Sudan elected to the UN Human Rights Commission while grave violations still perpetrated

Press release
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The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Sudan Organisation Against Torture (SOAT), its member organisation in Sudan, considering the grave and constant human rights violations in Sudan, as well as the critical situation in the Darfur province, are dismayed and vigorously indignant at the election of Sudan by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to the UN Commission on Human Rights, on 4 May 2004.

Moreover, the FIDH and SOAT recall that at the occasion of the 60th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, after weeks of negotiations, a Chairperson’s statement on Sudan was eventually adopted. The FIDH and SOAT, while they welcome the decision of the Commission to appoint an independent expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan for a period of one year, regret that the Commission did not take a stronger position on the grave situation in Sudan. The Chairperson’s statement, does not stress enough the urgent need to protect the civilian population in Sudan from the effects of arms conflicts. It does not indicate responsibilities for the grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, nor calls upon the international community to expand the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Khartoum by including a monitoring role aimed at improving respect for human rights and humanitarian law. In this sense, FIDH and SOAT regret that the Resolution on Sudan under Item 9, originally drafted by the European Union and finally presented by the United States of America was not adopted. The FIDH and SOAT once more denounce the attacks against Item 9 as well as the no action motion practice, used by the African Group in order not to enter into the merit of the Resolution on Sudan presented by the USA.

The FIDH and SOAT express their gravest concern about the critical human rights situation and the humanitarian emergency in Darfur. Though a ceasefire was signed on 8 April 2004 in N’Djamena, Chad, between the Government of Sudan and the armed rebel groups Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), the Sudanese government forces and the Janjaweed militias continue to wage intolerable attacks against civilian populations.

According to SOAT, on 17 April 2004, the government forces and the Janjaweed militias violently attacked Hillat Ibraheam village, 10 km south of Nyala, Darfur province, as well as Abu Ajoura village, 35 km south west of Nyala. This assault, which constitutes a characterised violation of the ceasefire, caused the death of 45 civilians, and destroyed 312 houses.

Besides, the Zaghawa population (1) remains severely targeted by the government forces. On 19 March 2004, 11 persons, including 3 three minors aged from 13 to 17, were arrested by the azmed forces and the military intelligence in Jeway Kheena village in the Darfur region. The 8 adults, who were suspected of participating to a SLA attack on Bouram town on 10 March, were first detained in a military camp in Bouram, where they were subjected to torture. According to SOAT, who gathered information from one of the detainees who was released on 2 April, the 8 men beaten with sticks and gun butts, punched and kicked; tied by the legs and arms upside down against a tree for many hours and one of them had metal objects inserted into his rectum. On 28 March, they were transferred to Nyala military prison, where they were not provided with any food for three days after their arrival. The actual whereabouts of the 7 detainees are yet unknown. The 3 children, who were suspected to support the rebellion, were detained in Jeway Kheena military camp and allegedly tortured by the military intelligence. They were chained and beaten with the guns butts and flogged. The FIDH and SOAT have no information today whether they remain in detention or not.

Moreover, the provisions of the ceasefire agreement stipulating that prisoners of war had to be released seem to remain widely ignored by the government: 14 men arrested 2 months ago for alleged support to the SLA are still detained in Nyala Security forces detention centre, where they have been subjected to torture.

The FIDH and SOAT recall the dramatic dimension of the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region. Refugees camps within the Darfur province and the eastern Chad are overwhelmed with an increasing flow of displaced people, and the situation in the camp in all the more deteriorating since the humanitarian relief and assistance is still not granted full access to the territory. A United Nations humanitarian mission, which visited the Darfur region and the eastern Chad refugees camps from 28 to 30 April 2004, stated that “it was one of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world”. It also underlined the “urgency about humanitarian work”, which is even more necessary since the raining season is about to start.

The FIDH and SOAT denounce with the utmost firmness the ongoing violations (2) of human rights conventions and of international humanitarian law, notably the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, the Convention on the Right of the Child and the Geneva Convention. The FIDH and SOAT also vigorously condemn the blatant breaches of the ceasefire.

The FIDH and SOAT, considering the intervention of the UN Commission on Human Rights as insufficient, hope that the 35th session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, which will be held in Dakar in May, will provide another opportunity for international institutions to firmly take position on this dramatic situation. Indeed, the agenda of the session includes the examination of Sudan’s general report, to which the FIDH and SOAT will present a joint shadow report about the human rights situation in Sudan. In these regards, the FIDH and SOAT call upon the Commission to:

 firmly react to the situation in Sudan and thus strongly condemn the grave and recurrent human rights violations in the country;

 put pressure on the authorities of Sudan to take the necessary measures to achieve a peaceful resolution to the conflict, and to grant the planned delegation from the African Commission full access to the Darfur region;

 request the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union to take a decision ensuring the strict respect of human rights in Sudan.

The FIDH and SOAT also urge both parties involved to:

 bring about an immediate and definitive cessation of hostilities;

 carry on the negotiations in order to reach an effective ceasefire and political peace process;

 respect the basic principles of distinction and precaution provided by international humanitarian law and to put an end to attacks against civilians;

 strictly respect the humanitarian ceasefire concluded on 8 April 2004 in order to allow the relief and humanitarian assistance to reach the needy civilians.

The FIDH and SOAT urge the Government of Sudan to:

 strictly respect the fundamental standards of international humanitarian law and human rights instruments to which they are bound, notably its obligation to protect civilian populations under all circumstances, as provided in article 23 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and articles 2 and 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

 strictly respect the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Sudan ratified on 3 August 1990.

 immediately engage impartial and exhaustive investigations on all allegations of torture and ill treatment in order to identify their authors, to prosecute them and to judge them in conformity with international human rights standards;

 grant international humanitarian workers and human experts full access to the Darfur region and to the victims.

(1) Since the beginning of the conflict, the government forces and militias particularly attacked the Fur, Zaghawas and Massalit communities.

(2) See FIDH press release of 13 April 2004.

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