Sudan

 

  • Advocacy priorities at 42nd Session of UN Human Rights Council (September)

    The forty-second Session of the UN Human Rights Council will take place from 9 to 27 September.

    There are a variety of issues on the agenda this Session, both thematic and country-focused, and a number of human rights concerns that need to be addressed by the Council.

    One of the priorities for CIVICUS and its members is the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis in Sudan. Despite a deal reached between the military and protesters in August, peaceful protesters continued to be killed on an almost daily basis. We join calls from local and international civil society for the Council to take immediate action to investigate and monitor human rights violations as a first step towards accountability and justice. The country is rated as closed on the CIVICUS monitor, representing its total lack of civic space and freedoms.

    Saudi Arabi, also rated as closed, remains a serious ongoing concern as the country continues its decades-long clampdown on dissent, human rights activism and independent reporting. Women human rights defenders are still detained, and reportedly subjected to torture, for leading campaigns for women’s rights. In October 2018, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was extra-judicially murdered. CIVICUS, along with partners, will reiterate calls on the Council to establish a monitoring mechanism investigating human rights violations in the country and call for the immediate and unconditional release of the detained Saudi women human rights defenders and activists. Saudi Arabia is a member of the Human Rights Council. Members that flagrantly abuse human rights in their own territories undermine and delegitimise the work of the Council and should be held to higher standard of scrutiny.

    Cameroon, rated as ‘repressed’ in CIVICUS’s Monitor, continues to undergo a human rights crisis. In October 2016, protests in Cameroon’s two minority English-speaking regions, the North-West and South-West, triggered the country’s “Anglophone crisis.” Since then, the two regions have been embroiled in a cycle of violence and human rights violations and abuses committed by government forces and by separatist armed groups. Against this backdrop, space for civil society continues to be severely diminished, and we call on members of the Council to take constructive steps to address the situation.

    The Commission of Inquiry investigating human rights violations in Burundi will present its findings on the human rights situation in the country. We join calls for the HRC to renew the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry for a further year: with human rights violations ongoing, and 2020 elections approaching, ongoing scrutiny is crucial – particularly in the context of elections. Burundi is rates as ‘closed’ in CIVICUS’s Monitor, reflecting ongoing attacks on civil society members, human rights defenders and journalists.

    The Council’s spotlight will also fall on Cambodia when both the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia and the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights will deliver reports on the situation in the country. Civic space in Cambodia has been increasingly under attack – the country is rated as ‘repressed’ in CIVICUS’s monitor – and this Session will provide a crucial opportunity for the Council to strengthen its response to such attacks on fundamental freedoms, and other human rights violations. CIVICUS and our partners are calling for the Special Rapporteur’s mandate to be renewed, and for enhanced scrutiny of the country’s human rights obligations by the OHCHR.

    The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights will be reporting on the human rights crisis in Nicaragua, which the CIVICUS Monitor rates as ‘repressed’. Monitor findings show that freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly continue to be seriously curtailed by the government. Local civil society organisations have been stripped of their legal status and of their assets, and human rights defenders and journalists are harassed. Nicaragua continues to block the return of international human rights bodies to the country, including the special mechanism of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and OHCHR. CIVICUS joins local and international partners calling for continued scrutiny of Nicaragua’s human rights situation.

    The Assistant Secretary General on reprisals will present a report the Council, and the resolution on reprisals will be presented for a vote to the Council members. We are calling on states to support a strong resolution which names specific examples of reprisals, including against CIVICUS members. This is a vital resolution because UN action is only possible with strong engagement from civil society on the ground, who not only provide information and analysis, but are on the front line of ensuring that human rights standards are respected by their own governments, and that violations are held to account.

    A resolution on arbitrary detention will also be presented to the Council. This is a critical issue in terms of civic space: civil society members worldwide continue to face arbitrary detention as a result of their work. As well as being a serious human rights violation in its own right, this also contributes to a chilling effect on other civil society actors and human rights defenders.

    CIVICUS and members’ events at the 42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council:

    Civic space as an early warning system, 16 Sep, 1-2pm, Room IV

    This side event will explore the relationship between civic space crackdowns and broader human rights crises, with a view to discussing what potential early intervention from states and the Council could be taken on the basis of such attacks to elevate the Council’s preventative mandate and, ultimately, aim to stop countries spiraling into human rights crises.

    The continued silencing and imprisonment of Saudi women human rights defenders, 26 Sep, 9.30-10.30am, Room XXIV

    This panel will share the experiences of Saudi WHRDs and reflect on the reality they face in prison. Panelists, including Lina Al-Hathloul, the sister of detained human rights defender Loujain Al-Hathloul, will discuss the extent of the restrictions facing activists in Saudi Arabia and what further efforts can be taken internationally to ensure immediate release of WHRDs, including calling for a resolution from the UN Human Rights Council.

