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Human Rights Council requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to designate an Expert on the human rights situation in Sudan

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5 November 2021

The Human Rights Council today adopted a resolution in which it condemned in the strongest possible terms the military takeover on 25 October 2021 in Sudan and requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to designate without delay an Expert on Human Rights in Sudan to monitor the developing human rights situation until the restoration of its civilian-led government.

In the resolution on the situation of human rights in Sudan, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council condemned in the strongest possible terms the military takeover on 25 October 2021 by the Sudanese military against the Transitional Government and called for the immediate restoration of the civilian-led Transitional Government.  The Council requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to designate without delay an Expert on Human Rights in Sudan to monitor the developing human rights situation until the restoration of its civilian-led government. 

At the opening of the one-day special session of the Human Rights Council on the human rights implications of the ongoing situation in Sudan, Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the military takeover of power in Sudan on 25 October 2021 was deeply disturbing.  Events since the coup had recalled a sombre page in the country’s history when freedom of expression was stifled, and human rights were comprehensively repressed.  The military leaders sought to overturn the commitments to transitional justice, institutional reforms, anti-corruption and guarantee of non-recurrences of past abuses that had been set out in the Constitutional Document.

Ms. Bachelet said the Council should take appropriate action to ensure focused and expert monitoring of all aspects of the human rights situation in Sudan, through the establishment of an appropriate and independent mechanism, and support the Sudanese people’s clear aspiration for democracy and a society based not on arbitrary force, but on the rule of law – a wish they continued to express and a right they continued, with great courage and dignity, to justly demand. 

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Chair of the Special Procedures' Coordinating Committee, said that by dissolving the civilian government and the joint Sovereign Council and suspending key articles of the Constitutional Document governing the transition in Sudan, the military leaders had shown utter contempt for democracy or any transitional process to restoration of democratic governance and human rights.  The Human Rights Council should take all measures within its reach to assist in restoring the peace process, including the measures to support the immediate and unconditional reinstallation of civilian rule.

Nazhat Shameem Khan, President of the Human Rights Council, said she had been informed that the country concerned would not take the floor. 

In the discussion, speakers condemned the unconstitutional changes of Government in Sudan and the military coup, calling for the restoration of the elected members of the Government.  The coup was strongly condemned, as was the unlawful detention of many people, all of whom should be released.  The people of Sudan had a right to democracy, and journalists and human rights defenders should be protected, while abuses of rights should be condemned.  International efforts aiming to restore peace within the region should be fully supported.  All parties should exercise the utmost restraint and end violence and hostility.  Some speakers said the Council should appoint a Special Rapporteur to assess the situation and ensure accountability.  Other speakers raised the issue of sovereignty of States and respect for internal affairs, and regretted the politicisation of the Council, and the calling of special sessions such as this one, as it did not demonstrate the impartiality that the body should show. 

Speaking in the debate were Cameroon on behalf of the Organization of African States, Bahrain on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Slovenia on behalf of the European Union, Egypt on behalf of the Group of Arab States, Finland on behalf of a group of countries, Germany, Indonesia, Venezuela, Libya, Japan, Mauritania, Namibia, Bulgaria, Brazil, Czech Republic, France, Russian Federation, Ukraine, Uruguay, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Austria, United Kingdom, Argentina, China, Netherlands, Canada, Luxembourg, Croatia, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, Costa Rica, United Arab Emirates, Sweden, Belgium, New Zealand, Holy See, Colombia, Switzerland, South Africa, Ireland, Ecuador, Egypt, Timor Leste, South Sudan, Kenya, Portugal, Norway, Turkey, Paraguay, Malta, Australia and United States. 

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations:  International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Human Rights Watch, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights Association, United Nations Watch, Amnesty International, International Service for Human Rights, World Organisation Against Torture, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Partners For Transparency, Elizka Relief Foundation, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme, International Bar Association, Physicians for Human Rights, Human Rights Information and Training Center, CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Access Now, Federatie van Nederlandse Verenigingen tot Integratie Van Homoseksualiteit - COC Nederland, and Broad National Movement Limited.

