Header image for news printout

Human Rights Council holds interactive dialogues on the situation of human rights in Sudan and in the Central African Republic

Human Rights Council
AFTERNOON

27 September 2017

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held an interactive dialogue with Aristide Nononsi, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan.  It also started an interactive dialogue with Marie-Therese Keita-Bocoum, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic.

Presenting his report, Mr. Nononsi acknowledged some positive steps taken by the Government of Sudan during the period under review such as the release of a number of human rights defenders through presidential pardon.  In spite of these achievements, the Independent Expert noted with concern the lack of progress in other areas, particularly the continued incidents of harassment, arrest, torture and prolonged detention of civil society actors, without access to legal representation or family members, by officers of the National Security Service.  The Government was urged to take steps to reform the current legal framework which infringed on the exercise of civil and political rights.  In Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile regions, the prevalence of armed groups, including government-backed militias, continued to pose serious threats for the protection of civilians.

Idris Ibrahim Gameil, Minister of Justice of Sudan, speaking as the concerned country, outlined that Sudan had achieved progress in the field of the promotion and protection of human rights.  The interim constitution had been amended in 2017 to include further expansion of human rights and a plan had been made to replace the interim constitution with a permanent constitution.  There had been continued provision of humanitarian access to people in areas of conflict.

In the interactive discussion, many delegations welcomed the positive measures adopted by the Government of Sudan to tackle existing challenges in the area of human rights.  Many underlined that the number of human rights issues highlighted in the latest report of the Independent Expert were deeply concerning.  All parties to the conflict were urged to enter seriously into negotiations in order to achieve a lasting peace.  Some speakers stressed that the Government of Sudan bore the primary responsibility to protect its own population.  Several delegations reiterated the need for the Special Procedures to focus on their mandates, especially those dealing with technical assistance. 

Speaking were the delegations of European Union, Tunisia on behalf of the African Group, Ethiopia on behalf of a group of countries, Egypt on behalf of the Arab Group, Qatar, Nicaragua, United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, France, Iraq, Venezuela, Egypt, Libya, Bahrein, Slovenia, Germany, United States, China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, United Kingdom, Algeria, South Sudan, Somalia, Cuba, Tunisia and Eritrea. 

The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Human Rights Watch, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Eastern Sudan Women Development Organization, Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development, Society Studies Centre and Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme.

The Human Rights Council then held an interactive dialogue with Marie-Therese Keita-Bocoum, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic.

Ms. Keita-Bocoum noted that following the investiture of a new President last September, there were expectations that new hopes could be brought to a population tired of years of violence.  However, the situation in the Central African Republic was still extremely worrying.  Many of the attacks had taken a religious connotation, targeting Muslim communities, including the destruction of housing, goods and religious buildings and the restriction of access to water, food and healthcare.  The humanitarian situation in the country was also disastrous with half of the population relying on humanitarian assistance which was only financed at 30 per cent of needs.  There were 600,000 internally displaced persons and 440,000 refugees outside the country. 

Serge Herve Saboro, Legal Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of the Central African Republic to the United Nations Office at Geneva, speaking as the concerned country, said the Central African Republic needed the assistance of the international community.  The request should not go unheeded.  The effective restoration of State authority was struggling to play its main role when it came to judicial and other fronts.

In the discussion, several delegations shared concerns about the increase of human rights violations in the Central African Republic, which was the result of the advance of armed groups.  Some delegations underlined that these groups continued to rampage without being punished, and measures needed to be taken for all perpetrators to be arrested without delay.  Most of the abuses affected civilians, who suffered from murder, sexual violence and displacement. 

Speaking were Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Egypt, China, Portugal and Algeria.  

On Thursday, 28 September, at 9 a.m., the Council will continue the interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic under its technical assistance and capacity building agenda item.  It will then hold a general debate on technical assistance and capacity building.

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan (A/HRC/36/63).