    Current council members:

    Afghanistan; Angola; Argentina; Australia; Austria; Bahamas; Bahrain; Bangladesh; Brazil; Bulgaria; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Chile; China; Croatia; Cuba; Czechia; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Denmark; Egypt; Eritrea; Fiji; Hungary; Iceland; India; Iraq; Italy; Japan; Mexico; Nepal; Nigeria; Pakistan; Peru; Philippines; Qatar; Rwanda; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Slovakia; Somalia; South Africa; Spain; Togo; Tunisia; Ukraine; United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; and Uruguay.

     

  • Alarming trends facing protest movements

     

    40th Session of the Human Rights Council
    Statement delivered during General Debate (Monday 11 March)

    CIVICUS is deeply alarmed that protest movements find themselves on the frontlines of a global attack on democracy and human rights. Across the world, protest movements are being met by campaigns of violence and aggression from states that are increasingly brazen about defying global human rights commitments.

    At a time when many hard-won gains are being directly threatened by state and non-state actors, we urge the states present here today to recall that it was people organising in protest and civil disobedience who rolled back slavery, overturned colonial and racist systems of governance, and fought for women’s rights.

    Today, these struggles persist. Yet governments are increasingly responding to legitimate demands of protesters and their movements with absolute intolerance, including extra-judicial killings and torture. 

    CIVICUS echoes the concerns raised by the High Commissioner regarding the brutal crackdown on protests in Zimbabwe, where scores of unarmed civilians have been killed and children as young as 12 arrested, as well as the systemic campaign of brutality deployed against peaceful protesters in Sudan. 

    We ask all states present here today: what measures will you take to ensure that emerging protest movements from Serbia to Algeria to Malawi are nurtured rather than repressed?

     

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  • Call for a resolution to establish an Expert on Human Rights & extension of HC mandate on Sudan

    Statement at the 50th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Enhanced Interactive Debate on High Commisioners report on Sudan

    Delivered by Sibahle Zuma

    We welcomed the Council’s Special Session on Sudan last November and its adoption of a resolution mandating a designated Expert on Human Rights in the Sudan. It is imperative that this scrutiny continues.

    As the de facto military authorities continue to consolidate their power, human rights violations and abuses have continued unabated. Excessive force against protesters, including sexual and gender-based violence and enforced disappearance, firing live ammunition, stun grenades and tear gas, resulted in at least 13 civilian deaths and thousands of injuries between February and May 2022. There have been 13 cases of gang rape of women and girls and numerous allegations of sexual harassment brought against security forces during the protests in March alone.

    The transitional government had relaxed the restrictions and impediments placed on civil society by the previous regime, but civic space has deteriorated significantly since the October 2021 coup. Rights of association and assembly have been hard hit with continued enforcement of the state of emergency and the violent response of authorities to peaceful protests. Freedom of expression and access to information has deteriorated significantly at the hands of security forces who continue to assault and arrest journalists, many of whom had had licenses revoked under spurious allegations of ‘inciting violence’ or committing ‘crimes against the state’.

    As the country struggles for sustainable peace, a need for political settlement must be grounded in respect of human rights and accountability for human rights violations, which requires a continued oversight from the Human Rights Council with clear mandate for the Expert on Human Rights in the Sudan.

    We urge the UN Human Rights Council to take action that will enable continued scrutiny, including the vital monitoring and reporting on the human rights situation in the country by the High Commissioner and the designated Expert.

    We thank you.


     Civic space in Sudan is rated as "Repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor

     

  • Call to action to protect the democratic transition and human rights in Sudan

    A military coup targeting the civilian government in Sudan took place on Monday 25 October 2021. The African Union suspendedSudan’s membership. The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat made a statement noting that the deeply concerning events occurring in Sudan have resulted in the arrest of the Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdock, who was releasedon October 26, and other civilian officials. The total number of arrests made during the coup in unknown, but it is believed all cabinet ministers have been arrested and are being subjected to torture or at severe risk of torture. Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat calls for “the immediate resumption of consultations between civilians and [the] military” and “the release of all arrested political leaders”.

    At the international level, the United Nations Special Envoy for the Sudan and South Sudan and United Nations Security Council must take urgent action to protect Sudan’s transition to democracy and the human rights situation in the country following the second military coup in so many months which targeted the civilian government today.

