Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the UN Human Rights Council

Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the UN Human Rights Council

 

Re: Civil society call on Human Rights Council to dispatch an independent international fact-finding mission to establish the facts and circumstances of alleged human rights abuses committed in Sudan

Dear Excellencies,

We, the undersigned Sudanese, African and international organisations and individuals, write to you ahead of the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council (“the Council”), which will take place from 25 February-22 March 2019, to express our concerns and urge you to address the Sudanese government’s crackdown on peaceful demonstrators and ongoing violations of human rights. Since 13 December 2018, tens of thousands of people have protested throughout Sudan and the authorities have responded by indiscriminately firing live ammunition and tear gas into crowds of peaceful protesters killing more than 50 civilians.

 

These attacks are not taking place in a vacuum: they follow decades of violations committed during systematic and widespread attacks on civilians — amounting to crimes against humanity — both in the context of popular protest and multiple conflicts waged against populations in Sudan’s designated peripheries.[1] Sudan is one of the few countries subject to HRC special procedures regime since 1993, an International Criminal Court (ICC) situation investigation, a UN sanctions regime all-encompassing human rights and humanitarian law mandates. In light of this, preventing a further escalation of the situation is essential. As provided by Resolution 38/18[2] and highlighted by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, the Human Rights Council has an important role to play in contributing to the prevention of human rights violations. An early intervention on the part of the Council and of all UN human rights bodies and experts is crucial.

 

We urge the Human Rights Council to reiterate to the Government of Sudan that all Sudanese have the inherent right to life, freedom from torture and inhumane and degrading treatment, freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly including freedom of the media. We further urge you to call on the Government of Sudan to:

 

  • Stop the use of lethal and excessive force against peaceful protesters/demonstrators
  • Release all those arbitrarily detained by NISS and other government forces, and for those charged, ensure due process of law and a fair trial including the right to promptly access courts, to review the legality of their detention and access a lawyer of their own choosing
  • End its policies of post and pre-print censorship of newspapers
  • End all acts of harassment and intimidation of citizens including human rights defenders, peaceful demonstrators, journalists (international and national), doctors, engineers, lawyers and others who seek to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly

 

We call on the Human Rights Council to:

  • Dispatch urgently an independent international fact-finding mission, to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, to establish the facts and circumstances of the alleged recent human rights violations committed in the Sudan, including excessive use of force and killings of peaceful demonstrators, as well as torture and ill-treatment of detainees by the Government of Sudan, with a view to ensuring full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims; and
  • Request that the fact-finding mission present an oral update to the Council at its fourty-second session and a full report at its fourty-third session.

 

Sincerely,

Abdelmonim El Jak, Researcher 

Act for Sudan, Eric Cohen, Co-Founder, USA

African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS)

Al-Khatim Adlan Centre for Enlightenment and Human Development (KACE)

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

Dr. Mutaal Girshab, Activist & Director, The Regional Centre for Training & Development of Civil Society

Darfur Bar Association

DefendDefenders, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project

Elhag Ali Warrag, Hurriyat Editor in Chief 

Enough Project

Faith J. H. McDonnell, Director, International Religious Liberty Program & Church Alliance for a New Sudan

FIDH, International Federation for Human Rights

Hala Al-Karib, The Strategic Initiative for Women in The Horn of Africa

HUDO Centre, Bushra Gamar, Executive Director

Human Rights Watch

Horn of African Civil Society Forum

Institute on Religion and Democracy, Washington, DC

Investors Against Genocide, Susan Morgan, Co-Founder, San Francisco, CA, USA

Justice Center for Advocacy and Legal Consultation

Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur, William Rosenfeld, Director, Boston, MA, USA

MENA Rights Group

Najaa Ahmed, human rights advocate

National Human Rights Monitors Organisation

Never Again Coalition

Skills for Nuba Mountains

Stop Genocide Now

Sudan Democracy First Group

Sudanese Rights Group (Huqooq)

SUDO (UK)

The MagkaSama Project, France

The Platform of Sudanese Lawyers Abroad

 

Background

 

Since 13 December 2018, tens of thousands of people have protested throughout Sudan. Protests were triggered by the rising prices of basic commodities and are now calling for regime change and a transitional government that will fulfill aspirations for justice, peace, freedom and democratic transformation.

