Your Excellency:

We write to you regarding the Security Council Ministerial Meeting on Sudan scheduled for November 16, 2010, in which the council is expected to discuss the upcoming referenda in Sudan, the situation in Darfur, and progress of the Doha peace talks. 

We urge your government to include the following issues of concern in its intervention, and ensure that they are highlighted in any outcome document to the meeting, such as a presidential statement:

Crack-down on Darfur activists and journalists and suppression of information about Darfur

From October 30 to November 3, Sudanese national security officials arrested more than 10 human rights activists and journalists, and continue to detain them in an unknown location, without access to counsel. The government publicly announced it intends to charge the group with crimes against the state, which carries the death penalty.

We are concerned that the government is targeting these individuals for their important work on Darfur and to stifle dissemination of information and opinions about the situation there at a time when insecurity has increased, and all eyes are now on the southern referendum for self-determination. As you may already be aware, the African Union/United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur human rights section does not publicly report on the situation in Darfur, and the United Nations (UN) humanitarian coordination office ceased public reporting on Darfur in November 2009.

We are also concerned these activists and journalists are at grave risk of torture while in detention. The National Intelligence and Security Service has a documented reputation for subjecting detainees to serious ill-treatment and torture.                                  

We urge the council to press the Sudanese government to immediately release these detainees and to allow public reporting on Darfur and all matters of public interest.

Ongoing attacks on civilians and restrictions on United Nations and humanitarian access

The council should also press Sudan to end ongoing attacks on civilians in Darfur and ensure United Nations and humanitarian organizations have access to all conflict-affected civilians. Since August, government forces and allied militia have carried out air and ground attacks on civilian populations living under rebel control in eastern Jebel Mara.

Moreover, the government has not allowed access to civilians in the rebel held areas, effectively cutting off critical humanitarian assistance. Under international humanitarian law there is an obligation on all parties, subject to a right of control, to allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of impartial humanitarian relief to civilians. Any intentional deprivation of access to food and medicine to the civilian population as a method of warfare is prohibited, and the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) itself provides that the intentional infliction of conditions of life such as the deprivation of access to food and medicine, calculated to being about the destruction of part of a population, is a crime against humanity, when carried out in the context of a broader systematic attack on civilians.

In Southern Sudan, too, government officials have prevented the United Nations Mission in Sudan and humanitarian groups from accessing areas in northern Jonglei and Upper Nile states in 2010. Sudanese authorities both at the national level and in Southern Sudan should ensure the UN has unfettered access in keeping with the Status of Forces Agreement with both UN missions in Darfur and Sudan.

Protection of civil and political rights in the referendum process

Many southerners living in northern states continue to fear official retaliation in the event of secession. The Sudanese authorities in Khartoum and Juba should publicly and clearly affirm they will protect the rights of all Sudanese regardless of the referendum's outcome, and should adopt non-discriminatory conditions for citizenship following the referendum.

In addition, given the likelihood of an increase in large population movements in coming weeks, Sudanese authorities should ensure freedom of movement of all Sudanese and increase efforts to prevent violence-particularly in volatile border areas-that would hamper participation in the referendum process. We urge the council to highlight these civilian protection concerns in any statement that comes out of this meeting.

Accountability

Finally, it is important that during the meeting the council not neglect accountability for serious crimes committed in Darfur. In 2005, the Security Council made a historic referral of the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court under Security Council resolution 1593, which obligates Sudan to cooperate with the ICC. On June 16, 2008, the Security Council reaffirmed this commitment in a unanimous presidential statement calling on the government of Sudan and parties to the conflict to cooperate with the court.

Five years on, Sudan still refuses to cooperate with the ICC. On May 25, 2010, the ICC's Pre-Trial Chamber referred to the council Sudan's non-compliance with its obligation to cooperate with the court in ICC cases for Ahmed Haroun and Ali Kosheib. In August, the court informed the council of ICC suspect President Al-Bashir's visits to two ICC States Parties, Kenya and Chad. Furthermore, the Sudanese government has failed to take any meaningful steps to implement the justice recommendations of the African Union High-Level Panel on Darfur.

We recognize that the Security Council manages a multitude of interests in relation to Sudan. However, silence on accountability and the need for cooperation with the ICC sends a signal that the council does not take its own resolution 1593 seriously, and that justice for crimes in Darfur is not important. We therefore look to your government during the meeting and with regard to any outcome document to reiterate its commitment to justice for the victims of atrocities in Darfur and that Sudan must cooperate with the ICC.

We look forward to your positive contribution to the discussion on November 16. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions you may have.

Sincerely,

Richard Dicker
Director
International Justice Program

Rona Peligal
Acting Director
Africa Division