GENEVA (10 June 2011) – United Nations Independent Expert Mohamed Chande Othman called on the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan to protect the achievements of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and to seek further international support to strengthen its national institutions.
“I would like to underscore the centrality of human rights and rule of law to peace and stability both in Sudan and South Sudan,” said the expert designated by the UN Human Rights Council to report and advise on the situation of human rights in the Sudan. “Key to this is an appropriate legal framework, institutional arrangements and democratic reforms.”
“I urge both Governments to renew efforts in these areas so as not to unravel the progress made during the 5 years of the implementation of the peace agreement,” Mr. Othman stressed at the end of his third mission* to the country.
The situation in Abyei
He noted that, prior to the occupation of Abyei by the Sudanese Armed Forces, the parties had been unable to implement key decisions regarding border demarcation and the holding of referendum for self-determination, which lie at the heart of the Abyei conflict.
“I am concerned not only of the destruction, massive displacement and attendant humanitarian crisis, but also of the future status and security of its residents,” he said. “I also received allegations of killings, rape and other forms of inhuman and degrading treatment during and subsequent to the attack.”
The expert urged the Government in Khartoum to abide by the call of the UN Security Council to withdraw its forces from Abyei, to create the necessary conditions for the return of the residents, and to fully investigate the events in Abyei to bring those responsible to justice.
“The key to the resolution of the Abyei conflict and to the improvement of the human rights situation lies in political engagement between the parties,” he said. “I urge them to return to the negotiation table to resolve their outstanding differences so as to bring peace and stability in the area.”
“I continue to receive reports of the prolonged detention of persons without access to legal representation or to their families,” Mr. Othman said noting that the immediate post-referendum environment in the Sudan has led to significant restrictions on political rights and freedoms, including the freedom of expression, assembly and association.
The situation in Darfur
Mr. Othman warned that civilians in Darfur continue to bear the brunt of fighting between armed movements and Government forces that have resulted in the killing of civilians and destruction of their homes and properties, led to further displacements and affected humanitarian access. “The state of emergency in Darfur continues to curtail fundamental rights and freedoms. Arbitrary arrests and prolonged detentions without judicial oversight are being carried out invoking emergency and/or National Security legislation,” he said.
The Independent Expert drew attention to the fact that humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons’ (IDPs) camps is strictly limited in South Darfur, noting that in some camps the newly displaced have not received food, medical aid and shelter since January. He also warned that IDPs live in a state of insecurity due to the presence of armed elements and criminality that occur within the camps.
“I look forward to the Government upholding its commitment to carrying out the necessary Constitutional amendments to ensure the upholding of human rights standards and welcome its pledge to ratify and implement key human rights conventions in this regard,” Mr. Othman said.
“However,” he stressed, “I am deeply concerned of the continued fighting and hostilities that have and are taking place between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and rebel militia groups, which has resulted in the killing of civilians, including women and children and resulting in more than 10,000 displaced persons.”
Mr. Othman noted that many of the people affected by the violence remain inaccessible to humanitarian actors due to restrictions placed by the SPLA. “I continue to receive reports of human rights abuses with the most frequent and worst abuses perpetrated by the police and security forces of South Sudan.”
The Independent Expert is due to present his finding at the 18th session of the Human Rights Council in September 2011.
The mandate of the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Sudan was created by the UN Human Rights Council on 18 June 2009. Justice Mohamed Chande Othman was first appointed by the Council in October 2009. As Independent Expert, he serves in his individual capacity, independently from any government or organization. Justice Chande 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: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=11123&LangID=E
OHCHR – Country Page: Sudan: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/SDIndex.aspx
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