Geneva, 16 July 2020
Thank you, Mr. Vice-President,
Ladies and Gentleman,
OHCHR is grateful to the Government of Sudan for their support to the establishment of our office in Sudan. As the members of the Council are aware, on 25 September 2019, the High Commissioner signed a Host Country Agreement with the Government of Sudan paving the way for the establishment of a fully mandated OHCHR office with field presences in Darfur, Blue Nile, Southern Kordofan and East Sudan.
After the swift deployment of an OHCHR start-up team from December 2019 to Khartoum, our office is now operational and includes nine staff, working on six key areas that match the Government's priorities, namely: (1) Advancing sustainable development through human rights (2) Strengthening rule of law and accountability, (3) Enhancing participation and protecting civic space, (4) Enhancing equality and countering discrimination, (5) Preventing violations and strengthening protection of human rights, (6) Increasing implementation of international human rights mechanism's outcomes.
As this Council knows, due to the liquidity crisis, all hiring for regular budget vacancies, including for our office in Sudan, have unfortunately temporarily been suspended until the situation improves. However, he has managed in the meantime by financing positions from the voluntary contributions of Canada, the European Union, Germany, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States, and, for this, I extend my warmest appreciation.
The financial situation in the UN coupled with COVID-19, has delayed the opening of some of the field offices by a few months. Nonetheless, we still plan to open its field offices, in Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur by the end of 2020. From 2021 onwards and subject to funding, OHCHR will create an East Sudan field office.
Our office in Sudan works in close coordination with the UNAMID Human Rights Section based in Darfur and has been a participant in thediscussions on the creation of the new UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan- UNITAMS. OHCHR stands ready, through the UN integration policy, to support the implementation of UNITAMS' human rights mandate, as mandated by the Security Council. Prior to COVID-19, our UNAMID Human Rights Team, together with our office initiated human rights trainings for senior commanders of the Rapid Support Force. This is an area of work we wish to continue to prioritize.
The Government of Sudan has taken bold steps to enhance the protection and promotion of human rights in the country including through the repeal of the Public Order Law in November 2019, which had been used by the former regime to target women and restrict individual freedoms. Similarly, the Joint Council endorsed a bill that reviews the crime of apostasy, and the age of criminal responsibility for children. It criminalizes female genital mutilation, and eliminates some of the discriminatory measures against women. We also commend the establishment of the Legal Reform Commission to review the national laws in accordance with human rights obligations. I also welcome the adoption of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security in June 2020, with extensive participation of civil society including women's organizations in Sudan, and the signing of the Framework of Cooperation with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. The parties of the Juba Peace talks have agreed to establish an independent commission on matters related to transitional justice, including establishment of a special criminal court for Darfur crimes, and the cooperation with the International Criminal Court on those indicted by the court. In this context, we encourage the Government of Sudan to ratify those international human rights conventions that have not yet been ratified.
Regarding the investigations of grave human rights violations and crimes of the past, we encourage the Attorney General to take appropriate actions to ensure the prompt conclusion of the investigations and urge the authorities to ensure the observance of due process throughout. The Office also urges the Government to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) regarding the Sudanese nationals indicted by the ICC. Our office has engaged with the chairperson of the National Independent Investigation Committee on the events of 3 June 2019. We urge the Government to extend its support to the Committee with a view to ensuring effective remedy and accountability.
OHCHR is closely monitoring the human rights situation in Sudan under COVID-19 as we contribute to the UN response on the ground. The Government launched a rapid response programme of cash-based social welfare for vulnerable households across the country and has implemented a fivefold increase in salaries of public sector employees. Furthermore, the Government released about 7,700 prisoners to decongest prisons. It has also launched a hotline for those at risk of gender-based violence. Nonetheless and despite the efforts, there are concerns that the pandemic may compromise Sudan's chances to advance the Sustainable Development Goals, as is happening in much of the world. In this regard, we have many hopes after the success of the Sudan Partnership Conference held on 25 June 2020, where participants pledged a total of USD 1.8 billion to which the World Bank committed to providing an additional pre-arrears clearance grant of up to USD 400 million.
Dear Council members,
To conclude let me reiterate our appreciation to the Government, Civil Society Organizations and people of Sudan for the strong cooperation we have received. We are encouraged by the progress made so far. It is critical for Sudan to remain engaged in a process that is inclusive and respectful of the human rights framework in order to foster genuine reconciliation and to prioritize accountability and transitional justice alongside legal, economic and institutional reforms. As stated by the High Commissioner in a press release of 28 April 2020, we call upon the donor community to mobilise the necessary resources to help Sudan navigate through this complex transition, and to be freed from the impediment of sanctions imposed previously.
The Sudanese popular revolution and the courage of the Sudanese people have been an inspiration and an example for the world. The Sudanese are now working to achieve social and economic justice, to develop meaningful democratic institutions and accountability mechanisms that will provide equal rights for all citizens. A successful transition can serve as a model for peaceful democratic change in the world at large.
This brave experiment requires, indeed calls for, your clear support, your trust and investment. We look forward to continuing to play our part in supporting this transition and to continue working with the Government of Sudan and others partners to advance and protect all human rights for all people in Sudan.