Presentation by the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Sudan

ARISTIDE NONONSI, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan, presented his third report on the situation of human rights in Sudan for the period from 28 September 2016 to 30 June 2017, and the findings of his last two visits to the country from 23 January to 11 February, and from 11 to 21 May 2017.  Mr. Nononsi acknowledged some positive steps taken by the Government during the period under review, such as the separation of the Ministry of Justice from the Office of the Attorney General, the decision by the President of Sudan to pardon 259 armed movement personnel who had been captured during the fighting with Government forces in Darfur, the release from custody of two pastors who had been sentenced to 12 years imprisonment following a presidential pardon, and the efforts undertaken in order to facilitate humanitarian access to conflict-affected areas in Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile regions.  Mr. Nononsi also welcomed the recent decision of the Sudanese authorities to release a number of human rights defenders through presidential pardon.  In spite of the mentioned achievements, the Independent Expert noted with concern the lack of progress in other areas, particularly the continued incidents of harassment, arrest, torture and prolonged detention of civil society actors, without access to legal representation or family members, by officers of the National Security Service.  Censorship of newspapers, increased restrictions on journalists to freely express their opinion, arrests of students and excessive use of force targeting students, and the demolition of churches and places of worship were also of concern.  Mr. Nononsi urged the Government to take concrete measures to reform the current legal framework which infringed on the exercise of political and civil rights and fundamental freedoms.  Priority should be given to withdrawing enforcement powers, including arrest and detention, from officers of the National Security Service.        

Turning to the situation in Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile regions, the Independent Expert stated that despite a decline in military operations between Government forces and armed opposition movements, the prevalence of armed groups, including Government-backed militias and other armed actors, continued to pose a serious threat for the protection of civilians and human rights.  Reports indicated an increase in human rights violations and attacks against civilians, in particular internally displaced persons in Darfur.  Mr. Nononsi called on the Government to ensure the protection of its civilians.  He noted that transitioning the African Union/United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) from peacekeeping to peacebuilding in the current environment required political will on the part of the Government and an appropriate level of human rights personnel on the ground.  The non-issuance of working visas for UNAMID personnel undermined the ability of the mission to implement its human rights mandate. 

As for technical cooperation and capacity building, the Independent Expert said that a notable example was the joint rule of law and human rights programme for Darfur funded by the United Nations Development Programme, UNAMID and the Government of Canada.  He urged other donor countries and the international community to provide the necessary technical and financial support to Sudan in the field of human rights.  He also encouraged the Government to facilitate the deployment of a technical assessment mission of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in order to discuss potential areas for possible technical cooperation with relevant Sudanese authorities and other stakeholders.  The Independent Expert strongly urged the Government to build on the progress made and to promptly address the deficit in the protection of human rights. 

Statement by the Concerned Country

IDRIS IBRAHIM GAMEIL, Minister of Justice of Sudan, speaking as the concerned country, expressed reservations about certain parts of the report, and drew attention to the fact that the main mandate had not been achieved, meaning no notable technical assistance or capacity building had been provided to Sudan.  Despite the grave challenges that Sudan faced, including unilateral coercive measures, foreign debt, influx of refugees, armed conflict in certain areas in Sudan, and instability in neighbouring countries, Sudan had achieved major and considerable political and legal progress, which revealed its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, and the realization and implementation of the national document that emanated from the national dialogues, which continued for two years with the participation of various political parties and the attendance of more than 35 armed opposition groups.  The interim constitution had been amended in 2017 to include further expansion of human rights, and a plan had been made to replace the interim constitution with a permanent constitution.  There had been continued provision of humanitarian access to people in areas of conflict.  Sudan continued to host, with its limited resources, more than 2 million refugees.  Sudan remained committed to further actions to promote and protect human rights and cooperation with international human rights mechanisms.  Sudan would continue ratifying international core human rights treaties.  Sudan would cooperate openly and transparently with the Council.

Interactive Dialogue on the Situation of Human Rights in Sudan

European Union shared the concern that despite positive steps taken by the Government in the past year, a number of human rights challenges with regard to violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law remained unaddressed.  Reports about incidents of harassment and torture and prolonged detention of civil society members were of great concern.  Tunisia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, commended the cooperation of the Government of Sudan with the Independent Expert.  The African Group highly valued the efforts of the Government to achieve a comprehensive national dialogue.  All human rights were indivisible and should be treated on an equal footing.  The report failed to reflect the efforts deployed by Sudan to address social and economic rights in the country.  Ethiopia, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, welcomed the outcome of the national dialogue in Sudan and the formation of a national unity Government that included a large number of different political factions.  The hosting of more than 2 million refugees was also worth mentioning.

Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, welcomed Sudan’s cooperation with the Independent Expert in facilitating his visits.  The Arab Group applauded the results of the national dialogue and the formation of a national accord Government.  The Arab Group called for the situation in Sudan to be reconsidered given the human rights situation and on the basis of solutions that could bring Sudan out of Special Procedures.  Qatar welcomed the interactive dialogue, hoping it would contribute to further strengthen human rights in Sudan.  Qatar hoped that this cooperation would lead to a more objective approach by the Council and put an end to Sudan being considered under Special Procedures.  Assistance should be provided to improve peace, security and stability.  Nicaragua thanked the Independent Expert for the presentation of the report.  Unfortunately, it focused on the human rights situation in Sudan with little attention paid to capacity building needs and technical assistance.  The Independent Expert should pay due attention to this part of his mandate. 

United Arab Emirates welcomed the achievements of Sudan in human rights despite difficulties.  It reaffirmed the fact that item 10 had to be a credible mechanism to improve the capacity of States in the field of human rights.  But that could only take place upon the request of the concerned country.   Switzerland recognized some encouraging achievements in Sudan.  However, it remained concerned about censorship of newspapers, harassment of human rights defenders, and restrictions imposed on civil society.  It was equally worried about the lack of security for civilians in Darfur, Kordofan and Blue Nile.  France stated that the progress made by Sudan fell short in light of persistent human rights violations.  It called on the Government to stop the harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders and journalists, and to guarantee freedom of expression.

Iraq welcomed the cooperation of Sudan with the Independent Expert, and the outcome of the Sudanese national dialogue.  It reminded that the Security Council had issued resolution 23/63 which had decreased the forces of the United Nations/African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur.  The achievements of Sudan had to be met with decisions that would help it exit the Special Procedures mandate.  Venezuela reminded that item 10 was designed to help countries improve their human rights through genuine cooperation and dialogue.  The international community had to help Sudan become a peaceful and harmonious society.  Venezuela rejected attempts at politicisation and the use of human rights as a political tool to demonize developing countries.  Egypt noted the remarkable progress achieved in Sudan and its openness and dedication in cooperation with the Independent Expert.  It was fully convinced that the real approach to any challenge was through dialogue.

                                                                                                                             Libya welcomed the Sudanese delegation and thanked the Independent Expert for his report.  The positive measures adopted in the area of human rights by Sudan to tackle existing challenges were welcomed.  Bahrain welcomed improvements in conflict-affected areas and commended the Sudanese Government’s decision to continue cease-fires in certain areas.  The Special Procedure could help set up the roadmap for Sudan.  Bahrain praised Sudan’s progress as well as its hosting of 2 million refugees.  Slovenia said that in the past year, efforts had been made to improve the human rights situation in Sudan.  However, the number of human rights issues in the latest report were concerning; Slovenia reiterated that the Government of Sudan bore the primary responsibility to protect its population.

Germany expressed concern about the situation of human rights in Sudan.  Necessary measures needed to be taken to protect the victims in relation to sexual and gender-based violence.  The Government of Sudan needed to address institutional gaps to promote respect for the rule of law and human rights.  United States said any human rights issues in Sudan remained largely unaddressed.  All sides were urged to enter seriously into negotiations in order to achieve a lasting peace and improvement in the human rights situation.  China said the situation in Sudan had been generally stable since last year, and there had been positive headway made on the Darfur situation.  China commended the Government for its efforts and success in protecting human rights, and expressed understanding for the challenges faced by Sudan as a developing country.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea opposed the politicisation of country-specific mandates which were not conducive to the promotion of human rights, but were misused as a means to infringe upon sovereignty and interfere in the internal affairs of concerned countries.  Any discussion on Sudan should reflect the reality on the ground correctly and should be free from any bias.  United Kingdom welcomed the efforts by Sudan to cease hostilities, improve humanitarian access in conflict areas, and release prominent activists.  Nevertheless, it continued to be concerned about human rights abuses perpetrated with impunity in the country’s conflict areas and the lack of sustainable solutions for long-term drivers of the conflict.  Algeria noted with satisfaction Sudan’s cooperation with the international community and the United Nations human rights mechanisms.  It commended the willingness of Sudan to implement the recommendations of the Independent Expert despite its foreign debt.  

