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UN expert urges more law reform in Sudan

The Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, Mohamed Chande Othman, presented his reports to the Human Rights Council which is currently holding its 15th session in Geneva. The reports cover the period from June 2009 to August 2010 and include an assessment of the progress made by the Government of the Sudan in the implementation of recommendations compiled by the Council’s Group of Experts on Darfur.

UN Human Rights Council’s 15th session © UN Photo/ Jean-Marc FerreThe UN expert noted the considerable progress made in institutional and legislative reforms by Sudan’s Government of National Unity in accordance with the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. He also commended the Government for implementing some of the recommendations made by the Group of Experts on Darfur. In spite of these achievements, the expert noted the lack of progress in other areas and urged the Government to continue the process of law reform to conform to international human rights standards.

Othman expressed concern about the application of the death penalty in the Sudan and underlined the general climate of repression in the period following the April elections including restrictions on the enjoyment of civil and political rights, particularly on freedom of expression and the press.

Furthermore, he reports on the situation in Southern Sudan where increasing communal violence continues to result in considerable loss of lives, particularly among women and children. Violence and widespread human rights abuses, allegedly perpetrated by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), characterized the post election period in the South.

“Tensions between ethnic groups, competition over scarce resources and acts of indiscipline by the SPLA and other state agents have contributed to this violence”, the expert said adding that “Underlying this violence is the widespread proliferation of arms and ammunition.” He reported that in 2009 alone, more than 2500 people died in these clashes. 

The Independent Expert noted that in Darfur women and young girls continued to experience insecurity as a result of sexual and gender-based violence.

He highlighted that humanitarian workers and UN employees had been increasingly targeted through direct attacks and abductions and strongly urged the Sudanese Government to ensure their security. He also called on the Government to conduct thorough and timely investigations into these attacks and ensure that the perpetrators are promptly prosecuted and punished.

Othman stated however that the Government had put forward a new peace strategy for Darfur which would allow a wider spectrum of the Darfur civil society to participate in the political process. The increased dialogue on human rights between the African Union/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur and the Sudanese Government was also an improvement, he said.

“Sudan is at a critical juncture in its history with the referendum on the self determination of South Sudan less than four months away. Ensuring a peaceful and conducive environment for the people of Southern Sudan to make their choice freely and safely will be a critical challenge”, the Independent Expert said. “It is essential that authorities uphold human rights principles as a way of ensuring a peaceful and credible referendum. It is my hope that the international community will engage and support Sudan towards this goal.”

Othman urged the Council to remain engaged in the Sudan until “it was assured of tangible and lasting improvement in the human rights situation on the ground”.

24 September 2010