    The UN High Commissioner strongly condemnedthe military coup in Sudan and the declaration of a nationwide state of emergency, the suspension of key articles of the Constitutional Document and the governing bodies, deplored the reported arrest of the Prime Minister, several Ministers, leaders of the Forces of the Freedom and Change and other civil society representatives, and call for their immediate release, and reminded the military and security forces to refrain from unnecessary and disproportionate use of force, to respect people’s freedom of expression, as well as the right of peaceful assembly.

    It is crucial that women’s rights and the situation of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) is addressed in the international community’s response to the coup as their position is particularly worrisome and today’s events have only exacerbated their already vulnerable position. This comes as militarisation of the State and violence against protestors remain some of the biggest threats to women’s rights in Sudan.

    Civil and political rights were once again violated as peaceful protesters were met with violence including live ammunition, resulting in at least five confirmed deaths and hundreds being injured. Rapid Security Forces (RSF) stormed medical centers that were providing medical care to the injured. A number of activists and protesters were arrested in several cities. Residential areas were also attacked by weapons. Further the majority of means of communication in the country have been cut off including phone lines and internet connection. Blanket internet shutdowns contravene international law. On October 26, Internet and mobile services were briefly restored for a few hours, they must be immediately restored

    We call on all States at the Human Rights Council to consider urgent action, such as convening a Special Session, to ensure respect for human rights and the rule of law. In addition, the upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Sudan on 3 November presents one opportunity for States to bring to the fore these issues and call on the required urgent action. We urge all States to make statements during Sudan’s UPR condemning the coup and supporting the civilian-led democratic transition, and make recommendations relating to[1]:

    • reform of the military and security forces
    • accountability for violence against protesters
    • access to justice for women
    • legal reforms combatting violence and discrimination against women
    • ensuring gender equality
    • ratification of international and regional instruments
    • women, peace and security
    • guaranteeing freedom of expression and assembly
    • the protection of women human rights defenders.

    Read also here a statement by the MENA Women Human Rights Defenders Coalition.

     

    Signatories

    Organisations:

    • Sudan Women’s Rights Action
    • Regional Coalition for Women Human Rights Defenders in the Middle East and North Africa
    • International Service for Human Rights
    • Global Fund for Women
    • Inter Pares, Canada
    • Canada for Africa Group
    • Rights for Peace Foundation
    • Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan
    • Vital Voices, USA
    • Equality Fund, Canada
    • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
    • CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

    Individuals

    • Susan Bazilli, Director of International Women’s Rights Project
    • Karen Breeck MD
    • Carole Doucet, Gender/ Women, Peace and Security Expert Adviser
    • Georgina Bencsik, Advisor, Consultant and Strategist
    • Monique Cuillerier (WPSN-C)

     

    Civic space in Sudan in rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor 

    [1] In March 2021 Sudan Women Rights Action, Nora Centre for Combating Sexual Violence, ISHR and the Regional Coalition for Women Human Rights Defenders in the Middle East and North Africa made a joint submission to the UPR of Sudan. Read here a summary of the recommendations to Sudan on women’s rights and women human rights defenders and the full joint submission to the UPR of Sudan.

     

  • Five countries added to watchlist of countries where civic freedoms are under serious threat

     

    • Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sudan, and Venezuela join global watchlist
    • Escalating rights violations include killings, attacks on protesters, media restrictions and arbitrary detentions of human rights defenders
    • International community must pressure governments to end repression

    Five countries from Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Latin America have been added to a watchlist of countries which have seen a rapid decline in fundamental freedoms in recent weeks and months. The new watchlist released by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society across the globe, identifies growing concerns in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sudan, and Venezuela.

    Activists and civil society organisations in these countries are experiencing an infringement of their civic freedoms as protected by international law. These violations include the use of excessive force by security forces during peaceful protests and journalists being arbitrarily detained and harrassed in both Sudan and Venezuela. In Serbia, space for independent media is under concerted attack while massive anti-government demonstrations are taking place. In Saudi Arabia, authorities continue the crackdown on women human rights defenders, who are being subject to arbitrary detentions and ill treatment for their activism on gender issues. While, in Afghanistan, there has been a record high number of civilian casualties (3,800 in 2018). The upcoming July presidential elections pose additional security risks and a threat to shrinking civic space, as over 400 civilians and voters were killed or injured (including eight candidates), during last October’s parliamentary elections.