South Sudan commended Sudan’s efforts in the field of human rights.  It appreciated Sudan’s generosity for hosting South Sudanese refugees and providing them with humanitarian needs.  It called on the international humanitarian agencies to increase their assistance to refugees in Sudan.  Somalia welcomed Sudan’s cooperation with the Independent Expert and the Human Rights Council.  Sudan’s inclusive political discussions were a positive step forward to continued political stability.  Cuba reiterated the need for the Special Procedures to focus on the mandates given to them, especially those mandates dealing with technical assistance.  They should pay more attention to the constant blight of the Sudanese people because of the unilaterally imposed sanctions on their country.

Tunisia welcomed the interactive dialogue and expressed gratitude to Sudan for its efforts to lay the foundations for peace.  The formation of a national accord Government would help Sudan better protect human rights.  It was important to encourage Sudan to fulfil its human rights obligations through technical assistance.  Eritrea said that Sudan had achieved significant progress in the field of human rights.  The engagement of the Government with all stakeholders and human rights mechanisms was significant.  Sudan and its people had strongly suffered from the unilateral coercive measures imposed on the country.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide was concerned about the human rights situation in Sudan, particularly Government restrictions on freedom of religion or belief.  Since September 2016, the Sudanese Government had prosecuted religious leaders for crimes against the State and demolished places of worship.  Human Rights Watch noted that in the conflict zones of Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, the Rapid Support Forces and other Government-aligned forces continued to carry out attacks on civilians.  The humanitarian situation in many areas of the three conflict zones remained dire.  East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project was concerned about the continuing crackdown on civil society and human rights defenders who had been subjected to unfounded criminal charges and short trials.  Three human rights defenders had been detained for 10 months and then were found guilty of trumped up criminal offenses.  International Federation for Human Rights Leagues underlined that serious challenges in Sudan included the climate of total impunity for human rights violators. This included the failure, four years on, to hold anyone to account for the killing, by security forces, of at least 185 people during protests in September 2013.  Freedom of expression continued to be severely curtailed.

Eastern Sudan Women Development Organization said the current report called for the international community to provide assistance to Sudan.  Sudan’s development of social and national processes was underscored, and the development of the constitution had given many rights to Sudanese civil society.  Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development commended the promotion and development of human rights in Sudan, and said a common vision was shared for the entire spectrum to contribute.  Cooperation between Sudan and the international community on illegal migration had had positive effects.  Society Studies Centre said foreign debt had had a negative effect on the Sudanese budget for the implementation of recommendations.  It had also had a negative effect on the Sudanese people’s enjoyment of their human rights.  Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’hommesaid despite the Sudanese Government’s declaration of armistice, indiscriminate attacks had been perpetrated against civilians.  The Government’s restrictions on freedom of expression had caused violence against journalists and Sudanese authorities repressed the basic rights of women. 

Concluding Remarks

ARISTIDE NONONSI, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan, explained that the mandate required him to outline recent developments in the country, and to identify challenges and key areas of technical assistance and capacity building.  Responding to the question about the work of the special court in Darfur, he said he thought the Sudanese authorities would support it.  However, those were costly processes because of the training of judges, and training of security forces.  Thus, he called on the international community to provide further assistance.  The United Nations/African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur’s (UNAMID) mandate was to monitor and protect human rights, but that also required further human and financial resources.  UNAMID was currently understaffed.  Some internally displaced women had raised some security concerns and said that they had been targeted outside camps.  As for civil society, they expressed their needs and concerns, which had been passed on the United Nations country team and donors.  They required more in terms of capacity building and technical assistance.  The United Nations Development Programme and other agencies were conducting a joint programme on the rule of law.  Mr. Nononsi noted that the Government of Sudan should also play its role by providing the resources that it had at disposal. 

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic (A/HRC/36/64).

