Saturday,21 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1316, (20 - 26 October 2016)
Saturday,21 July, 2018
Issue 1316, (20 - 26 October 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Abuses continue in Sudan

Forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and the alleged use of chemical weapons are continuing in Sudan, according to reports by international observers, writes Haitham Nouri

Al-Ahram Weekly

During a session in late September the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council discussed a report by independent researcher Ariside Nononsi on Sudan after renewing its special procedure mandate on Sudan and keeping Khartoum under observation regarding technical assistance and capacity building.

There had not been improvements in the country’s human rights record, but there had been Arab and African pressure, as well as international bartering, said Wadah Taber, coordinator of the Arab Alliance for Darfur.

“We did not bargain or use pressure, simply because we could not have done so,” said Waleed Sayed, a leading member of the ruling Sudan National Congress Party. “But we have been able to improve human rights conditions.”

According to the Website of the Human Rights Council, the independent expert cited several violations the regime is accused of, including extrajudicial killings, three forced disappearances and one arbitrary arrest.

There have also been newspaper closures and confiscations, the prosecution of human rights activists, the shuttering of civil society groups, and the expulsion of international relief organisations.

The international rights group Amnesty International has also published a report citing strong evidence that the Sudanese authorities have used chemical weapons in the Darfur conflict.

The September report entitled Scorched Earth, Poisoned Air said the group had gathered “shocking evidence” of the use of what are suspected to be chemical weapons in Darfur over the past eight months.

It added that Sudanese forces had used such weapons 30 times since January 2016 against civilians, including children, most recently on 9 September in Jabal Murrah. The information was gathered from satellite images, interviews with survivors and the analysis of photographs of children suffering horrendous injuries.

“It is difficult to find words to describe the scale and ferocity of these attacks,” said Tirana Hassan, Amnesty’s director of crisis research. “The photographs and video footage we saw during the investigation were shocking.”

More than 50 Sudanese, Arab and international civil organisations and dozens of public figures in the US, Europe and Africa have signed a petition addressed to UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki moon and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid bin Al-Hussein urging the formation of an independent commission to investigate the alleged attacks.

Meanwhile, the government and several opposition parties in Sudan signed a document marking the outcome of the national dialogue process in Khartoum attended by the leaders of Egypt, Uganda, Chad and Mauritania.

The signing did not include the armed groups battling the Khartoum government in Darfur, the Nubia Mountains or the southern part of the Blue Nile Province. This cast a shadow over the national dialogue document and its effectiveness.

“A national dialogue document cannot be signed without including all the elements in the country,” Taber said. “There is civil war in three or four provinces, tensions in the north because of forced displacement due to dam building, deterioration in human rights and poor economic conditions in the major cities.”

 “There have been dozens of deals and signing ceremonies in Sudan, but none of them have succeeded in building real peace,” he added.

The Sudanese regime has participated in talks in Doha with its armed rivals in Darfur, while negotiating with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) (northern sector) in Addis Ababa.

It has also reached out to the Sudan Call coalition of political parties in the north of the country. However, Sudan has not achieved peace, except through the comprehensive peace deal reached in January 2005 with South Sudan that eventually led to the secession of the South in July 2011.

“The armed groups are not important. The state has defeated them in every battle,” Sayed said. “The national dialogue document is a political breakthrough, and it also has regional support as the leaders of neighbouring countries attended the signing ceremony.”

Sayed added that Sudan had “made progress on the economy, but the international conspiracy against Sudan has also been enormous, especially because of the secession of South Sudan.”

Sudan lost 65 per cent of its revenues after losing the oil from the South, impacting the lives of millions of citizens.

“There has been no economic progress,” Taber countered. “The evidence of this is [Khartoum’s] siding with the Gulf countries in the war against Yemen in the hope of receiving economic aid to shore up its dilapidated economy.”

The Sudanese press has not marked the 33rd anniversary of applying Islamic Sharia in Sudan in September 1983, which prominent opposition figure Mahmoud Mohamed Taha has called the “September Laws.”

“The mastermind behind these laws, Hassan Al-Turabi, said at the time that no human rights violations could occur in Sudan because of Sharia justice,” Al-Haj Warraq, editor-in-chief of the Sudanese newspaper Horreyat said. “But in fact exactly the opposite occurred.”

 “The government has cut off hundreds of hands, lashed thousands of men and women and stoned many more since then. None of this stopped the civil war in the South and Darfur from igniting. There has also been serious economic deterioration.”

The September Laws came after years of alliance between late Sudanese president Jaafar Al-Numeiri and the Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood led by Al-Turabi. Many saw the laws as a sign of the Brotherhood’s rise to power in Sudan and indicative of its proximity to taking over the regime, which eventually happened with the arrival of incumbent Omar Al-Bashir as president in 1999.

“These laws are the reasons for the 22-year war between the North and South,” said John Sheila, a leading figure in the SPLM. “Insisting on them was a key contributor for southerners in choosing secession.”

The SPLM has repeatedly said that “applying Sharia and the unfair distribution of wealth” were the main reasons for the South’s secession.

Warraq added that “claims that the Sudanese government is Islamic have not stopped it from committing war crimes including killing, rape, ethnic cleansing and even using chemical weapons.”

But Sayed said that though “there were mistakes in applying Sharia Law, we will not abandon it. Sharia is Sudan’s identity. We are Muslim Arabs, and we do not want to be ruled by laws that do not comply with Islam. Since independence, Sudanese people of all stripes have demanded an Islamic constitution and Sharia Law.”

Sudan celebrated 60 years of independence from Britain this year, meaning that Sharia Law has governed the country for most of its time as an independent state.

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