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Statement by the United Nations Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, Mr. Aristide Nononsi, at the end of his first mission to the Sudan

21 May 2015

Good afternoon ladies and gentleman,

I would like to first thank all of you for attending this press briefing.

I was nominated Independent Expert on the human rights situation in the Sudan and agreed to take up this role in September 2014, in accordance with Resolution 27/29 of the Human Rights Council. By this resolution, I was tasked to continue engaging with the Government of the Sudan to assess, verify and report on human rights situation with the view to make recommendations on technical assistance and capacity-building in order to address human rights in the country, considering a full range of information, including information presented by the Government and viewpoints by civil society, and other relevant stakeholders that would assist in the implementation of my mandate. An important part of my work is to undertake the various visits to various parts of The Republic of Sudan and gradually have an understanding of the issues to be addressed in terms of capacity building and technical cooperation programmes.

I have just carried out my first visit to the Sudan from 13th May to date, and I would like to thank the Government of Sudan for its invitation and cooperation during this visit. I would also like to thank the Office of the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Khartoum and UNAMID for supporting and facilitating this visit.

During this mission, I visited Khartoum, North and South Darfur States. I met with a wide variety of stakeholders including the Ministry of Justice, members of the Advisory Council for Human Rights, the Director of the Human Rights Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Press Council, the Chief Justice and ranking members of the Judiciary, the Deputy Director of National Intelligence Security Services, the Elections Commission, the Director of the Humanitarian Aid Commission, the National Council of Child Welfare, the National Commission for Human Rights, the Sudanese Bar Association, the National Mechanism for Family and Child Protection Unit, the National Demining Centre, the National Commission for Human Rights, civil society, human rights defenders and diplomatic corps in Khartoum. I also attended the Forum on the Impact of Unilateral Coercive measures on enjoyment of Human Rights. In North Darfur, I met with the Darfur Regional Authority, the Governor of North Darfur State, the General Prosecutor for Special Court of Darfur Crimes, Internal Displaced Persons, UNAMID and Specialized UN Agencies. In Southern Darfur, I met with the Governor of South Darfur State and I visited two IDP camps in Nyala.

In Khartoum, I met with all the departments that I have just listed and I have received assurance of their cooperation with the mechanism that I represent.

The objective of these meetings and field visits in this early part of my work on Sudan was to start identifying the technical assistance and capacity building needs of the Sudan that will enable the country to fulfil its human rights obligations. In all my meetings with the Government, I have received assurances of cooperation, some demonstration of good will through taking steps towards implementing the recommendations made by my predecessors.

There is, to a large extent, some level of consensus amongst all relevant stakeholders of the need for capacity building in the form of relevant human rights training for members of the judiciary, the National Human Rights Institution, the police and security forces and non-governmental human rights organisations, amongst others. The need for public awareness and human rights empowerment initiatives were also identified. Technical assistance and capacity building initiatives are, however, capital-intensive and require high levels of funding, which must be sourced both internally from the Government itself and externally from different cooperating partners within the donor community and institutions.

Many interlocutors, whom I met, in particular in North and South Darfur States, remain anxious about the security situation in their areas of origin to enable effective sustainable return as well as the restoration of a sustainable peace in the region. The key to the resolution of ongoing conflicts and to the improvement of the human rights situation lies in an enabling environment through political engagement between the parties and the end of impunity for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. In this regard, I urge the parties to put the people of Sudan’s interest first and return to the negotiation table to resolve their outstanding differences so as to bring peace and stability in the region. I also encourage the Government to resume its efforts to put an end to impunity for perpetrators of human rights and international humanitarian law violations.

Nevertheless, I am encouraged by the establishment of a number of mechanisms that are in need of capacity building. I can mention the Darfur Regional Authority and the Special Court for Darfur crimes whose capacity need to be strengthened. I am aware of the fact that some work has started, particularly on transitional justice with UNDP and UNAMID and will continue. In my discussion with the General Prosecutor for Special Court of Darfur Crimes, we agreed on the need for serious commitment to the effective end of impunity for crimes committed in the region. I promised that I will be visiting him again to discuss and advise on aspects of the important work of the Special Court for Darfur Crimes.

I visited IDP camps in North and South Darfur States, namely Abou Shouk, Otash and Dereige IDP camps and I am concerned not only of the ongoing displacements of the residents, and the attendant humanitarian crisis, but also of the future of the IDPs. I will need in my next visit to go to other areas to broaden my understanding of human rights concerns and give a more comprehensive assessment of the situation. I must nevertheless note that there is a need for all to appreciate that human rights include civil and political rights, economic, social, cultural rights as well as the right to development. These camps receive some humanitarian assistance both from the Government and from UN agencies but it is essential to see these actions as responses to the rights of civilians and again study ways of making them sustainable.

I met with representatives from IDPs in Nyala who informed me that the newly displaced are not receiving aid, in the form of food and medical aid. I call upon the Government and the international community to provide humanitarian assistance to the IDPs who live in very precarious conditions and respond in the process to the economic, social and cultural rights of these civilians. Furthermore, the IDPs live in a state of insecurity due to the presence of various armed elements and because of crimes that occur within the region. I call upon the Government and UNAMID to fulfil their obligation in creating a safe and secure environment for these displaced communities and ensure that once created these secure environments are kept as such.

I strongly urge all parties to the conflict to respect international human rights and international humanitarian law and to ensure humanitarian access at all times and protect civilians. Most of the IDPs have expressed their willingness to return to their homeland if there is an improvement of the security situation. I urge the Government in Khartoum to create the necessary conditions for the return of the IDPs to their ancestral homeland and the international community to support this process.

I have received reports of restrictions on political rights and freedoms, including the freedom of expression, assembly and association, in particular in the lead up to the April 2015 general elections. I intend to continue discussing those instances with the Government to respond to what can be facts and appear as perception for others. I continue to receive reports of prolonged detention of persons without access to legal representation or to their families. I call on the Government of Sudan to respect the political rights and freedoms as enshrined in the Interim National Constitution and allow the Sudanese people to exercise their rights freely. I also call on the Government to release all detained persons, or charge them with a recognizable offence and prosecute them in accordance with the law.

Other areas of concern that have been raised in my discussions with relevant stakeholders include the need to ensure the protection of freedom of the press, with particular reference being made to the use of national security laws to clamp-down on the press including closure of media houses, arrest of journalists and confiscation of newspapers and equipment. I have raised this issue in my discussions with Government officials as a legitimate concern, which the Government needs to pay attention to, in view of the importance of freedom of expression and of the press in the promotion and protection of human rights in a democratic society. I am confident that some progress will be made in that aspect as I engage with the various departments of the Government of Sudan.

It is a fact that my mandate relates to providing technical assistance and capacity building to the Government, I would like to reiterate the need to understand and analyse the scope of the mandate in the context of the general human rights situation in the whole country. Such an approach will lead to a more realistic and effective assessment necessary to provide the required technical assistance and capacity building. My visits are taking place in that context with the support of all and in particular of the Government of Sudan.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate my intention to visit other parts of the country and areas that I was not able to visit this time and I underscore the centrality of human rights and rule of law to peace and stability in Sudan. Key to this is an appropriate legal framework, institutional arrangements and democratic reforms. I urge the Government of Sudan to renew efforts in these areas so as to fulfil its human rights obligations.