 

The Sudanese authorities, including the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) and the Anti-Riot Police as well as private militias in civilian clothes, have responded by indiscriminately firing live ammunition and tear gas into crowds of peaceful protesters, killing civilians. At the start of January, the number of civilians killed was reported to be 40[3] but civil society place the number now above 50. Witnesses have reported that snipers have targeted demonstrators in the head and chest. Security forces have also attacked wounded people undergoing medical treatment in hospitals[4] and private homes.[5]

 

On 9 January 2019, Sudanese authorities fired live ammunition and tear gas inside Omdurman Hospital, arrested doctors and interrupted their care of patients.[6] Tear gas was also reportedly fired in several other hospitals on 13 January.[7] In a joint statement, the Troika – comprising of the US, Britain and Norway – and Canada, stated they were “appalled by reports of deaths and serious injury” of protesters, calling on the Government of Sudan to ensure a “fully transparent and independent investigation.”[8] Sudanese officials and leaders of the ruling NCP have issued numerous statements threatening peaceful protesters. Sudan’s President Omar al Bashir has stated “the objective is not to kill protesters, but to safeguard the security and stability of citizens.”[9] However on 8 January 2019 former Vice President Ali Osman Taha, and current member of the leading bureau of the ruling NCP, warned opponents of the government that militia “brigades” would defend the regime.”[10] On 10 January the former Speaker of the Parliament Al-Fatih Izzeldeen threatened those who protest saying “we will cut their heads off.”[11] As of 25 January, the Government of Sudan had officially acknowledged 29 deaths.[12]

 

Since the start of the protests, human rights organisations have documented the detention of hundreds[13] of people including opposition politicians, students, doctors, advocates, activists and journalists, university professors.[14] The number of detained is difficult to corroborate due to access constraints. We are concerned for the physical and psycho-social well-being of those detained by NISS. Many are detained through the use of emergency laws, which permit prolonged, if not indefinite, detention through arbitrary preventative arrest. Those detainees face inhumane and degrading treatment and torture, both of which have been widely reported by our organisations, including in the context of the current protests.[15]

 

Of particular concern is the detention, torture and ill-treatment of Darfuri students. On 23 December 2018, the NISS raided a home in Sennar and detained 33 students, subsequently transferring them to incommunicado detention in Khartoum. In two other raids in Khartoum North, about 15 students were also detained. Over 50 Darfuri students have since been unconstitutionally detained.[16] The chief of NISS later held a press conference stating that the detained students were members of an armed Darfuri movement (SLA/ Abdelwahid) that had received training from Mossaad, the Israeli intelligence agency, and that they had been sent to infiltrate the protests. Videos broadcast on Sudan TV and other government affiliated television channels showed the detained students confessing to instigating the demonstrations with clear signs of beatings and fatigue.[17]

 

We are also concerned about the restrictions placed on media freedom. The Government has restricted access to social media whilst continuing to target traditional media through newspaper confiscations and intimidating and harassing journalists covering the protests. The restriction of the internet is a violation of the public’s right to receive and seek information and is in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Nine journalists were briefly arrested on 27 December 2018 by the NISS outside the headquarters of the Al Tayar following their protests concerning the harassment of the media by the security services.[18] Similarly, 10 journalists were arrested and 3 journalists physically attacked by security forces on 25 December 2018.[19]

 

These incidents are regrettably typical of the kinds of attacks on civilians by the state security forces over the last decade. In September 2013, government forces used live ammunition in a systematic manner to target peaceful protesters, killing more than 170 protesters[20] and arbitrarily detaining at least 800. Many of whom were subjected to torture and ill-treatment whilst in detention.[21] To date there has been no accountability for these deaths, injuries and other serious violations carried out by Sudanese authorities against protesters. Various UN human rights mechanisms including the UN Independent Expert’s reports (2017) have called for the establishment of an independent judicial inquiry into the killings and various other human rights violations committed[22] but the Government of Sudan has not adequately responded to these calls.

 

A patchwork of legal immunities shields Sudanese government forces from criminal prosecution. Complaints against a member of the security services are curtailed by immunity legislations governing the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), NISS, Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and police for acts committed “in good faith” and “in the course of duty.” Immunities can only be waived by the relevant governing bodies of the Ministry of Interior, Defence or the Director of NISS. The UN Human Rights Council, the UN Security Council, the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) and the African Union have all identified serious systematic impediments to accountability—both de jure and de facto–within the current Sudanese legal and political system. The African Commission for Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) for example has repeatedly considered this issue in a number of cases against Sudan concluding that Sudan’s legal system does not provide effective remedies for victims of human rights violations.[23] The existence of an ongoing admissible situation investigation with respect to Sudan before the ICC — including outstanding charges against government officials from the President downwards —is additionally indicative.


