Header image for news printout

Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination considers the report of Sudan

5 May 2015

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today concluded its consideration of the combined twelfth to sixteenth periodic report of Sudan on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Introducing the report, Muaz Ahmed Mohamed Tungo, Rapporteur of the Advisory Council for Human Rights of Sudan, said that the report covered a rather sensitive period in the history of Sudan, in which the country faced great challenges. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination was included in the 2005 Provisional Constitution, while the 2013 National Plan for Human Rights guaranteed a participative approach to the enjoyment of human rights and set up an independent High Commission for Human Rights in accordance with the Paris Principles. A law prohibiting racial discrimination would be presented to the Parliament in its June 2015 session, and national legislation was being reviewed for any provisions that could lead to discrimination. The Commission for Humanitarian Affairs put in place measures to face challenges posed by migration, and to meet the needs of refugees and migrants; the 2014 Law on Asylum tackled the crime of human trafficking.

Committee Experts recognized the efforts of Sudan to emerge from several conflicts, including over water and land, which had exacerbated ethnic tensions and led to instability in the country, particularly in Darfur, South Kordofan and the Blue Nile. The closure of the Salima Centre for Women Research in June 2014 fuelled concern of a civil society crackdown, while the failure to replace the 2005 Provisional Constitution with a permanent one was a source of concern. Experts commended the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission and wondered about the independence of its members who were appointed by the President. They raised concern about the performance of the National Security Agency which enjoyed immunity from prosecution for human rights violations it committed; the judiciary also enjoyed immunity from criminal proceedings. Other issues raised in the discussion related to the situation of the Dinka people and the people in the Nuba mountains, return of internally displaced persons, laws applicable to non-Muslim populations, and the complaint mechanisms in place available to the victims of racial discrimination.

In concluding remarks, Melhem Khalaf, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, said that Sudan should ensure that its laws were in line with the provisions of the Convention, undertake measures to combat all forms of discrimination, and bring its policies concerning race in line with the principles of citizenship.

Mr. Tungo, in his concluding remarks, reiterated the commitment of Sudan to respect its international commitments and its Constitution, promote and protect human rights, and prevent all forms of discrimination against citizens and groups in the country.

The delegation of Sudan included representatives of the Advisory Council for Human Rights and the Permanent Mission of Sudan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The next public meeting of the Committee will take place at 3 p.m. this afternoon when it will begin its review of the combined nineteenth to twenty-second periodic report of Germany (CERD/C/DEU/19-22).

Report

The combined twelfth to sixteenth periodic report of Sudan can be read via the following link: (CERD/C/SDN/12-16).

Presentation of the Report

KAMAL GUBARA, Permanent Representative of Sudan to the United Nations Office at Geneva, welcomed the Committee and introduced the delegation of Sudan.

MUAZ AHMED MOHAMED TUNGO, Rapporteur of the Advisory Council for Human Rights of Sudan, introducing the report, said that Sudan was rich in human diversity, a land of many peoples who spoke many languages, who lived side by side without suffering any kind of discrimination. The State had ensured peaceful living regardless of cultural or racial differences, and legal measures had been undertaken to ensure the implementation of the Convention. The report covered a rather sensitive period in the history of the country which faced great challenges as a result of the changes that had happened. Dialogue was the only way of solving conflict and that was why Sudan had entered into negotiations with those who had taken up arms and represented a threat to peace and security, including in Darfur, Blue Nile and Kordofan. The January 2005 comprehensive peace agreement granted the right to self-determination to southern governorates, which had opted for independence in 2011. The 2005 Transition Constitution included the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and defined Sudan as a unified and united State, whose diversity was a source of wealth and inspiration. A number of laws had been adopted to protect human rights, while the Constitutional Court had set out the principles and constitutional opinions which set precedents for legal practice based on the obligations arising from international human rights treaties. The 2013 National Plan for Human Rights guaranteed a participative approach to the enjoyment of human rights, which established an independent High Commission for Human Rights in accordance with the Paris Principles.