The special session was convened as per an official request submitted jointly by the United Kingdom, the United States, Norway and Germany.  This is the thirty-second special session of the Council and the fourth in 2021. 

The forty-ninth regular session of the Human Rights Council is tentatively scheduled to be held from 28 February to 25 March 2022.

Action on Resolution A/HRC/S-32/L.1

In a resolution (A/HRC/S-32/L.1) on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council condemns in the strongest possible terms the military takeover on 25 October 2021 by the Sudanese military against the Transitional Government led by Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, the suspension of transitional institutions and the unilateral imposition of measures that are contrary to the Sudan Constitutional Declaration of 2019 and the terms of the Juba Peace Agreement of 2020.  The Council calls for the immediate restoration of the civilian-led Transitional Government.  The Council requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to designate without delay an Expert on Human Rights in the Sudan, that shall with the assistance of and in close cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner’s Country Office in Sudan, monitor the developing human rights situation in the Sudan … until the restoration of its civilian-led government.  The Council requests the High Commissioner, with the assistance of the designated Expert, to present to the Human Rights Council at its fiftieth session a comprehensive written report, focusing on the human rights situation since, and human rights violations and abuses committed during, the period of the military takeover, followed by an enhanced interactive dialogue.  The Council decides that the term of office for the designated Expert on Human Rights in the Sudan should conclude upon the restoration of its civilian-led government.  

Russia, China and Venezuela disassociated themselves from the consensus on the resolution.

Opening Statements

MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the military takeover of power in Sudan on 25 October 2021 was deeply disturbing.  It betrayed the courageous and inspiring revolution of 2019, and contravened both international human rights law, as well as Sudan's own Constitutional Document and other foundational documents of the transition.  Events since the coup had recalled a sombre page in the country’s history when freedom of expression was stifled, and human rights were comprehensively repressed.  The whereabouts of most of those arrested remained unknown, and they had been held incommunicado– enforced disappearances compounding the gravity of their arbitrary arrests.  As the Security Council called for last week and the Secretary-General reiterated yesterday, all those arrested and detained since the military takeover should be immediately released.  This was also essential for an inclusive dialogue and a swift return to civilian rule.  The disproportionate and deadly use of force by the Sudan Armed Forces, the Rapid Support Forces, and other security forces – including military police and intelligence elements – must end immediately.  Those responsible for these and other human rights violations must be held fully accountable for their actions.  In a country where women and girls had been active leaders in the movement for democracy and human rights, many women activists had reportedly been arrested, harassed, threatened, and in some cases, beaten while participating in protests.  Several disturbing reports of violence against women had also been received. 

The Joint United Nations Human Rights Office had documented the arrests and detentions of journalists, resistance committee members, and activists.  Further contravening international human rights law, a nation-wide shutdown of the Internet had been imposed since 25 October.  The shutdown had prevented the population from accessing information, including important information about services.  Sudan's military leaders, and their backers, should step back in order to allow the country to return to the path of progress towards institutional and legal reforms.  The past two years had seen valuable progress towards setting up a National Human Rights Commission and key independent commissions envisaged in the Constitutional Document – including on transitional justice; land; women and gender equality; legal reforms; and corruption.  The military leaders sought to overturn the commitments to transitional justice, institutional reforms, anti-corruption and guarantee of non-recurrences of past abuses that had been set out in the Constitutional Document.  The military’s action had damaged prospects for the Juba Peace Agreement signed last year, and the situation in Darfur.  Sudan had been a beacon of progress for the region, and it was urgent to restore civilian rule, and with it, a clear and principled path of reforms that could fulfil the people's aspirations to democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

The Sudanese people had a right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.  The use of excessive force – such as firing live bullets – to repress the expression of those rights was unlawful and unjustified.  The Internet and all forms of communication must be reinstated, consistent with international law.  It was particularly critical for people to remain informed during a crisis such as the present, and to be able to communicate with each other.  All those arbitrarily detained should be released, with a view to instituting dialogue and return to civilian rule.  The Council should take appropriate action to ensure focused and expert monitoring of all aspects of the human rights situation in the country, through the establishment of an appropriate and independent mechanism, and support the Sudanese people’s clear aspiration for democracy and a society based not on arbitrary force, but on the rule of law – a wish they continued to express and a right they continued, with great courage and dignity, to justly demand. 