[1] Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been targeted by agents of the state forcing the international community through the United Nations and the African Union to intervene to protect civilians and address impunity.
[2] The contribution of the Human Rights Council to the prevention of human rights violations, A/HRC/38/L.19/Rev.1, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23518&LangID=E
[3] RFI, “40 killed in Sudan protests as security forces use live rounds”, 2 January 2019
[4] BBC, “Why Sudan is shooting medics”, 18 January 2019
[5] Channel 4 News, Sudan protester under arrest in hospital after being shot, 18 January 2019
[6]   Sudan Tribune, “Sudan doctors call for international condemnation of violence against medical facilities”, 10 January 2019; Human Rights Watch, “A Bloody Day of Protest in Sudan: Violence Against Protesters and Medical Workers Must End”, 10 January 2019
[7]   Amnesty International, Sudan: Security forces continue deadly onslaught on protestors and medical personnel, 18 January 2019
[8]   U.S. Embassy in Sudan, “Statement by the Troika on the Response to Continuing Protests in Sudan”, 8 January 2019
[9]  CNN, “Sudan protests: President ‘completely satisfied’ with police despite brutality claims”, 30 December 2018.
[10]  Human Rights Watch, “A Bloody Day of Protest in Sudan: Violence Against Protesters and Medical Workers Must End”, 10 January 2019
[11]  Sudan Akhbar, 11 January 2019
[12] AlJazeera, Sudan protests spread as death toll rises to 29, 25 January 2019
[13] HRW, KACE, IRRI & ACJPS, “Sudan: Hundreds of Protesters Arrested”, 18 January 2019
[14]  ACJPS, “Sudan Update: Deaths in custody and arbitrary and incommunicado detention of peaceful protestors and obstruction of media coverage of protests”, 9 January 2019
[15] Ibid; HRW, “Sudan: Security Forces Killing, Detaining Protesters, 7 January 2019
[16] HRW, “Sudan: Security Forces Killing, Detaining Protesters, 7 January 2019
[17] Sudan Democracy First Group, “Racial profiling against students from Darfur: NISS technique to quell protests in Sudan”, 29 December 2018.
[18]  RFI, “RSF decries alarming new crackdown on Sudan’s media”, 28 December 2018.
[19] The East African, “Sudan crisis deepens as Bashir digs in to contain protests”, 5 January 2019.
[20] Human Rights Watch, “’We Stood, They Opened Fire’, Killings and Arrests by Sudan’s Security Forces during the September Protests”, 21 April 2014
[21] ACJPS, “Excessive and Deadly: The Use of Disproportionate Force, Arbitrary Detention and Torture Against Protestors in Sudan”, 3 September 2014
[22] Report of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, 27 July 2017, paragraph 34, 35
[23] See in particular ACHPR, Abdel Hadi, Ali Radi & Others v Republic of Sudan, Communication 368/10, 2013, paras. 47-49 and Osman Hummaida, Monim Elgak and Amir Suliman v Sudan, Communication 379/09, 2014, paras. 66-70.
Joint NGO statement in advance of the UN HRC 39: Addressing the serious human rights and humanitarian situation in Sudan

Joint NGO statement in advance of the UN HRC 39: Addressing the serious human rights and humanitarian situation in Sudan

To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the UN Human Rights Council

Geneva, Switzerland

4 September 2018

Re: Addressing the serious human rights and humanitarian situation in Sudan

Excellencies,

We write to you in advance of the 39th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council to share our serious concerns over the human rights and humanitarian situation in Sudan. We call upon your delegation to support the development and adoption of a strong monitoring and reporting mandate on Sudan under the Council’s agenda item 4. The resolution should mandate a Special Rapporteur to monitor, verify and report on ongoing human rights violations and abuses as well as violations of international humanitarian law, recommend concrete ways to end them, and urge the Government of Sudan to implement the recommendations made to it by UN human rights bodies and mechanisms, including mechanisms mandated by the Council.

Our organizations are concerned about the suppression of peaceful protests by government security forces with unlawful use of excessive force, attacks on the media and impermissible restrictions on access to information, targeting of various civil society actors including human rights defenders, activists, journalists, bloggers and other dissenting voices with threats, intimidation, harassment, arbitrary detention and trumped-up criminal prosecutions, other restrictions on independent civil society, use of torture and other ill-treatment by national security officials, and on-going violations in the conflict areas of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

The recent decision to downsize UNAMID amidst continuing fighting and attacks on civilians, including internally displaced persons (IDPs)[1] is deeply troubling. Recent attacks on civilians underscore the need for continued monitoring of the human rights situation in Darfur.[2] For example, from 9 March – 2 April 2018, at least 23 civilians were killed and tens seriously injured when 12 villages were burnt to the ground during attacks in Eastern Jebel Marra between the government forces and the Sudan Liberation Movement led by Abdelwahid al Nur (SLA-AW).[3] Sexual violence continues with impunity.[4] On 19 December 2017, a 16 year old girl and a 19 year old woman were held at gunpoint and raped repeatedly by six armed militiamen as they were out gathering firewood three kilometres from the internally displaced persons (IDPs) camp in Nertiti town, Central Darfur state.[5]

Following declaration of ceasefires by the Government of Sudan and the two factions of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement /Army– North ( SPLM/A-N) led by Abdelaziz Adam El Hilu and Malik Agar, the government has largely refrained from aerial bombardments and ground attacks. Whilst there have been no reports of open hostilities between the armed forces, monitors on the ground have reported incidents of looting of property and abductions by armed militias allied to the Government of Sudan. These incidents, which may amount to ceasefire violations, have contributed to food insecurity and remain a serious concern for communities in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.[6]