A law prohibiting racial discrimination would be presented to the Parliament in its June 2015 session and would take precedence over older legislation, and national legislation was being reviewed for any provisions that could lead to discrimination. The 15 members of the National Commission for Human Rights were appointed by a Presidential decree; the Commission provided information to the Government, State institutions and civil society about any violations of human rights, it received complaints for all human rights violations and developed and presented suitable recommendations to all relevant bodies. The 2005 Constitution included the Charter of Rights and considered that all international conventions Sudan had ratified were an integral part of the Constitution itself. Legislation had been enacted which allowed for the functioning and development of civil society. Ethnic and cultural diversity were respected throughout the country and were strengthened by the Constitution, while provinces of the Blue Nile and Kordofan received more autonomous governance systems, and access to justice was being strengthened by the use of customary law. It was true that poverty affected those provinces, but Sudan spared no efforts to support economic development, which unfortunately was slowed down by the activities of armed groups financed from abroad. In order to face challenges posed by migration, efforts were employed by the Commission for Humanitarian Affairs to meet the needs of refugees and migrants in accordance with the Peace Agreement. The 2014 Law on Asylum tackled the crime of human trafficking and introduced penalties for offenders.

Questions by the Country Rapporteur

MELHEM KHALAF, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, said that Sudan had made efforts to emerge from the conflicts it faced, despite the multiple obstacles it had encountered. A number of institutions provided support for the national dialogue in Sudan, while international efforts had encountered obstacles. In Darfur, violence and conflict between groups had caused the displacement of more than 50,000 persons in 2014, in South Kordofan there had been reports of displacement as well, while human rights violations had been confirmed in the Blue Nile. Widespread sexual violence had been reported in north Darfur. Sudan should be supported and there was a need to facilitate access to international humanitarian support. In June 2014, the Government had closed down Salima Centre for Women Research and there were concerns of a civil society crackdown. Sudan needed to explain the social fabric of the people, with its tribes and ethnicities.

The Country Rapporteur commended the quality of the report presented to the Committee but noted that the Committee had not received a shadow report from civil society; it would be useful to describe how the report had been drafted. A question that remained was how the Convention and other international laws were applied by the courts. Another concern was that a permanent Constitution had not yet been adopted to replace the Provisional Constitution of 2005. Mr. Khalaf said it was important to have an adequate definition of racial discrimination in the law, and remarked that there was no law that tackled the phenomenon of racial discrimination as per article 4 of the Convention, while the lack of ethnic indicators made it difficult to make future plans to combat racial discrimination. The Country Rapporteur commended the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission and the appointment of its 15 members, and wondered about their independence considering that they were appointed by the President, about the Commission’s resources and whether it would join the International Coordinating Committee of national human rights institutions.

Questions by the Committee Experts

The situation of internally displaced persons and refugees gave rise to human trafficking and the delegation was asked how this criminal activity took place within and across the Sudanese borders. The agreement to marry was not expressed by a woman but by her male relatives, which was an infringement on the principle of equality before the law and on women’s rights. Were women still stoned to death for adultery? The performance of the National Security Agency was an issue of concern, because it enjoyed immunity from prosecution for human rights violations it committed including detention and harassment of minorities; the judiciary also enjoyed immunity from criminal proceedings.

Concerning the National Commission for Human Rights, the delegation was asked whether it had indeed been set up in accordance with the Paris Principles, whether it had received accreditation, about the interaction between the Commission and the Advisory Council for Human Rights, and about the four-year strategic National Human Rights Plan adopted by the Commission.

Committee Experts inquired about the status of the Constitutional process which would lead to a definite Constitution and would it contain a provision equivalent to current article 27 which gave precedence of international conventions over Constitutional provisions, the status of the law on racial discrimination, and whether the definition of racial discrimination was in compliance with the Convention.

Unfortunately, in the course of recent years Sudan had faced difficulties and conflicts, including over water and land, which had exacerbated ethnic tensions and led to instability in the country. The international community had expressed concern about the protection of the population, human trafficking and refugees.