    “It is deeply concerning to see escalated threats to basic rights in these countries,” said Marianna Belalba Barreto, CIVICUS Civic Space Research Lead. “It is critical that these five governments wake up to their failure to respect international law and take swift action to respect their citizens’ most basic freedoms in a democratic society and create an enabling environment for civil society organisations” Belalba said. “We also call upon neighbouring states and international bodies to put pressure on these countries to end the repression and ensure positive steps are taken to guarantee the safe space for civil society to continue their legitimate work”

    Large-scale anti-government demonstrations have been ongoing across Sudan since 19th December 2018 calling for President Omar Al-Bashir to step down in the context of a growing frustration over the harsh economic and social situation. In response, the authorities have launched a violent campaign targeting protesters, including doctors, teachers, journalists, women activists and opposition political leaders. With the declaration of a state of emergency, civic space restrictions continue to increase with hundreds of protesters on trial and dozens sentenced in summary trials on charges of participating in demonstrations.

    Serbia has witnessed sustained protest since December 2018. Protests started after an opposition politician was assaulted by unknown assailants wielding metal rods. For the most part, authorities in Serbia have largely ignored or attempted to downplay the scale of the protests. However on 17th March 2019 after 14 consecutive weeks of demonstrations, police in Belgrade used excessive force to disperse protesters that were calling for greater press freedom and fair elections. After encircling the Presidential building, clashes between protesters and police broke out, leading to the use of tear gas by Serbian authorities. Ten people were arrested in the confrontation. The government has also orchestrated a smear campaign against protesters  labelling opponents of the government as “paid” activists working against Serbian interests.

    Despite claims that the Saudi Arabian government is leading reforms to improve the situation of women in the country, Saudi authorities continue to persecute women activists. Since the crackdown began in May 2018, at least 22 women human rights defenders have been arrested and subjected to human rights violations because of their activism on gender issues. Reports indicate that several detained rights defenders have been subjected to torture including sexual assault and harassment.

    In Venezuela, since January 2019, massive anti-government protests have continued to take place in the country. The government has responded by using excessive force against demonstrators, arbitrarily detaining protestors, including teenagers, as well as detaining and harassing human rights defenders and journalists. Just between 21 and 25 January, at least 41 people died in circumstances linked to the protests,and more than 900 people were arbitrarily detained. For years, protesters in Venezuela have been met with excessive force by authorities, as people take to the streets to demand a change in government, the pattern of repression will likely intensify. Human rights organisations working to deliver humanitarian aid are especially targeted with harassment, and in some cases, their offices have been raided. It is estimated that more than three million venezuelans have fled the country due to the humanitarian crisis and denial of basic rights such as health and food.

    Since the beginning of 2019, at least three journalists have been killed in Afghanistan. The country was the world's deadliest for journalists in 2018 with 13 reporters and 2 other media professionals killed. Citizens risk being killed and attacked for participating in government elections and civil society is currently excluded from peace negotiations between the Taliban and the United States (U.S.), and parallel peace talks in Moscow. Women’s groups and persecuted communities are campaigning to have their voices heard in the peace process, and to ensure that any agreement guarantees human rights and democratic freedoms.

    In the coming weeks, the CIVICUS Monitor will closely track developments in each of these countries as part of efforts to ensure greater pressure is brought to bear on governments. CIVICUS calls upon these governments to do everything in their power to immediately end the ongoing crackdowns and ensure that perpetrators are held to account.

    See full CIVICUS Monitor Watchlist Summary


    For more information and to speak with regional and country specific contacts, please message:

    Marianna Belalba Barreto, CIVICUS Civic Space Research Lead

     

  • Outcomes & Reflections from 39th Session of UN Human Rights Council

    This session, the Council adopted landmark resolutions on several country situations, further enhancing its contribution to the protection of human rights. 

    On Myanmar, we welcome the creation of the independent investigative mechanism, which is an important step towards accountability for the horrific crimes committed in Myanmar, as elaborated in the Fact Finding Mission’s report to this session. The overwhelming support for the resolution, notwithstanding China’s shameful blocking of consensus, was a clear message to victims and survivors that the international community stands with them in their fight for justice. 

    On Yemen, the Council demonstrated that principled action is possible, and has sent a strong message to victims of human rights violations in Yemen that accountability is a priority for the international community, by voting in favor of renewing the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts to continue international investigations into violations committed by all parties to the conflict. 

    Furthermore, we welcome the leadership by a group of States on the landmark resolution on Venezuela, and consider it as an important step for the Council applying objective criteria to address country situations that warrant its attention. The resolution, adopted with support from all regions, sends a strong message of support to the Venezuelan people. By opening up a space for dialogue at the Council, the resolution brings scrutiny to the tragic human rights and humanitarian crisis unfolding in the country.  

    While we welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Burundi, to continue its critical investigation and work towards accountability, we regret, however, that the Council failed to respond more strongly to Burundi's record of non-cooperation and attacks against the UN human rights system. 