Sudanese authorities have also continued to restrict basic freedoms of assembly and association through violent crackdowns on peaceful protesters and other restrictions on civil society organizations and on independent voices. Authorities have harassed journalists, human rights defenders and opposition party members, including through arbitrary and prolonged detention, sometimes in unknown locations, without charge and access to their families and lawyers.[7] On 29 May 2018, Mr. Hisham Ali Mohamad Ali, a human rights activist, was detained by the NISS upon arrival at the Khartoum International Airport following his deportation from Saudi Arabia. Mr. Hisham is still in detention without charge.[8] Authorities have continued to subject detainees to torture and other ill-treatment in custody,[9] causing the death of two individuals in two instances in March and April 2018.[10]

The Government of Sudan has also imposed restrictions on the movement of activists engaging in advocacy internationally. In August 2018, two members of the Darfur Bar Association were briefly detained and their passports confiscated in the Khartoum airport upon their return to Sudan after they accompanied the Secretary General of the DBA, Abdelrahman Elgasim, to the US to accept an award from the American Lawyers’ Association for his work on behalf of human rights in Darfur.

Restrictions on the media continue, especially during protests.[11] The national security agency has continued to apply post-print censorship to daily newspapers and prohibit chief editors from publishing on issues deemed controversial or critical of the ruling party.[12]

Sudanese authorities also routinely repress the human rights of women, including through public order provisions that criminalize “indecent” dress such as wearing trousers. Ms. Winnie Omer, a women’s rights activists based in Khartoum was first targeted on 10 December 2017, when the public order police in Khartoum arrested and charged her with “indecent dress” a few hours after she attended a hearing of 24 women charged with indecency for wearing pants during a private women-only party.[13]

Authorities have also relied on other repressive laws and various forms of harassment, including sexual harassment, to target activists. On 20 February 2018, Ms. Omer and three friends were arrested and detained for five days before being released on bail. The group was accused of, amongst other charges, prostitution, and Ms Omer and another female human rights defender were threatened with “virginity testing”.

On 24 July 2018, eight additional charges including crimes against the state were added to their case files. There has been no explanation as to the basis for the charges; however the trumped-up charges appear to be motivated by Omer’s activism.[14]

Authorities charged and sentenced to death 19 year old Noura Hussien for the murder of her husband in self-defense after he attempted to rape her for the second time alongside three other men.[15] The case raised serious concerns about Sudan’s imposition of the death penalty and its gender discriminatory laws that allow forced and early marriage, marital rape and weak victim protection measures, placing victims at risk of prosecution.[16] The death sentence was later reversed and Ms. Hussein re-sentenced to five years imprisonment and the payment of dia (blood money) to her husband’s family.

Freedom of religion or belief continues to be restricted in Sudan. On 11 February 2018, authorities demolished a Sudanese Evangelical Presbyterian Church (SEPC) in El Haj Yousif, Khartoum North, without notice.[17] The SPEC was one of 27 churches earmarked for demolition in an official order signed in June 2016. In July 2017, the Ministry of Education of Khartoum State issued an order requiring Christian schools in Khartoum state to operate on Sundays and take Friday and Saturday as their weekend, restricting their ability to observe religious ceremonies on Sundays. [18]

Given the downsizing of UNAMID, and the continuing violations across the country, it is imperative that the UN Human Rights Council take stronger action to ensure continued attention to the human rights situation in Sudan. Resolutions adopted by the Council since it decided to move consideration of Sudan from its agenda item 4 to item 10 have failed to adequately reflect the situation on the ground and outline a meaningful path for accountability and human rights reforms. At its 39th session, the Council should adopt a resolution under agenda item 4 to:

Strengthen the special procedure mandate on Sudan by extending it as a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Sudan under item 4, with a mandate to monitor, verify, and publicly and periodically report on violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law in all parts of Sudan;
Publically urge the Government of Sudan to implement the recommendations made to Sudan by UN human rights bodies and mechanisms, including mechanisms mandated by the Council and the 2016 Universal Periodic Review and to provide a mid-term report to the Council on concrete measures taken to implement the recommendations made to it during its UPR that enjoy its support, and the recommendations made by the Independent Expert during his 2017 report;
Condemn attacks targeting the civilian population and civilian objects in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile, in particular looting, destruction of civilian facilities, killings and sexual violence committed by paramilitary forces and other Sudanese government forces, which has led to forced displacement of civilian populations;
Urge the government of Sudan to allow unfettered access by UNAMID, humanitarian agencies and concerned NGOs to all parts of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile;
Urge the Government to ensure accountability for excessive use of force against protesters, which caused civilian deaths during crackdowns including in 2018 in El Geneina, West Darfur and Zalingei, Central Darfur; in 2016 in El Obeid, North Kordofan and Khartoum; in 2013 in Khartoum and Wad Medani; and in 2012 in Nyala, South Darfur and Al Jazeera.
Condemn the continued restrictions on the media, on human rights defenders and political opponents, freedoms of association and of peaceful assembly, and the use of arbitrary detention and torture, as detailed;
Condemn the ongoing violations of freedom of religion and repression of individuals based on their faith;
Call for the release of all those arbitrarily detained by the NISS and urge the Government of Sudan to repeal the repressive National Security Act of 2010, and all other legislation which grants immunities to Government of Sudan agents and protection from criminal prosecution.
We thank you for your attention to these pressing issues.