The delegation was further asked about the steps taken to address the problems in Darfur, to allow the return of internally displaced persons, about the situation of Dinka people and the right of the people the Nuba mountains to use their indigenous land; the situation of refugees; the suspension of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees programmes; origin and routes of illegal migration; the laws applicable to non-Muslim populations; the complaint mechanisms in place available to the victims of racial discrimination; and the enjoyment of the freedom of expression with regard to the provisions in the Penal Code which criminalized sedition and incitement to hatred.

Replies by the Delegation

The Government had carried out great efforts to ensure peace and dialogue and had signed a number of peace agreements with several parties which desired peace and a solution to the conflict. It was important to mention the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which had led to the independence of the southern part of the country. Efforts continued to implement the cooperation agreement with South Sudan; unfortunately, developments in this country, particularly the civil war, had hampered the implementation of this agreement. Sudan had endeavoured to solve the conflict between parties in South Sudan and establish ties with this brotherly nation. The Government was following up on the attacks on the African Union/United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) in order to ensure that the perpetrators were brought to justice. Part of the problem was lack of cooperation by UNAMID, which did not agree to participate in court proceedings or to witness or reject accusations.

With regard to indigenous peoples in Sudan, there were no ethnic groups that belonged to Sudan in a greater extent than others; the population was made of groups of people that had arrived to the nation over time and it was difficult to pinpoint a particular ethnic group and say that it belonged to Sudan above others. There were no pure African or Arab tribes in Sudan, all population groups were mixed, and the tribal system was not necessarily based on ethnicity. On freedom of expression, the delegation said that the Salima Centre for Women Research had been closed because it was operating against the law; civil society organizations in Sudan were completely free to operate. Civil society organizations had been encouraged to participate in the preparation of the report submitted to the Committee, and also to prepare their own shadow report. In terms of the drafting of the permanent Constitution, the paperwork was being prepared and the Government wished to ensure broad-based consultation with all stakeholders in Sudan before it embarked on the preparation of the text. The Anti-discrimination Bill did provide for the translation of the provisions of the Convention which would enable Sudan to adequately address crimes of racial discrimination, properly punish the perpetrators and combat the phenomenon.

Access to justice was possible throughout the country, regardless of its size, and the population also had the right to effective remedies. In more than 200 of its localities in 16 provinces, prosecutors were present, and the institution of the Ombudsmen was in place to receive complaints on human rights issues. Refugees were entering the country from South Sudan and more than 390,000 had been registered by April 2015; the Government had established villages for the refugees where they had access to land and could live autonomously. There were four camps with a total of 85,315 refugees from Eritrea, while the camps for Ethiopian refugees had been closed down by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Arabic was the lingua franca while the Constitution sought to promote the use of certain dialects; Arabic followed by English were official languages. Sanctions for human trafficking were regulated by the new federal law, and the offence might carry the death penalty.

With regard to women’s rights and discrimination against women, the delegation noted that some of the provisions of Sharia were poorly interpreted by some Muslims; in reality, women had equal weight in matters of witnessing, or inheritance. Death by stoning derived from Sharia was applied equally to women and men, without discrimination. The delegation stressed that the security forces enjoyed procedural immunity which was lifted once the criminal behaviour by individual police officers had been proved. The National Commission for Human Rights had adopted the National Strategy against Racism 2014-2018 with the view to promote and protect human rights in general; it also covered all the provisions of the Convention. At the same time, the Advisory Council on Human Rights had adopted the Human Rights Strategy 2013-2023, which also foresaw combatting racial discrimination.

The Sudanese legal system required that separate legislation be enacted in order to enforce the implementation of international conventions. The definition of racial discrimination in line with the Convention was included in the Anti-Discrimination Bill. Sudan had not yet ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which did not mean that Sudan violated its provisions; for example, 30 per cent of Members of Parliament and Local Councils were women. Concerning the alleged rape of more than 200 women in Darfur, the delegation stressed that there was no evidence on the ground and that the onus of the proof was on those who fabricated those rumours.