    We also welcome the Council’s adoption of the resolution on Syria, which among other things condemns all violations and abuses of international human rights law and all violations of international humanitarian law committed by all parties to the conflict.

    However, on other country situations including China, Sudan, Cambodia and the Philippines, the Council failed to take appropriate action. 

    On Sudan, we are deeply concerned about the weak resolution that envisions an end to the Independent Expert’s mandate once an OHCHR office is set up; a "deal" Sudan has already indicated it does not feel bound by, and which is an abdication of the Council’s responsibility to human rights victims in Sudan while grave violations are ongoing. At a minimum, States should ensure the planned country office monitors and publicly reports on the human rights situation across Sudan, and that the High Commissioner is mandated to report to the Council on the Office’s findings.  

    We also regret the lack of concerted Council action on the Philippines, in spite of the need to establish independent international and national investigations into extrajudicial killings in the government's 'war on drugs', and to monitor and respond to the government's moves toward authoritarianism. 

    In addition, we regret the Council’s weak response to the deepening human rights and the rule of law crisis in Cambodia, failing to change its approach even when faced with clear findings by the Special Rapporteur demonstrating that the exclusive focus on technical assistance and capacity building in the country, is failing.

    We share the concerns that many raised during the session, including the High Commissioner, about China’s human rights record, specifically noting serious violations of the rights of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang province. It is regrettable that States did not make a concrete and collective call for action by China to cease the internment of estimates ranging up to 1 million individuals from these communities. 

    On thematic resolutions, we welcome the adoption of the resolution on equal participation in political and public affairs but would have preferred a stronger endorsement and implementation of the guidelines.

    The resolution on safety of journalists, adopted by consensus, sets out a clear roadmap of practical actions to end impunity for attacks. Journalism is not a crime - yet too many States in this room simply imprison those that criticize them. This must end, starting with the implementation of this resolution. 

    We welcome the adoption by consensus of the resolution on preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights in humanitarian settings. Women and girls affected by conflict have been denied accountability for too long. The implementation of this resolution will ensure that their rights, including their sexual and reproductive health and rights, are respected, protected and fulfilled. 

    Finally, the Council’s first interactive dialogue on acts of reprisals and intimidation was an important step to ensure accountability for this shameful practice, and we urge more States to have the courage and conviction to stand up for human rights defenders and call out countries that attack and intimidate them.

    Signatories:
    The African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
    Amnesty International 
    Article 19
    Center for Reproductive Rights
    CIVICUS
    DefendDefenders
    FIDH
    Forum Asia 
    Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF)
    Human Rights Watch 
    International Commission of Jurists
    International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

     

  • Outcomes & reflections from the UN Human Rights Council

    Joint statement at the end of the 41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    By renewing the mandate of the Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), the Council has sent a clear message that violence and discrimination against people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities cannot be tolerated. It reaffirmed that specific, sustained and systematic attention is needed to address these human rights violations and ensure that LGBT people can live a life of dignity. We welcome the Core Group's commitment to engage in dialogue with all States, resulting in over 50 original co-sponsors across all regions. However, we regret that some States have again attempted to prevent the Council from addressing discrimination and violence on the basis of SOGI.

    This Council session also sent a clear message that Council membership comes with scrutiny by addressing the situations of Eritrea, the Philippines, China, Saudi Arabia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This shows the potential the Council has to leverage its membership to become more effective and responsive to rights holders and victims. 

    The Council did the right thing by extending its monitoring of the situation in Eritrea. The onus is on the Eritrean Government to cooperate with Council mechanisms, including the Special Rapporteur, in line with its membership obligations. 

    We welcome the first Council resolution on the Philippinesas an important first step towards justice and accountability. We urge the Council to closely follow this situation and be ready to follow up with additional action, if the situation does not improve or deteriorates further. We deeply regret that such a resolution was necessary, due to the continuation of serious violations and repeated refusal of the Philippines – despite its membership of the Council– to cooperate with existing mechanisms. 

    We deplore that the Philippines and Eritrea sought to use their seats in this Council to seek to shield themselves from scrutiny, and those States who stood with the authorities and perpetrators who continue to commit grave violations with impunity, rather than with the victims.

    We welcome the written statement by 22 States on Chinaexpressing collective concern over widespread surveillance, restrictions to freedoms of religion and movement, and large-scale arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang. We consider it as a first step towards sustained Council attention and in the absence of progress look to those governments that have signed this letter to follow up at the September session with a resolution calling for China to allow access to the region to independent human rights experts and to end country-wide the arbitrary detention of individuals based on their religious beliefs or political opinions.