Sincerely,

Act for Sudan
African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies
African Freedom Coalition
African Soul, American Heart
Alkarama Foundation
Al-Khatim Adlan Centre for Enlightenment and Human Development (KACE)
Amnesty International
Arab Coalition for Sudan
Brooklyn Coalition for Darfur & Marginalized Sudan
Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Darfur Action Group of South Carolina
Darfur and Beyond
Darfur Community Center of Maine, USA
DefendDefenders
Genocide No More — Save Darfur
Horn of Africa Civil Society Forum
Human Rights Watch
International Federation for Human Rights Leagues (FIDH)
Investors Against Genocide
Massachusetts Coalition for Darfur
National Human Rights Monitoring Organisation
Never Again Coalition
Nuba Mountains Advocacy Group
Nubia Project
NY Coalition for Sudan
Stop Genocide
Sudan Democracy First Group
Sudanese Human Rights Initiative
Sudan Social Development Organisation (SUDO) UK
The MagkaSama Project, France
The Society for Threatened Peoples

[1] ACJPS, Attacks by Sudanese government forces on civilians in Jebel Marra in South Darfur, 18 April 2018, available at: http://www.acjps.org/attacks-by-sudanese-government-forces-on-civilians-in-jebel-marra-in-south-darfur/

[2] Human Rights Watch, Sudan: UN’s Planned Cuts to Darfur Mission Risk Rights Protection, 18 June 2018, available at: https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/06/18/sudan-uns-planned-cuts-darfur-mission-risk-rights-protection

[3] Ibid

[4] UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Ms. Pramila Patten Concludes Visit to Sudan and Calls for End to Culture of Denial for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, 27 February 2018, available at: https://www.un.org/sexualviolenceinconflict/press-release/special-representative-of-the-secretary-general-on-sexual-violence-in-conflict-ms-pramila-patten-concludes-visit-to-sudan-and-calls-for-end-to-culture-of-denial-for-conflict-related-sexual-violence/

[5] ACJPS, Government allied militia gang rape a 16-year-old girl and a woman in Nertiti, Central Darfur state, 19 December 2017, available at: http://www.acjps.org/government-allied-militia-gang-rape-of-16-year-old-girl-and-a-woman-in-nertiti-central-darfur-state/

[6] NHRMO, Human Rights Update: September 2017 – February 2018, available at: http://www.sudanconsortium.org/member_publications/2018/HRUpdate092017to022018.pdf

[7] HRW, Don’t Be Taken in By Sudan Prisoner Release, 10 April 2018, available at: https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/04/10/dont-be-taken-sudan-prisoner-release; ACJPS, Sudan should charge or release remaining 248 individuals in prolonged detention, 16 April 2018, available at: http://www.acjps.org/sudan-should-charge-or-release-remaining-248-individuals-in-prolonged-detention/

[8] Amnesty International, Sudan: Human rights activist arbitrarily detained and at risk of torture must be immediately released, 31 May 2018, available at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/05/sudan-human-rights-activist-arbitrarily-detained-and-at-risk-of-torture-must-be-immediately-released/

[9] ACJPS, Two students reportedly tortured in West Kordofan state, 6 December 2017, available at: http://www.acjps.org/two-students-reportedly-tortured-in-west-kordofan-state/

[10] ACJPS, Urgent call for investigation into the custodial death of civilian whilst under SAF/RSF detention in East Jebel Marra, South Darfur, 24 April 2018, available at: http://www.acjps.org/urgent-call-for-investigation-into-the-custodial-death-of-civilian-whilst-under-safrsf-detention-in-east-jebel-marra-south-darfur-2/; ACJPS, Individual dies after reportedly tortured while in NISS custody in West Kordofan, 9 March 2018, available at: http://www.acjps.org/individual-dies-after-reportedly-tortured-while-in-niss-custody-in-west-kordofan/

[11] ACJPS, 6 newspapers prevented from distribution and a media house faces a two-day suspension, available at: 30 November 2016, http://www.acjps.org/6-newspapers-prevented-from-distribution-and-a-media-house-faces-a-two-day-suspension/; ACJPS, UPDATE: 4 newspapers continue to face post-print censorship as Sudanese authorities repeatedly prevent the distribution of their daily print runs, 3 December 2017, available at: http://www.acjps.org/update-4-newspapers-continue-to-face-post-print-censorship-as-sudanese-authorities-repeatedly-prevent-the-distribution-of-their-daily-print-runs/; CPJ, Sudan arrests journalists, confiscates papers for reporting on inflation protests, 18 January 2018, available at: https://cpj.org/2018/01/sudan-arrests-journalists-confiscates-papers-for-r.php

[12] In May 2018, the NISS ordered chief editors of Sudanese publications not to publish any content relating to the prevailing fuel crisis within the region. ACJPS, Violations against free press and freedom of expression in Sudan, May/June 2018, 3 July 2018, available at: http://www.acjps.org/violations-against-free-press-and-freedom-of-expression-in-sudan-mayjune-2018/

[13] Human Rights Watch, Activist faces trumped-up charges in Sudan, 27 July 2018, https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/07/27/activist-faces-trumped-charges-sudan; Radio Dabanga, Trial of activist in ‘indecent clothing’ case adjourned, 19 December 2017, https://www.dabangasudan.org/en/all-news/article/trial-of-activist-in-indecent-clothing-case-adjourned

[14] Op. cit., Human Rights Watch, Activist faces trumped-up charges in Sudan.

