Wednesday,13 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1270, (12 - 18 November 2015)
Wednesday,13 December, 2017
Issue 1270, (12 - 18 November 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Sudan’s human rights record queried

Sudan’s human rights record came under scrutiny this week, with many questions tabled at the Cairo meeting of the Arab Human Rights Committee, but few answered, writes Haytham Nuri

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The Arab Human Rights Committee (AHRC) met in Cairo on 9 and 10 November to discuss a report by the Sudanese government on human rights conditions in the country. Khartoum joined the Arab Charter on Human Rights in 2012, but civil society groups claim that the government continues to violate human rights across the country.

At the recent meetings, several Sudanese civil groups, including the Arab Coalition for Sudan, the New Sudanese Church Council and the Sudanese Human Rights Council, submitted independent reports on human rights in Sudan. The AHRC will issue its recommendations in a month’s time.

Addressing the AHRC, Ahmad Abbas Al-Razm, Sudan’s deputy justice minister, who led his country’s delegation to the meeting, said that Sudan is working hard to meet the standards set in the Arab Charter on Human Rights.

The 57-page report submitted by Sudan goes into details about the legal set-up in the country, but offers little insight into the actual facts on the ground.

The reports starts with a review of Sudan’s geography, administration and government, then mentions various treaties that the country has signed, while noting the constitutional clauses related to the topic. It makes no mention of the way that the Sudanese laws are enforced with regard to human rights.

AHRC Deputy Chairman Abdulmajid Zaalani mentioned the lack of reference to actual facts in the Sudanese report, and then suggested that a case-by-case list be prepared for each human right, with incidents helping to show Sudan’s commitment to the law.

The AHRC also demanded clarifications regarding national security laws and the state of emergency.

Abdallah Al-Taher, a Sudanese parliamentarian and member of the Sudanese committee, said that national security services have no exceptional powers and that Sudan has no special courts, aside from those assigned to investment and childcare, as well as the Darfur courts. Sudan is holding a “societal dialogue” on national security and the Darfur courts, he added.

Waddah Taber, secretary-general of the Arab Coalition for Sudan, said that the Sudanese people reject the laws related to the Darfur courts and national security because these laws are in violation of the Arab Charter on Human Rights.

The Sudanese parliament has amended the national security law in a way that allows the national security services to form its own police force. In the past, these services were only allowed to “collect and analyse information.”

Zaalani pointed out that the Darfur courts are not specialised but rather extraordinary courts. In normal circumstances, there should be no need for such courts, he added.

Calling on the Sudanese delegation to clarify the record of the Darfur courts, which the government formed in 2012, Zaalani demanded information on the trial of civilians in military courts, a practice the Sudanese delegation denied.

AHRC member Amena Al-Moheiri questioned the Sudanese officials about the outcome of investigation into the September 2015 incidents, in which 86 people were killed. She also demanded to know the rules of engagement the police apply when confronted by demonstrators.

The Sudanese delegation said that it is not yet clear who fired at the demonstrators due to the chaos surrounding the case. According to the Sudanese delegation, families of the victims have not challenged the government’s version of events and most have accepted the compensation offered by the authorities. Only four families disputed the government’s account and demanded an investigation into the death of their relatives.

Azaz Al-Shami, representative of the Washington-based Sudanese Network for Human Rights, said that eyewitnesses told human rights groups that the secret police shot the demonstrators.

According to Al-Shami, the secret police used police cars and motorcycles, which is how eyewitnesses were able to identify them.

Answering queries on press freedom, the Sudanese official delegation said that Sudan is having a “media boom”, with dozens of publications on the stands.

A report by the Arab Coalition for Sudan noted that the newspapers Al-Sayha, Al-Tayyar and Ray Al-Shaabi have been suspended since 2014. Other papers were suspended briefly, without any explanation on the part of the government, the group said. In February 2015, security authorities confiscated the issues of 14 newspapers and gave no reason for the seizures.

Questioned about freedom of religion, members of the Sudanese delegation said that the laws of the country require the government to guarantee freedom of religion. Members of the Sudanese delegation made no reference to specific measures taken in this regard.

A report by the Sudanese Council of Churches claimed that dozens of churches and Christian centres were demolished, burned or seized in Khartoum, South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

The same report also mentioned cases of discrimination regarding the building of churches and non-Muslim places of worship.

According to the same report, the Sudanese army attacked 19 mosques and Quranic schools known as khalawi (singular, khalwa) in South Kordofan and 16 mosques and khalawi in the Blue Nile.

Father Binyamin Barnaba said that the current situation is untenable and will drag the country further into violence.

“I hope that we may be freed from this violence and this disregard for others. The only way forward is peace,” Barnaba said.

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