Interactive dialogue with Independent Expert on Sudan sees States divided
Friday, 23 September 2011 15:53

The interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on Sudan took place over the 19th and 20th of September at the 18th session of the Human Rights Council (the Council). The dialogue began with a presentation from the Independent Expert, Mohamed Chande Othman, of his report on the human rights situations in Sudan and the newly established State of South Sudan. He began by commending Sudan and South Sudan on their successes in the field of human rights, with the successful referendum on the right to self-determination and subsequent creation of South Sudan being of greatest significance. Sudan’s successful participation in the Universal Periodic Review, a reduction in violence and tribal conflict in both Sudan and South Sudan, and the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and of the Doha Agreement were also highlighted.


However, Mr Othman’s report also drew attention to the many human rights problems facing the region. These include: an absence of any independent human rights mechanism, the cessation of the human rights forums that had been set up during the Independent Expert’s visits, censoring of the press, unlawful detention, a failure to provide freedom of speech, indiscriminate bombing, forced disappearances, large numbers of displaced persons, the failure of the referendum on the Abyei region, issues of impunity, gender and sexually based violence, and a lack of access to the region for humanitarian workers. Mr Othman called on the international community to seek ways to support Sudan and South Sudan, particularly in the provision of technical assistance and capacity building, so that the States can work towards the successful promotion and protection of human rights.


While all States welcomed the developments made by Sudan and South Sudan and also shared concern over the many human rights issues detailed in the report, they were divided on how the Council should proceed in assisting Sudan and South Sudan on their path to a stable human rights system. Many States highlighted the high concentration of human rights violations in Southern Kordofan, Abyei, and the Blue Nile region. They recognised the need for these to be addressed and for those responsible to be held accountable. However, they were divided as to how this should be achieved. States such as the United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK), France, Slovenia, the Republic of Korea, Belgium, and Spain called for these issues to be dealt with through the creation of an international, independent investigation into human rights violations in Sudan and South Sudan. However, Egypt (both individually and behalf of the Arab Group), the Maldives, the Syrian Arab Republic, and Pakistan (on behalf of the OIC) all argued that there was no need for an investigation of that kind, and that Sudan and South Sudan should be left to deal with these issues on their own terms.


States were also divided as to whether or not the mandate of the Independent Expert should be extended. Sudan argued that the mandate limited its development in other areas as it presented a barrier to the provision of financial assistance from alternate sources. Both Sudan and South Sudan felt they would be better equipped to deal with their human rights issues themselves if they were provided with technical support, rather than having the presence of an Independent Expert. Qatar, Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait, Ethiopia, China, the Syrian Arab Republic and several other States agreed that the mandate should not be extended. They agreed that, with international support, including technical assistance and capacity building, Sudan and South Sudan should be left in control of dealing with their human rights issues.


Conversely, the European Union, the US, Denmark, Norway, and Switzerland voiced their strong belief that the mandate should be extended for Sudan. They also supported the call for provision of technical support and capacity building. They argued that it was of fundamental importance that there remain a UN presence in the fight against the current human rights violations occurring both in Sudan and South Sudan. This view was supported by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.


In his concluding remarks, Mr Othman said that South Sudan had shown that it was open to dialogue and to improving its human rights situation, but that it faced many challenges. He called for the international community to provide assistance so that they could get their law enforcement agencies functioning, reduce human rights violations, and achieve effective, democratic governance. He also recommended the inclusion of a human rights component in resolution 1990 of the Security Council, which asks for the Secretary General to monitor the situation in South Kordofan. In their final remarks, both Sudan and South Sudan repeated their request for the international community to provide technical assistance and capacity building to assist them in their efforts to improve their human rights situations. Sudan asked to be given the autonomy to continue addressing its human rights situation without an extension of the mandate of the Independent Expert. South Sudan also asked for international support in the form of technical assistance and capacity building, but said that there is no need for a mandate for an Independent Expert in its State. This denial from South Sudan that they need an Independent Expert will make it difficult to convince other States to support a call for such a mandate. As the public negotiations on the resolution to renew the mandate get underway it remains to be seen whether the mandate will be renewed and in what form, for example, whether it will be moved from Item 4 to Item 10, with a focus on technical support and capacity building.

Last Updated on Monday, 26 September 2011 08:34
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