[15]Amnesty International, Sudan: Forcibly married, raped girl sentenced to death: Noura Hussein, 15 May 2018, available at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr54/8404/2018/en/; ACJPS, #JusticeforNoura: Sudanese authorities should release Noura Hussein and review conviction for murder, 28 May 2018, available at: http://www.acjps.org/justicefornoura-sudanese-authorities-should-release-noura-hussein-and-review-conviction-for-murder/

[16] Amnesty international, Sudan: Quashing of Noura Hussein death sentence must now lead to legal reform, 26 June 2018, available at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/06/sudan-quashing-of-noura-hussein-death-sentence-must-now-lead-to-legal-reform/

[17] CSW, Sudanese Government demolishes church, 14 February 2018, available at: https://www.csw.org.uk/2018/02/14/press/3841/article.htm

[18] CSW, Protests against forced Sunday opening for schools, 11 October 2017, available at: https://www.csw.org.uk/2017/10/11/press/3744/article.htm

10 NGOs: Civil Society Common Position on the Shrinking Civic Space in Africa- Citizens Voice at the Centre of Winning the Fight Against Corruption

Full text of the letter in English.

Full text of the letter in French.

Dear President Buhari,

We the undersigned commend the African Union for declaring 2018 as the
year of “Winning the Fight Against Corruption” and recognizing that this is
indeed “A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation.” We believe that this is
a clear indication of the commitment towards realization of the Africa We
Want – An Africa whose development is people-driven and an Africa where
good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule
of law thrives.

We believe that the fight against corruption will not be won without the voice
of the people. The creation of an enabling environment for civil society to
advocate for the protection and promotion of their rights will enable and
empower people to fulfil their accountability role, reducing corruption and
mismanagement of public resources. Data suggests that laws and practices
in place which enable civic space provides a valuable accountability check
on states to reduce corruption and the cost of doing business. The
International Monetary Fund (IMF) puts the annual cost of bribery alone at
around US$1.5 to US$2 trillion, nearly 2% of global GDP.

The fight against corruption and supporting embattled civil society is
intrinsically linked. As the right to be heard is pivotal to fighting corruption, we
are concerned that the space for the people of Africa to speak truth to
power, organize and take action against corruption and its accompanying
injustices is shrinking alarmingly across the continent.

CIVICUS rated that, while states on all continents are violating civic space,
the most brutal conditions for civil society are found in 20 closed countries, 9
of which are on the African continent. Africa is also home to the lion’s share
of countries in the repressed category (15 countries). In 18 African countries
space is obstructed. Worryingly, these ratings of closed, repressed and
obstructed space are correlated with negative scores on the Human
Development Index, lack of democracy, and an increased gap in income
inequality between populations. The situation is more worrying in countries
experiencing crisis.

We are deeply concerned about the growing shrinking civic space in Africa
which is reflected in mechanisms, policies, and practices that exclude citizens
from decision making processes, limit their operating environment and restrict
their fundamental rights to assembly, association and free speech. Policies
and actions of many governments in Africa are fundamentally opposed to
the existence and growth of bold anti-corruption crusaders, a free and
independent media, and a vibrant and vigilant civil society which has the
ability to check corruption and the endemic impunity surrounding it. This is
necessary to hold those in power to account.

While the African Union and national governments recognizes the pivotal role
of citizens, civil society and the media in fighting corruption, their actions are
not in line with this theory. Violation and victimisation of human rights
defenders and more particularly women human rights defenders continues to
rise at a distressing levels.

Since 2012, more than 29 restrictive laws have been introduced on the
continent, and this trend appears to be getting worse, with a number of laws
currently tabled in parliaments. During this period, the continent has
witnessed increased harassment, intimidation and detention of activists,
censorship of the media and journalists and use of excessive force against
peaceful protestors. Such government actions are weakening our ability as
people to organize and fight corruption, and limits our capacity to fulfil our
accountability role as citizens to small circles and in discussions in low tones.

Restrictions on funding, public attacks and disproportionate and
unpredictable administrative requirements imposed by governments limit civil
society and citizens’ ability to take action against corruption. These efforts are
misdirected from fighting institutional corruption to battling civil society. It has
an add on impact in that civil society is unable to fulfil its various other
mandates to protect and promote the rights of vulnerable populations.

