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Sudan: situation in Abyei could derail the entire peace process, UN expert warns

GENEVA (18 March 2011) – UN Independent Expert Mohamed Chande Othman expressed his concern about the continuing deterioration of the situation in the Abyei region in the Transitional Area of Sudan*. Tension in the region has been high due to the delayed referendum for Abyei and restrictions on the movement of Southerners who returned to cast their ballots in the Southern Sudan referendum.

“Abyei still remains a flashpoint which could potentially derail the entire peace process,” warned the Independent Expert designated by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on the situation of human rights in the Sudan. “I urge the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) parties to take immediate action to calm the tensions in the region and urgently reach an accord on all outstanding issues.”

Following his first visit to the country after the referendum, Justice Othman noted that the key issues will now be the implementation of the remaining aspects of the 2005 CPA, in particular the Abyei referendum, border demarcation, citizenship, wealth and assets sharing, and meaningful popular consultations in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states.

“Challenges still remain in terms of democratic deepening and creating an enabling environment for peace, security and the respect for human rights and the rule of law,” the Independent Expert said. “The remaining four months in the interim period of the CPA will be extremely critical.”

Northern Sudan
In regarding the situation in Northern Sudan, Justice Othmanis conveyed his concerned with the crackdown on political dissidents following an increase of arrests and prolonged detention of a number of opposition political leaders, students and civil society actors by law enforcement authorities, in particular the National Security Service.

“The Government continues to hold these individuals without charging them with an offence or affording them the right to challenge the lawfulness of their detention in the court of law,” he said, noting that fundamental rights and freedoms including the freedoms of expression, assembly and association continue to be violated by law enforcement authorities, in particular the National Security Service.

“The Government continues to hold a number of opposition political leaders, students and civil society actors in detention without charging them with an offence or affording them the right to challenge the lawfulness of their detention in a court of law,” he said.

Darfur
The Independent Expert also drew especial attention to the situation in Darfur. “We must not forget Darfur where civilians continue to bear the brunt of the fighting between the armed groups and Government forces,” he said. “I call upon the international community to assist in finding a comprehensive solution to the conflict through an inclusive peace process which addresses the root causes of the conflict including the economic marginalization of the region.”

“The road ahead will be full of challenges, but I am hopeful and confident that these challenges will be overcome by the Sudanese people,” the UN Independent Expert said.
Justice Othman will present a report of his fact-finding mission to the Human Rights Council in September this year, with his findings, observations and recommendations.

Justice Mohamed Chande Othman was first appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in October 2009. As Independent Expert, he serves in his individual capacity, independently from any government or organization. The Independent Expert is currently the Chief Justice of Tanzania, and formerly worked as Prosecutor-General in East Timor. He was also a member of the High Level Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon and Chief of Prosecutions at the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

(*) Check the full end-of-mission statement by the Independent Expert: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10858&LangID=E

OHCHR – Country Page: Sudan: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/SDIndex.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact Joseph Bonsu (Tel. + 249 91 503 1000 / email: jbonsu@ohchr.org) or write to sudan@ohchr.org.