Statement by Nada Al- Nashif
UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights
6 October 2021
Geneva, Palais des Nations, Room XX
Madam President,Excellencies,Distinguished participants,
On behalf of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, I thank the Government of the Sudan for the constructive engagement with OHCHR in the Sudan since the establishment of our presence in the country in December 2019. The Human Rights Council, in its resolution 45/25, requested our Office to present a written report at its 48th session on the progress made and the remaining challenges in the field of human rights, including the work of our country office in the Sudan and its field presences. The report covers the period of October 2020 to 30 June 2021. A draft of the report was shared in advance with the Government of the Sudan, but no written response was received.
The United Nations Security Council, by its resolution 2524 adopted on 3 June 2020, decided to establish the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in the Sudan (UNITAMS) with a human rights mandate. As of 1 January 2021, the OHCHR country office in the Sudan has been integrated with the UNITAMS Office of Support to Civilian Protection in line with the Policy on Human Rights in United Nations Peace Operations and Political Missions of 2011.
Currently, the UN Joint Human Rights Office in the Sudan has 41 staff, including 17 staff in three field offices (El Fasher, Kadugli and El Damazine). Recruitment is ongoing to fully staff the Joint Office to enable it to respond to the varying human rights challenges in the Sudan. In addition, at the request of the Prime Minister of the Sudan, our Office deployed a Senior Human Rights Adviser to the Office of the Prime Minister from October 2020 to April 2021, to provide technical assistance, in particular to strengthen the Government’s capacity to engage with international human rights mechanisms.
The financial needs of the United Nations country office for 2021 will be met through extra-budgetary resources, complemented by Regular Budget allocations for human rights posts within UNITAMS. The Joint Office in the Sudan is therefore seeking sustainable multi-year contributions for 2022–2023.
I welcome the commitment of the Sudan to put in place important economic reforms and strengthen social protections, which could lead to improvements in the lives of the Sudanese people and their access to key economic, social and cultural rights. These reforms must be based on human rights principles so that they benefit all populations and leave no one behind.
I also welcome Sudan’s ratification of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and its accession to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. These are landmark steps towards the promotion and protection of human rights in the Sudan. I encourage the Government of the Sudan to continue its efforts to accede to the international human rights instruments to which the Sudan is not yet a party, in particular the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, without reservations that are incompatible with the objective and purpose of the Convention, and the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
I commend the Sudan for the establishment of a permanent National Human Rights Reporting and Follow-Up Mechanism. I encourage the Government to continue its cooperation with our office with a view to establishing other important bodies, such as the Legislative Council and the Independent Thematic Commissions, to reforming the National Human Rights Commission in accordance with the Paris Principles, ensuring wider public consultations to guide the formation and effective operationalization of the Transitional Justice Commission.
Darfur continues to experience multifaceted human rights challenges since the withdrawal of the Hybrid UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). These include harassment, intimidation, extortion of civilians and sexual violence against women and girls by armed groups, as well as intercommunal violence, resulting in civilian casualties and destruction of civilian objects. The cycle of intercommunal violence is linked to competition over access to water resources and pastoral land that have been exacerbated by the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. Delays in the implementation of the National Plan for the Protection of Civilians, the UNAMID drawdown, as well as challenges in the implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement, have left civilians more vulnerable.
OHCHR remains concerned by the delays in delivering justice to the victims of the past crimes committed in Darfur as well as for the victims of the violent dispersal of protestors in Khartoum on 3 June 2019. We are also concerned that thousands of public officials affected by the decisions of the Dismantling Committee still do not enjoy a right to appeal against such decisions.
I am encouraged by the enhanced engagement and the cooperation of the Government of the Sudan with the International Criminal Court. Our Office stands ready to offer technical assistance towards enhancing judicial and other accountability mechanisms.
Although the Government has achieved bold legislative and institutional reforms with positive impact on the broadcast and print media, including the recent consideration of the three draft media laws, restrictive practices persist with potential implications on access to information. At least 35 online media news outlets reported inability to access their electronic content on 29 June 2021 because of an order issued by the Prosecutor of Cybercrimes, accusing them of spreading misinformation. The justification raised for such restriction was “public safety” based on the July 2020 amendment of the 2007 Cybercrimes Act. The decision to restrict access coincided with anti-Government protests. All websites were unblocked by mid July 2021.
Sudan’s transition continues to face serious challenges, but progress made thus far must not be derailed. My Office will continue to support the transitional authorities and the aspirations of the Sudanese people for democracy, development, respect for human rights and the rule of law.
We believe that an important step towards meeting the demands and aspirations of the people of the Sudan could be to speed up the implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement, in particular the provisions on accountability, transitional justice and durable peace solutions for all Sudanese, including internally displaced persons. Equally important, in light of the resurgence of violence in Darfur, would be the roll out of the Government’s National Plan for the Protection of Civilians, including the deployment of the Joint Protection Forces and operationalization of oversight mechanisms, in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law standards.
My Office will continue to support the transitional authorities and the aspirations of the Sudanese people for democracy, development, respect for human rights and the rule of law. I believe that a successful transition in the Sudan could serve as a model for peaceful, democratic change across the world. It calls for your strengthened support, trust and investment.
* * * * *