and international law.

Sudan also failed to accept recommendations to immediately cease aerial bombardments in conflict areas. Since the outbreak of fighting five years ago, Sudanese government forces have indiscriminately attacked — both by ground forces and aerial bombardment — civilians in rebel-held areas of the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. These attacks often coincide with planting and harvesting seasons, causing massive food insecurity and large-scale displacement. Our organisations have also documented civilian casualties during government bombings in Darfur states.

Despite a litany of disappointing rejections, Sudan did accept a number of important recommendations that should be pursued by UN Member States in their future engagements with Sudan. This included commitments to conduct independent inquiries into all violations of international humanitarian law and human rights violations, including extra-judicial executions and torture, and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“It is unfortunately the case that many of the same commitments were made during the first review but were not implemented. This cannot be repeated. Unless the Human Rights Council takes stronger action in response to the continuing widespread and grave violations of human rights and humanitarian law in Sudan, it is unlikely that the situation in the country will improve. It is the Council’s responsibility to now uphold commitments made by Sudan and to hold the Sudan accountable for breach of international human rights norms and standards.”

Sheila Muwanga, FIDH Vice President

Sudan made a number of concrete recommendations to allow full and unrestricted access by independent humanitarian organisations to all areas affected by conflict, and to allow aid agencies and NGOs to implement human rights programmes in those areas. These are important commitments that, if implemented, would improve the desperate situation facing civilians in conflict areas.

During the review, Sudan also made a range of commitments to end the violent repression of protestors and arbitrary detention of political activists and journalists; to amend its law to abolish the criminalisation of apostasy – and other laws and practices that restrict freedom of religion and belief; to review and amend legislation that discriminates against women including in the criminal law and the personal status law and to ensure conformity with international standards; to facilitate the work of human rights defenders and civil society, including through guaranteeing freedom of expression and the media and protection of all persons from intimidation, threats, attacks or reprisals for seeking to cooperate with the UN, and to protect human rights defenders from violence and arbitrary arrest. These commitments will require robust follow up by the Human Rights Council to ensure their implementation.

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