VICTOR MADRIGAL-BORLOZ, Chair of the Special Procedures' Coordinating Committee, said that emerging after decades of violations of economic, social, and cultural rights since 2019, the peoples of Sudan had placed great hopes on the transition framework through which civilian rule would be consolidated.  However, by dissolving the civilian government and the joint Sovereign Council and suspending key articles of the Constitutional Document governing the transition, the military leaders had shown utter contempt for democracy or any transitional process to restoration of democratic governance and human rights.  It had been one year since the Council decided to end the mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan after a phasing out of two years.  It had been a real sign of hope that, after years of dictatorship, Sudan appeared to decisively embrace the path of transition to democracy and respect for human rights.  The Human Rights Council should take all measures within its reach to assist in restoring the peace process, including the measures to support the immediate and unconditional reinstallation of civilian rule.

NAZHAT SHAMEEM KHAN, President of the Human Rights Council, said she had been informed that the country concerned would not take the floor. 

Discussion

Speakers said instability anywhere was a threat to human rights, peace, freedom and security, and condemned the unconstitutional changes of Government in Sudan and the military coup, calling for restoration and, where appropriate, the liberation of the elected members of the Government, among other persons who had been arbitrarily detained.  Stakeholders should engage in dialogue to restore peace and seek a permanent solution, in the interests of the Sudanese people.  The coup was strongly condemned, as was the unlawful detention of many people, all of whom should be released. 

The people of Sudan had a right to democracy, speakers said, and journalists and human rights defenders should be protected and abuses of rights condemned.  Perpetrators of violence should be brought to justice promptly.  The situation in Sudan was threatening to destabilise a region that was already in turmoil.  International efforts aiming to restore peace within the region should be fully supported.  Stakeholders in Sudan had an obligation to protect the rule of law and ensure a safe environment where all could express their human rights, including to freedom of assembly and expression, and the rights of women and girls.  A fully legitimate civilian government and a permanent democratic solution ensuring peace, freedom and justice for the Sudanese people was the best means to ensure an improvement of the situation, and women should be partners in the development of this solution in order to ensure its sustainability.  All parties should exercise the utmost restraint and end violence and hostility. 

The international community should scale up humanitarian aid to Sudan, whilst respecting the will of the Sudanese people, as otherwise it would be an exercise in futility.  It was vital to restore normality and ensure regional peace to support the stability of Sudan, including the holding of elections and to avoid all actions that might lead to further destabilisation.  There should be full respect of the Juba Accords and the signed documents, in order to return as soon as possible to the process of democratic transition and to restore transitional organizations as well as constitutional order.  The country needed to move forward until it could enjoy the progress made over previous years.  The Council needed to speak in one voice in order to ensure that the situation was resolved in a positive direction.  It should appoint a Special Rapporteur to assess the situation and ensure accountability. 

Other speakers raised the issue of sovereignty of States and respect for internal affairs, and regretted the politicisation of the Council, and the calling of special sessions such as this one, as it did not demonstrate the impartiality that the body should show. 

Some speakers welcomed the holding of the special session and called upon the Council to establish a mechanism such as a Special Rapporteur with a strong reporting and monitoring mandate on the situation.  The ending of the previous mandate and the removal of the situation from the Council’s agenda was criticised as premature.  While international calls to improve the situation were important, urgent action was required in order to prevent further human rights violations and abuses, and to ensure that the path to enhance human rights in Sudan was not blocked and that the rights of the Sudanese people to peace, freedom and justice were protected and ensured.  Sudan should ensure that an independent civil society could cooperate in good faith with the United Nations system.  Efforts should be made to protect the people of Sudan, as their lives hung in the balance. 

Link: Human Rights Council Requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to Designate an Expert on the Human Rights Situation in Sudan | ONU GENEV

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For use of the information media; not an official record.

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