The Advisory Council for Human Rights and the National Commission for Human Rights were the two institutions which received complaints of racial discrimination by citizens; complaints could be filed online and all citizens had access to justice and the right to be represented by a lawyer. The conflict in Darfur was one between nomads, Arabs and non-Arabs, and those who lived in the area; it was a conflict over water or cattle feed. There was absolutely no racial discrimination there and in Sudan.

Sharia law did not apply to non-Muslims, who as religious minorities enjoyed a whole range of rights. The population of Darfur had not been executed and therefore the events in Darfur could not be interpreted by the provisions of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. There were non-Muslim judges in the country, and non-Muslim district attorneys; the fact was that Sudan was 98 per cent Muslim.

Further Questions by the Committee Experts

A Committee Expert noted that ethnicity was not defined by science or DNA, but by culture, language and self-identification, and that the Convention was concerned by discrimination on the basis of ethnicity in its large meaning. The Convention was also concerned by discrimination in fact, and the fact that the conflicts in Sudan were based on water or land still did not mean that they did not have a discriminatory nature. Indigenous peoples were defined by international law and the Expert asked about the definition used by the Government, particularly in relation to the Nuba mountain people. The Expert expressed concern about the alleged use of cluster bombs by the Government against the civilians in South Kordofan earlier this year and asked the delegation to comment.

On equality between men and women, there was still work to be done to achieve absolute parity. Inter-ethnic marriages were common, but in light of the non-citizens, what happened in terms of citizenship in a marriage of a Sudanese citizen with a non-citizen; was citizenship handed down by a woman?

Responses by Delegation

The question of ethnicity in Sudan was a very complex one, with 500 different tribes, of which more than 200 were Arab tribes. The administrative organization of Sudan in the past had been tribe-based, with heads of tribes in charge of administrative, judiciary and taxation. There were two Nubas in Sudan, in the north and in Kordofan, and this often created confusion. There were more than 100 publications in Sudan, and any publication which did not violate the law was not confiscated. There were no barriers to a Sudanese woman marrying a non-citizen and she could hand down her Sudanese citizenship to her children. Sharia law was not applied to non-Muslims, whose family and personal issues were regulated by the Non-Muslim Personal Code.

Responding to the question about the situation of indigenous groups, a delegate said that such groups as defined by international law and anthropological literature did not exist in Sudan, and no such group was recognized by the law. But the social system in the country was such that it recognized the distinctiveness of each group, and the law did not discriminate between the groups.

In follow-up questions and comments, Experts expressed hope that there would be no denial of diversity in Sudan, and that differences would not lead to discrimination, even violence. Sudan should bear the experience of other countries in Africa in mind, and work on preventing discrimination in conflict. The delegation was asked to explain the application of the criminal law, which derived from the Sharia law, on non-Muslims, and to explain the land expropriation and the involvement of the population in this process.

A large regiment of the South Sudanese army was stationed in South Kordofan, whose southern areas were in a state of war. The Government used its air force in this war, although the delegation could not confirm the use of cluster bombs; the weapons were used against those who carried arms against the Government. It was clear that there were differences between the 500 tribes in the country, but it was hard to say where those differences were and whether there was a specific group which required protection. It was hard to say which tribe was in power in Sudan - the power was held by Sudanese who excelled in education. On empowerment of women, the delegation said that 30 per cent of the seats in the Parliament were reserved for women; women could run for all the seats in the Parliament, while men could only run for 70 per cent of those seats. Positive discrimination for women was well established and 18 different local assemblies applied the same percentage as Parliament.

Concluding Remarks

MELHEM KHALAF, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, thanked the delegation for the open and positive dialogue. Sudan should ensure that its laws were in line with the provisions of the Convention, undertake measures to combat all forms of discrimination, and bring in line all policies concerning race with the principles of citizenship, so that they could be aligned with the Convention itself.

MUAZ AHMED MOHAMED TUNGO, Rapporteur of the Advisory Council for Human Rights of Sudan, reiterated the commitment of Sudan to respect its international commitments and its Constitution, promote and protect human rights, and prevent all forms of discrimination against citizens and groups in the country, despite the problem of insurgencies in different areas.

______________

For use of the information media; not an official record