    We welcome the progress made in resolutions on the rights of women and girls: violence against women and girls in the world of work, on discrimination against women and girls and on the consequences of child, early and forced marriage. We particularly welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Working Group on Discrimination Against Women and Girls under its new name and mandate to focus on the intersections of gender and age and their impact on girls. The Council showed that it was willing to stand up to the global backlash against the rights of women and girls by ensuring that these resolutions reflect the current international legal framework and resisted cultural relativism, despite several amendments put forward to try and weaken the strong content of these resolutions. 

    However, in the text on the contribution of developmentto the enjoyment of all human rights, long standing consensus language from the Vienna Declaration for Programme of Action (VDPA) recognising that, at the same time, “the lack of development may not be invoked to justify the abridgement of internationally recognized human rights” has again been deliberately excluded, disturbing the careful balance established and maintained for several decades on this issue. 

    We welcome the continuous engagement of the Council in addressing the threat posed by climate changeto human rights, through its annual resolution and the panel discussion on women’s rights and climate change at this session. We call on the Council to continue to strengthen its work on this issue, given its increasing urgency for the protection of all human rights.

    The Council has missed an opportunity on Sudanwhere it could have supported regional efforts and ensured that human rights are not sidelined in the process. We now look to African leadership to ensure that human rights are upheld in the transition. The Council should stand ready to act, including through setting up a full-fledged inquiry into all instances of violence against peaceful protesters and civilians across the country. 

    During the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial and summary executions, States heard loud and clear that the time to hold Saudi Arabia accountable is now for the extrajudicial killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. We recall that women human rights defenders continue to be arbitrarily detained despite the calls by 36 States at the March session. We urge States to adopt a resolution at the September session to establish a monitoring mechanism over the human rights situation in the country. 

    We welcome the landmark report of the High Commissioner on the situation for human rights in Venezuela; in response to the grave findings in the report and the absence of any fundamental improvement of the situation in the meantime, we urge the Council to adopt a Commission of Inquiry or similar mechanism in September, to reinforce the ongoing efforts of the High Commissioner and other actors to address the situation.

    We welcome the renewal of the mandate on freedom of peaceful assembly and association. This mandate is at the core of our work as civil society and we trust that the mandate will continue to protect and promote these fundamental freedoms towards a more open civic space.

    We welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus. We acknowledge some positive signs of re-engagement in dialogue by Belarus, and an attempted negotiation process with the EU on a potential Item 10 resolution. However, in the absence of systemic human rights reforms in Belarus, the mandate and resolution process remains an essential tool for Belarusian civil society. In addition, there are fears of a spike in violations around upcoming elections and we are pleased that the resolution highlights the need for Belarus to provide safeguards against such an increase.

    We welcome the renewal of the quarterly reporting process on the human rights situation in Ukraine. However, we also urge States to think creatively about how best to use this regular mechanism on Ukraine to make better progress on the human rights situation.

    The continued delay in the release of the UN databaseof businesses engaged with Israeli settlements established pursuant to Council resolution 31/36 in March 2016 is of deep concern.  We join others including Tunisia speaking on behalf of 65 states and Peru speaking on behalf of 26 States in calling on the High Commissioner to urgently and fully fulfil this mandate as a matter of urgency and on all States to cooperate with all Council mandates, including this one, and without political interference.

    Numerous States and stakeholders highlighted the importance of the OHCHR report on Kashmir; while its release only a few days ago meant it did not receive substantive consideration at the present session, we look forward to discussing it in depth at the September session. 

    Finally, we welcome the principled leadership shown by Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, in pursuing accountability for individual victims of acts of intimidation and reprisalsunder General Debate Item 5, contrasting with other States which tend to make only general statements of concern. We call on States to raise all individual cases at the interactive dialogue on reprisals and intimidation in the September session. 

    Signatories:

    1. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    2. DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    3. Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
    4. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    5. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    6. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    7. Center for Reproductive Rights 
    8. ARTICLE 19
    9. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
    10. Human Rights House Foundation 
    11. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    12. Franciscans International 
    13. Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
    14. Amnesty International
    15. Human Rights Watch
    16. International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) 

     

  • Progress and shortcomings from 44th Session of the Human Rights Council

    Joint Statement for the end of the 44th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    The 44th session of the UN Human Rights Council began with China's imposition of legislation severely undermining rights and freedoms in Hong Kong. Within days, there were reports of hundreds of arrests, some for crimes that didn’t even exist previously. We welcome efforts this session by a growing number of States to collectively address China’s sweeping rights abuses, but more is needed. An unprecedented 50 Special Procedures recently expressed concerns at China’s mass violations in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet, suppression of information in the context of Covid-19, and targeting of human rights defenders across the country. The Council should heed the call of these UN experts to hold a Special Session and create a mechanism to monitor and document rights violations in the country. No state is beyond international scrutiny. China’s turn has come.

