One year ago, as the Human Rights Council was debating the report of the Independent Expert on Sudan, Sudanese security forces were violently cracking down on popular protests that swept the country after the president announced the lifting of oil subsidies.
During the crackdown, government forces were implicated in the killing of more than 170 people, including children, and wounded, arrested and detained hundreds more. Sudanese authorities arrested hundreds of protesters, political activists, and journalists, holding many for long periods without charge or access to lawyers or family visits. Our research also found that security officials abused detainees, in some cases subjecting them to torture.
Sudanese authorities have repeatedly contested the death toll and played down the government’s role in the violence. Promises to carry out an independent investigation and make the results public have apparently not been kept. The Independent Expert rightly concluded that the Sudanese government report “does not provide evidence of a thorough and independent investigation.”
The HRC should strongly condemn the killing of protesters and press the government to support an independent, public investigation into the 2013 violence, with a view to prosecuting those responsible. If Sudan continues to delay on the investigation, the Council should encourage an international body, such as the African Union to step in.
Across Sudan the fear of arbitrary arrests and detentions by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) continues to be a major cause of intimidation of political opponents and other civil activists in the Sudan. In recent months, members of opposition parties, including the leaders of the National Umma Party and the Sudan Congress Party were detained for weeks or months during 2014 because of their outspoken opposition to government policies.
Although some individuals were released in September, dozens remain in detention solely because of their perceived political opinions. The Human Rights Council cannot seriously debate the situation in Sudan without calling upon the Government to urgently release or charge all detainees, and to reform the National Security Act (2010) to bring it in line with international standards.
The protests occurred in a wider context of political repression and pervasive human rights abuses, as well as ongoing conflicts in Darfur, and Southern Kordofan, and Blue Nile states. In Darfur, the Rapid Support Forces, a Sudanese government force consisting largely of former militias, attacked scores of villages in South, Central, and North Darfur between February and April. Dozens of civilians died, tens of thousands of people fled, and there was massive destruction and looting of civilian property. Government security forces have also committed human rights abuses against civilians in camps for internally displaced people, notably Al Salaam and Kalma camps in South Darfur.
We urge the Human Rights Council redress its failed engagement on Sudan. The HRC needs to do more than just technical assistance and focusing on government’s empty promises, it should condemn in the strongest words the indiscriminate attacks on civilians, including aerial bombardments by government forces and allied militia, in Blue Nile, Southern Kordofan and make clear that Sudan has for years made no progress on bringing to justice those responsible for serious human rights abuses in Darfur.
President Omar al-Bashir is among four people who are fugitives from the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged crimes in Darfur, and faces charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. However, eleven years on, the government of Sudan has made no meaningful progress in holding to account those responsible for these violations.