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17 August 2006

Following is a statement issued today in Khartoum by the Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Right Council on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, Sima Samar, following her third visit to the country from 11 to 17 August:

This is my third visit to Sudan since my appointment as Special Rapporteur. I would to thank the Government of National Unity in particular the ACHR for facilitating my visit. I would also like to thank UNMIS Human Rights for their support.

During this visit, in addition to meetings in Khartoum I also travelled to North and West Darfur to assess the human rights situation. A full report of my findings and recommendations will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in September and to the UN General Assembly in October 2006.

I would like to take this opportunity to brief you on my preliminary findings.

I was informed by the Government of Sudan that a number of positive developments have taken place since my last visit to the country in March 2006. They cited the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement on 5 May, the release of several political prisoners held in connection with conflict and the drafting of a disarmament plan. The Unit to combat violence against women has made efforts to address the consequences of rape in Darfur through better medical and social care. I was informed about one case of rape, committed by a police officer, which was successfully prosecuted in West Darfur in May 2006. The Khartoum Criminal Court dismissed charges against 99 of the 137 people detained in relation to the Soba Aradi incident of 18 May 2005 due to lack of evidence. It also dismissed charges against students and individuals who were arrested during the anti-DPA demonstrations in mid-May on submission of no case to answer.

I asked about law reform related to the democratic transition and the CPA. I was informed that to date nothing has changed. Legislation which is in violation of the Interim National Constitution and international human rights standards is still in place. The April to July session of parliament made no progress regarding reform of important laws including the Criminal Act, the Criminal procedure Act, the National Security act, the Armed forces act, the Press and Publications act, the Police forces act and the National Human Rights Commission bill. I was informed that some bills are being prepared for the next session of parliament however there has only been limited consultation with civil society. I call on the Government to ensure that all bills are presented to the National Constitutional Review commission and to hold consultations with civil society without delay. I welcome the dialogue which has already started with civil society in regards to the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission and encourage the Government to continue the process.

After meetings in Khartoum I visited North and West Darfur and was extremely disturbed by the critical human rights situation in the region and the signs that there will be a further deterioration in the coming months if action is not taken to protect civilians from attacks and end the conflict through peaceful means.

Despite the ceasefire provisions there has been an upsurge in violence in the region resulting in killings of civilians, rape, and displacement. I was told about recent attacks on civilians, in their villages, around IDP camps and when they go to cultivate their land. The seasonal migration of nomadic tribes has added to the already significant presence of militias and other armed elements around farming communities and IDP camps; and tensions along the border with Chad continues to destabilize areas of West Darfur. I heard from internally displaced persons (IDPs) in North and West Darfur about the high insecurity within and outside the camps. These security concerns have not resulted in action by the local authorities.

There is a clear failure to differentiate between combatants and the civilian population during clashes. Additionally, civilians from tribes viewed as supporting the opposition or opposing the DPA are being targeted by the different factions.

The continued fighting and violence severely undercuts any prospects of peace in Darfur. The peace agreement has not yet delivered peace and relevant parties to the conflict refuse to accept it. Provision of security and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms need to be ensured. It is essential that there be immediate disarmament of the militia and compliance with the ceasefire agreement by all armed groups.

As a result of the unrest in North Darfur, during last July thousands of IDPs sought refugee in the camps for the displaced located north of Al Fasher, reporting indiscriminate killings, rape and abduction in their villages.

As the security situation deteriorates in Darfur and the population become increasingly vulnerable I am concerned that the Government is not taking the necessary action to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the effected communities. Many civilians cannot be reached by humanitarian organizations due to the fighting or limitations which have been imposed by the authorities on the delivery of assistance imposing heavy bureaucratic requirements and additional costs and delays, similarly restrictions have also been placed on civil society working on protection.

Moreover, there is not only a lack of prevention and protection but also lack of justice for the crimes that are committed whether it is killing of civilians, rape, looting or destruction of property. Where impunity is allowed to prevail, protection will remain elusive. Sudanese efforts at establishing accountability and ensuring justice and reparation for the victims and survivors of the conflict have so far proved inadequate.

I call on the Government of national unity to fulfil its obligations and immediately take action to protect and prevent attacks against civilians, urgently disarm the Arab militia and strengthen the criminal justice system in Darfur and provide the resources it requires to investigate and prosecute those responsible for human rights violations.

I call on the Government and all armed movements in Darfur to respect international law and in particular the distinction between military and civilians.

The international community should fulfill its pledges to the AU so that they have the necessary resources to provide some protection to the people in Darfur.

Finally, I would also like to express my serious concern about recent forced relocations and human rights violations connected to these incidents.

Yesterday in the early morning, without prior notice, the demolition of houses in Dar Essalaam squatter camp in Al Jazeera state commenced using heavily armed police officers, Special Forces and tanks. The camp of 12 thousand residents had expressed concerns regarding the relocation site due to toxic waste from factories surrounding the area and entered into an agreement with the authorities which was broken. Some members of the resident committee were arrested and there are reports of a number of deaths including children and injuries. I call on the authorities to immediately halt the forced relocation and allow access to the area so services can be provided to the population.

I am also concerned about the relocation issues related to the Merowe Dam project affecting some 50 thousand people. Allegations have been received that flooding of the area started to force people to relocate and services are not being provided.

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