    The 44th session also marked an important opportunity to enable those affected directly by human rights violations to speak to the Council through NGO video statements.

    Amnesty's Laith Abu Zeyad addressed the Council remotely from the occupied West Bank where he has been trapped by a punitive travel ban imposed by Israel since October 2019. We call on the Israeli authorities to end all punitive or arbitrary travel bans.

    During the interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, victims’ associations and families of victims highlighted the human rights violations occurring in detention centers in Syria. We welcome the efforts by some States to underline their demands and welcome the adoption of the Syria resolution on detainees and urge the Syrian government to take all feasible measures to release detainees and provide truth to the families, noting the important pressure needed by Member States to further call for accountability measures for crimes committed in Syria.

    Collette Flanagan, Founder of Mothers against Police Brutality, also delivered a powerful video statement at the Council explaining the reality of racist policing in the United States of America. We fully support victims’ families’ appeals to the Council for accountability.

    We hope that the High Commissioner's reporton systemic racism, police violence and government responses to antiracism peaceful protests will be the first step in a series of meaningful international accountability measures to fully and independently investigate police killings, to protect and facilitate Black Lives Matter and other protests, and to provide effective remedy and compensation to victims and their families in the United States of America and around the world.

    We appreciate the efforts made by the Council Presidency and OHCHR to overcome the challenges of resuming the Council’s work while taking seriously health risks associated with COVID-19, including by increasing remote and online participation. We recommend that remote civil society participation continue and be strengthened for all future sessions of the Council.

    Despite these efforts, delays in finalising the session dates and modalities, and subsequent changes in the programme of work, reduced the time CSOs had to prepare and engage meaningfully. This has a disproportionate impact on CSOs not based in Geneva, those based in different time zones and those with less capacity to monitor the live proceedings. Other barriers to civil society participation this session included difficulties to meet the strict technical requirements for uploading video statements, to access resolution drafts and follow informal negotiations remotely, especially from other time zones, as well as a decrease in the overall number of speaking slots available for NGO statements due to the cancellation of general debates this session as an ‘efficiency measure.’

    We welcome the joint statement led by the core group on civil society space and endorsed by cross regional States and civil society, which calls on the High Commissioner to ensure that the essential role of civil society, and States’ efforts to protect and promote civil society space, are reflected in the report on impact of the COVID-19 pandemic presented to the 46th Session of the HRC. We urge all States at this Council to recognise and protect the key role that those who defend human rights play.

    These last two years have seen unlawful use of force perpetrated by law enforcement against peaceful protesters, protest monitors, journalists worldwide, from the United States of America to Hong Kong, to Chile to France, Kenya to Iraq to Algeria, to India to Lebanon with impunity.

    We therefore welcome that the resolution “the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests” was adopted by consensus, and that the Council stood strongly against some proposed amendments which would have weakened it. We also welcome the inclusion in the resolution of a panel during the 48th session to discuss such events and how States can strengthen protections. We urge States to ensure full accountability for such human rights violations as an essential element of the protection of human rights in the context of protests. The current context has accelerated the urgency of protecting online assembly, and we welcome that the resolution reaffirms that peaceful assembly rights guaranteed offline are also guaranteed online. In particular, we also commend the resolution for calling on States to refrain from internet shutdowns and website blocking during protests, while incorporating language on the effects of new and emerging technologies, particularly tools such as facial recognition, international mobile subscriber identity-catchers (“stingrays”) and closed-circuit television.

    We welcome that the resolution on “freedom of opinion and expression” contains positive language including on obligations surrounding the right to information, emphasising the importance of measures for encryption and anonymity, and strongly condemning the use of internet shutdowns. Following the High Commissioner’s statement raising alarm at the abuse of ‘false news’ laws to crackdown on free expression during the COVID-19 pandemic, we also welcome that the resolution stresses that responses to the spread of disinformation and misinformation must be grounded in international human rights law, including the principles of lawfulness, legitimacy, necessity and proportionality. At the same time, we are concerned by the last minute addition of language which focuses on restrictions to freedom of expression, detracting from the purpose of the resolution to promote and protect the right. As we look to the future, it is important that the core group builds on commitments contained in the resolution and elaborate on pressing freedom of expression concerns of the day, particularly for the digital age, such as the issue of surveillance or internet intermediary liability, while refocusing elements of the text.

