United Nations Human Rights Council – 30th Session: Human Rights Groups Disappointed with International Response to Sudan Conflict
Voices for Sudan, International Justice Project, and Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre express their deep concern and disappointment over the outcome of this year’s discussion and, ultimately, today’s passage of an unsatisfactory resolution on Sudan delivered by Algeria on behalf of the Group of African States under Agenda Item 10 at the 30th Session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council. President of Voices for Sudan, Jimmy Mulla, states, “The human rights situation in Sudan continues to deteriorate while impunity is the norm. Such a situation cannot be adequately addressed under Item Ten, as was decided today. Sudan should be returned to Agenda Item Four, where it can be properly monitored and assessed.”
The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body comprised of 47 Member States with a mandate to promote and protect human rights. This year’s three-week meeting took place in Geneva from September 14 – October 2, 2015, and examined a host of allegations of serious human rights abuses occurring around the world, not least of which included the horrific situation in the Sudan, particularly in Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan.
The Independent Expert for the Sudan, Mr. Aristide Nononsi, highlighted many of these abuses through his written and oral report to the Council on Tuesday, September 29, 2015, including the “fatal shootings, injuries and destruction of property” during the oil-subsidy demonstrations in September 2013 and the raids and shut-down of civil society organizations in the beginning of this year. Yet, noticeably missing from the report is the mass rapes and violence perpetrated in Tabit, North Darfur, in October 2014. The incident, as documented by Human Rights Watch, was only mentioned during oral responses by the United States and United Kingdom, who expressed regret that no independent report was conducted.
Responses from delegations, such as the US, EU, UK, Switzerland, Australia, and New Zealand confirmed the majority of concerns expressed, and even stressed the importance of assessing and reporting human rights violations in the country, as Mr. Nononsi declared – despite protests from the Government of Sudan – as part of his mandate. Yet, in spite of the Independent Expert’s report verifying many of the abuses documented by the UN and civil society groups leading up to this year’s Council, he laments that, “Despite some progress made in the legislative reform, some remaining challenges severely impede any significant improvement in the overall situation of human rights […] recommendations made by the previous mandate holder remain largely unimplemented”. However, with today’s decision to keep Sudan under Agenda Item Ten for “Technical assistance and capacity-building”, it is hard to imagine that the situation will improve in the coming twelve months before the Independent Expert’s next report.
As civil society closely monitoring the situation on the ground and tirelessly advocating for Sudan to be placed back on the agenda, we were hopeful that Sudan would be returned to Item Four as a “human rights situation that requires the Council’s attention”. Even the High Commissioner for Human Rights himself singled out Sudan and South Sudan for hosting serious human rights violations. Given the positive responses from many delegations and officials leading up to – and even during – the Council, we and others believed that even if Sudan was not returned to Agenda Item Four, the Resolution would at minimum contain language that more accurately reflected the grim reality on the ground. With an estimated 1.4 million people from the Nuba Mountains region of Southern Kordofan internally displaced within Sudan and over half a million newly displaced in Darfur in 2014 alone, it is clear that mere “technical and capacity-building” assistance is simply not enough.
Abdalmageed Haroun of Voices for Sudan states that “the outcome of this year’s Council has a very real and negative impact on human rights on the ground in my country. The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) continues its campaign of massive attacks on the villages and civilians. For any chance of change, this will require close monitoring.” Haroun continues, “I am deeply concerned about the human rights defenders in Sudan, who have been arrested and tortured by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), and for average civilians being killed daily. The attacks are the policy of the government. Words are not sufficient, serious action by the Council is needed in Sudan.”
Monica Feltz of International Justice Project states, “This year marks ten years since the UN Security Council referred the Darfur situation to the ICC, yet the bloodshed not only continues, but indeed, has intensified. With the ICC Office of the Prosecutor’s December 2014 announcement to ‘hibernate’ the Darfur cases, and the horrifying accounts of mass rapes in Tabit and increasing bombings and displacement throughout Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan, civil society was really counting on the Council to step up and take a strong stance against impunity in Sudan.” She continues, “In my discussions with many Sudanese gathered here this week, it is clear they feel let down by the international community once again.”
In the end, the result of this year’s Council serves as a painful reminder that the priority of many African Union and Arab League states to protect one another comes at the expense of justice and accountability for countless victims within Sudan and throughout Africa. The numbers of dead and displaced continue to increase throughout the country, while the Government of Sudan’s alliances grow stronger. A frightening message is also being sent that using genocide and crimes against humanity as policies in a ruler’s toolkit is simply par for the course.
Yet, the fight for justice and peace in Sudan must go on. It is critical that Sudan-focused civil society groups continue to work together and advocate against violent and oppressive regimes in order to fulfill the Council’s mandate to promote and protect human rights and victims that are too often forgotten.
For more information, please contact Jimmy Mulla of Voices for Sudan at email@example.com or Monica Feltz of International Justice Project at firstname.lastname@example.org. Arabic & French translations to come.