Presentation of the Situation of Human Rights in the Central African Republic

MARIE-THERESE KEITA BOKOUM, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, noted that following the investiture of a new President last September, there were expectations that new hopes could be brought to a population tired of years of violence.  However, the situation in the Central African Republic was still extremely worrying.  Many of the attacks had taken a religious connotation, targeting Muslim communities, particularly in Bangassou, Bria, Rafai and Zemio, including the destruction of housing, goods and religious buildings and the restriction of access to water, food and healthcare.  There had also been incidents of hate speech by anti-Balakas in a number of localities, which were rarely condemned by local authorities. 
Outside Bangui, there had been violent confrontations between armed groups that were progressively establishing administrative parallel structures, including police forces and other national institutions.  In the east, the attacks among armed groups had caused a great number of victims targeting a certain number of ethnic communities.  The anti-Balakas had also targeted the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) in this region.  On May 8, they had ambushed one of its convoys nearby Bangassou, killing five blue helmet officers and injuring 10.  The most violent attack took place on May 13 when heavily armed anti-Balakas attacked MINUSCA in Bangassou before attacking a Muslim neighbourhood; 115 persons were killed and 64 were injured.  Around 7,200 persons had been displaced and 2,750 refugees had fled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Conflicts also emerged on May 16 in Bria lasting several days between the anti-Balakas and the Arab community, killing 49 persons and injuring 35.  Two blue helmets had died in Bangassou.  In the south east, the withdrawal of Ugandan and other troops had resulted in a security vacuum in this zone where the Lord’s Resistance Army continued to commit a number of abuses. 

The humanitarian situation in the country was also disastrous.  Half of the population relied on humanitarian assistance which was only financed at 30 per cent of needs.  There were 600,000 internally displaced persons and 440,000 refugees outside the country.  Humanitarian workers continued to be targeted by armed groups.  Nearly 200 violent attacks had been perpetrated against humanitarian workers since the beginning of the year.

Ms. Keita-Bocoum noted that many States in the region, in cooperation with regional organizations, had launched mediation efforts in order to promote a peace agreement between the Government and the numerous armed groups.  In parallel, the Sant’Egidio community had engaged in negotiations with the armed groups leading to the signature of a ceasefire and the adoption of a roadmap for peace.  Ms. Keita-Bocoum encouraged the national authorities to take her recommendations into account and to continue working with its partners and neighbouring countries to ensure that the country would achieve peace and sustainable development. 

Statement by the Concerned Country

HERVE SABORO, Legal Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of the Central African Republic to the United Nations Office at Geneva, speaking as the concerned country, said the Central African Republic needed the assistance of the international community.  The request should not go unheeded.  The effective restoration of State authority was struggling to play its main role when it came to judicial and other fronts.  The people of the Central African Republic wanted to live in peace and harmony.  Impunity would not be accepted.  The Central African Republic needed assistance in that regard.  But assistance had not been effective.  Security was the key aspect for everything else, otherwise, there would be no possible development of the country. 

Interactive Dialogue on the Central African Republic

Switzerland shared the concern of the Independent Expert over infringements of international humanitarian law linked to the upsurge in fighting.  An immediate cessation of all violence and all violations of international humanitarian law was called for.  Germany said it had contributed 10.5 million euros to support Central African Republic refugees in neighbouring countries, and noted that the State’s authority needed to be restored outside Bangui.  Armed groups continued to rampage without being punished, and measures needed to be taken for all perpetrators to be arrested without delay.  Netherlands recognized the efforts of the Government of the Central African Republic to cooperate with the United Nations and others.  Killings, sexual violence and other human rights abuses seemed to have become a regular occurrence.  The Netherlands called on all to respect human rights.

Spain shared concerns about the increase of human rights violations in the Central African Republic, which was the result of the advance of armed groups.  Most abuses affected civilians, who suffered from murder, sexual violence and displacement.  The recruitment of child soldiers and sexual violence were of particular concern.  Egypt welcomed the cooperation of the Central African Republic with the Independent Expert and applauded the achievements in spite of challenges, notably the strengthening of legislature, the economic recovery plan, and the launch of the peace and reconciliation process.  Technical assistance was important for underpinning the national reconciliation process.  China stated that the international community needed to step up efforts to provide the necessary assistance to the Central African Republic to achieve peace, security and development.  China supported the concerted efforts of the Government to promote and protect human rights.

Portugal voiced concern about the use of ethnic or religious grounds by militias to legitimise their attacks in the Central African Republic.  It strongly urged the Government to continue to participate actively and transparently in conflict-mediation initiatives.  Algeria applauded the significant progress made by the Central African Republic, such as the restoration of State authority.  The Government had launched a number of development projects in areas other than the capital.  However, ongoing human rights violations were regrettable.

 __________

For use of the information media; not an official record

Follow UNIS Geneva on: Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube |Flickr