The African Union, whose mission is to build “an integrated, prosperous and
peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force
in the global arena”, needs to demonstrate leadership for member states by
increasing inclusivity and consultation with civil society in its respective
mechanisms. The July 2015 decision excluding civil society from subsequent
AU Summits is an approach contradictory to its vision of a people driven
Africa. As African governments meet from today to deliberate on key
actions that will impact on African peoples’ lives, the people themselves
have been denied the opportunity to be part of these discussions.
We would like to remind our leaders that shrinking civic space remains a
threat to “a people driven development”. Winning the fight against
corruption and achieving the aspirations of Agenda 2063, a strategic
framework for the socio-economic transformation of Africa for the past 50
years, requires all stakeholders including governments, the private sector, civil
society and most importantly the citizens themselves to protect, nurture and
amplify citizens’ voices in decision making processes.

We therefore call upon the African Union and respective national
governments gathered here in Nouakchott, Mauritania to;

1. Through the African Union Council of Ministers to adopt a strong decision
to protect civic space and citizens’ participation in all AU Member States
and in AU organs and policy processes. This includes reversing the July
2015 decision excluding civil society from AU Summits, ensuring full
participation of civil society moving forward and leading by example for
all member states.
2. Appoint a Working Group on Civic Space and Citizens’ Participation that
gives recommendations to the AUC Chairperson to address the issue of
shrinking civic space on the continent.
3. Through the Pan African Parliament, as a continental legislature, develop
a model law on CSO regulation at continental, regional, and national
levels to provide a clear framework for strengthening and protecting CSO
space in Africa.
4. Promote and make use of the regional Guidelines on Freedom of
Association and Assembly in Africa, drafted by the African Commission on
Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) and adopted at its 60th session in
Niamey, Niger and formally launched during the 61st Session in Banjul, The
Gambia on November 3, 2017. They are a tool for States and civil society
alike to interpret how these rights should be protected across the
continent.
5. Member states to review national laws that regulate the right to assembly,
associate and freedom of speech and ensure they are in line with AU and
international standards and further establish national procedures and
platforms to facilitate meaningful consultation and participation of
citizens in all policy development and implementation processes. Any
repressive laws or policy regulating civic space should be urgently
scrutinised, amended or repealed.
6. Member states and the commission must strengthen and expand gender
sensitive anti-corruption frameworks beyond economic and financial
crimes and to include exploitation of women and girls as a form of
corruption.
7. Governments must uphold and ensure protection of human rights
defenders with specific attention to women human rights defenders as
they face more pronounced violation and victimization.
8. Ratify, domesticate and fully implement the African Charter on
Democracy, Elections, and Governance (ACDEG) and African Charter
on Human and Peoples’ Rights including developing and submitting the
required reports to the African Union on progress on implementation.
9. Ensure the representation of civil society on the African Union Advisory
Board on Corruption as a full member.
10.Institutionalise alternative peoples’ voices report on the state of
corruption in the continent to be admitted and used in reporting to the
member states during the AU summits.

Yours sincerely,
Oxfam
Fight Inequality
CIVICUS
The African Women’s Development and Communication Network
Civil Society Reference Group
The Kenya Human Rights Commission
Daughters of Mumbi: Global Resource Center
Tax Justice Network Africa
Al Khatim Adlan Centre for Enlightenment (KACE)
Horn of Africa Civil Society Forum

Open Letter: Citizens from Eastern Sudan demand the withdrawal of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF)

Open Letter: Citizens from Eastern Sudan demand the withdrawal of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF)

The citizens of Eastern Sudan, in their three states (the Red Sea, Kassala and Gedaref) have suffered from the civil war that took place in large parts of the area and paid a high price for it. They were therefore the first to welcome the signing of the peace agreements that took place in (Naivasha, Cairo and Asmara) and succeeded in the cease-fire agreement.
Although the peace agreements did not meet all their aspirations for development, justice and freedom, they remained very keen in maintaining peace and cooperated in this regard with all parties involved, including the Sudanese Government, Security and Sudanese Military Forces.
Unfortunately, since December 2017, different armed forces and militias have been violating the region’s peace and are jeopardising the peace agreements.

 

Find attached the open letter in English, Arabic and French.

Arabic Version:

Download (DOCX, 22KB)

English Version:

Download (DOCX, 23KB)

French Version:

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Open letter concerning the crackdown on peaceful protests and the wave of arbitrary arrests and continued incommunicado detentions by Sudanese government forces

Open letter concerning the crackdown on peaceful protests and the wave of arbitrary arrests and continued incommunicado detentions by Sudanese government forces

TO:

UN Human Rights Committee;
UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention;
UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Mr. David Kaye;
UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, Mr. Aristide Nononsi;
UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Ms. Annalisa Ciampi;
UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mr. Michel Forst.

RE: Open letter concerning the crackdown on peaceful protests and the wave of arbitrary arrests and continued incommunicado detentions by Sudanese government forces

Honourable Commissioners,

We, the undersigned Sudanese, African and international organisations, write to you in your capacities as Special Procedure mandate holders to draw your attention to the worrying developments concerning the excessive use of force by Sudanese authorities to disperse peaceful protests across Sudan. We urge you to call on the Government of Sudan to respect the peoples’ rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression as guaranteed in international standards and UN treaties ratified by Sudan and refrain from using excessive force to disperse protests.

The Sudanese authorities’ reaction to the recent January 2018 protests is contrary to Sudan’s commitment to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in regional and international treaties to which it is party. Since 7 January, the authorities, including the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) and police have beaten peaceful protestors with sticks and batons and fired tear gas and live ammunition into crowds. On 7 January, in El Geneina, West Darfur one student was killed and six other students were injured after joint forces of the National Intelligence and Security Services and Sudanese Police used live ammunition to disperse a peaceful student march.[i] At least 5 people were killed and 26 others sustained gunshot wounds when joint forces of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) opened live ammunition on a crowd of protestors at Hasahisa camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Zalingei, Central Darfur, on 20 January.[ii]

From 6 January to 6 February, the security forces have arrested and detained scores of Sudanese citizens including opposition political party leaders, human rights defenders/activists, journalists, student activists and others for prolonged periods without charge or trial.[iii]

We are concerned about the prolonged detention, in most cases incommunicado, of individuals under NISS custody feared to have been abused or at risk of abuse as well as those of advanced age with serious health conditions. The lack of access to lawyers and family members for the detainees, together with the well-documented use by the NISS of torture and other forms of ill-treatment against detainees, particularly whilst held in unknown locations, gives rise to serious concerns for their safety.

We are also concerned about the repeated confiscation by the Sudanese authorities of national newspapers to prevent the coverage of the nationwide January 2018 protests, often at great cost to the newspapers. These restrictions have indirectly caused newspapers to self-censor, limiting the availability of information in order not to cross “red lines”. Censorship is often ramped up around key events with post-print censorship, whereby entire print-runs of daily editions are confiscated prior to morning distribution. Authorities also tightened restrictions to prevent coverage of the nationwide anti-austerity protests in 2013, in April 2015, to prevent coverage of an elections boycott by opposition parties and again in November 2016 to prevent coverage of the civil disobedience campaign protesting anti-austerity measures introduced in early November.

The January 2018 incidents are the latest examples of an ongoing pattern of abuse. In September 2013 government forces used live ammunition to disperse peaceful protests, killing more than 170 protesters and detaining at least 800 protesters without charge. Many of those detained were subjected to ill-treatment in detention. There has been little or no accountability for the deaths, injuries and various other abuses perpetrated by Sudanese authorities against protesters. A patchwork of legal immunities effectively shields government forces from criminal prosecution and accountability. In Sudan, complaints against a member of the security services are effectively curtailed by immunities in legislation governing the SAF, NISS and police for acts committed “in good faith” and “in the course of duty”. Immunities can only be waived by the relevant governing bodies of the Ministry of Interior, Defence or Director of the NISS. The ACHPR considered the issue in a number of cases against Sudan, finding that immunities are incompatible with the right to an effective remedy under the African Charter and concluding that Sudan’s legal system does not provide effective remedies for victims of human rights violations.[iv]

We, the undersigned African and international organisations, condemn the unlawful killings, arbitrary and continued incommunicado detentions, torture and other forms of ill-treatment, excessive use of force and post-print censorship by government forces. We urge you to reiterate to the Government of Sudan that all Sudanese have the right to freedom of expression, association, and assembly including freedom of the media. We further urge you to call on the Government of Sudan to:

  • Guarantee the safety and well-being of all detainees and grant them immediate and unfettered access to their lawyers, family members and medical services.
  • Charge or release all those arbitrarily detained, and for those charged, ensure prompt access to a lawyer of their own choosing and full respect for their rights as detainees and to due process and a fair trial.
  • End its policies of post and pre-print censorship of newspapers.
  • Stop harassing and intimidating Sudanese citizens including human rights defenders, peaceful activists and journalists and others who seek to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly.
  • Conduct an immediate, independent and impartial investigation into all allegations of excessive use of force against peaceful protestors as well as ill-treatment and torture of detainees by police and NISS. Findings of such investigations should be made public and perpetrators should be held accountable before an independent and impartial tribunal.

Sincerely,

Organisations:

  1. African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS)
  2. Alkarama Foundation
  3. Al-Khatim Adlan Centre for Enlightenment, Sudan (KACE)
  4. Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)
  5. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project).
  6. Face Past for Future Foundation ( FP4F)
  7. Horn of Africa Civil Society Forum
  8. Human Rights Watch
  9. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  10. International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI)
  11. National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders- Uganda (NCHRD-U)
  12. Sudan Consortium
  13. Sudan Democracy First Group
  14. SUDO (UK)
  15. The MagkaSama Project, France
  16. The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
  17. Waging Peace

Individuals:

  1. Eltigani Hassan Mohamed Idis, Sudanese Advocate
  2. Bakri Jebril Mohamed, Sudanese Advocate
  3. Mohanad Mustafa Elnour, Sudanese Advocate
  4. Amani Osman Hamdi, Sudanese Advocate

Read full letter here.

Arabic Arabic English English