    The current context has not only accelerated the urgency of protecting assembly and access to information, but also the global recognition of the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. We welcome the timely discussions on ”realizing children’s right to a healthy environment” and the concrete suggestions for action from panelists, States, and civil society. The COVID-19 crisis, brought about by animal-to-human viral transmission, has clarified the interlinkages between the health of the planet and the health of all people. We therefore support the UN Secretary General’s call to action on human rights, as well as the High Commissioner’s statement advocating for the global recognition of the human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment – already widely reflected at national and regional levels - and ask that the Council adopts a resolution in that sense. We also support the calls made by the Marshall Islands, Climate Vulnerable Forum, and other States of the Pacific particularly affected and threatened by climate change. We now urge the Council to strengthen its role in tackling the climate crisis and its adverse impacts on the realization of human rights by establishing a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Climate Change, which will help address the urgency of the situation and amplify the voices of affected communities.

    The COVID crisis has also exacerbated discrimination against women and girls. We welcome the adoption by the Council of a strong resolution on multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination against women and girls, which are exacerbated in times of a global pandemic. The text, inter alia, reaffirms the rights to sexual and reproductive health and to bodily autonomy, and emphasizes legal obligations of States to review their legislative frameworks through an intersectional approach. We regret that such a timely topic has been questioned by certain States and that several amendments were put forward on previously agreed language.

    The Council discussed several country-specific situations, and renewed the mandates in some situations.

    We welcome the renewal of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and ongoing scrutiny on Belarus. The unprecedented crackdown on human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers and members of the political opposition in recent weeks ahead of the Presidential election in August provide a clear justification for the continued focus, and the need to ensure accountability for Belarus’ actions. With concerns that the violations may increase further over the next few weeks, it is essential that the Council members and observers maintain scrutiny and pressure even after the session has finished.

    We welcome the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea. We urge the government to engage, in line with its Council membership obligations, as the Special Rapporteur’s ‘benchmarks for progress’ form a road map for human rights reform in the country. We welcome the High Commissioner report on the human rights situation in the Philippines which concluded, among other things, that the ongoing killings appear to be widespread and systematic and that “the practical obstacles to accessing justice in the country are almost insurmountable.” We regret that even during this Council session, President Duterte signed an Anti Terrorism Law with broad and vague definition of terrorism and terrorists and other problematic provisions for human rights and rule of law, which we fear will be used to stifle and curtail the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. Also during this session, in a further attack on press freedom, Philippine Congress rejected the franchise renewal of independent media network ABS-CBN, while prominent journalist Maria Ressa and her news website Rappler continue to face court proceedings and attacks from President Duterte after Ressa’s cyber libel conviction in mid-June. We support the call from a group of Special Procedures to the Council to establish an independent, impartial investigation into human rights violations in the Philippines and urge the Council to establish it at the next session.

    The two reports presented to the Council on Venezuela this session further document how lack of judicial independence and other factors perpetuate impunity and prevent access to justice for a wide range of violations of civil, cultural, economic, political, and social rights in the country. We also urge the Council to stand ready to extend, enhance and expand the mandate of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission when it reports in September. We also welcome the report of the Special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967 and reiterate his call for States to ensure Israel puts an end to all forms of collective punishment. We also reiterate his call to ensure that the UN database of businesses involved with Israeli settlements becomes a living tool, through sufficient resourcing and annual updating.

    We regret, however, that several States have escaped collective scrutiny this session.

    We reiterate the UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard’s call to pressure Saudi Arabia to release prisoners of conscience and women human rights defenders and call on all States to sustain the Council’s scrutiny over the situation at the September session.

    Despite calls by the High Commissioner for prisoners’ release, Egypt has arrested defenders, journalists, doctors and medical workers for criticizing the government’s COVID-19 response. We recall that all of the defenders that the Special Procedures and the High Commissioner called for their release since September 2019 are still in pre-trial detention. The Supreme State Security Prosecution and 'Terrorism Circuit courts' in Egypt, are enabling pre-trial detention as a form of punishment including against human rights defenders and journalists and political opponents, such as Ibrahim Metwally, Mohamed El-Baqer and Esraa Abdel Fattah, Ramy Kamel, Alaa Abdel-Fattah, Patrick Zaky, Ramy Shaat, Eman Al-Helw, Solafa Magdy and Hossam El-Sayed. Once the terrorism circuit courts resumed after they were suspended due to COVID-19, they renewed their detention retroactively without their presence in court. It’s high time the Council holds Egypt accountable.

    As highlighted in a joint statement of Special Procedures, we call on the Indian authorities to immediately release HRDs, who include students, activists and protest leaders, arrested for protesting against changes to India’s citizenship laws. Also eleven prominent HRDs continue to be imprisoned under false charges in the Bhima Koregaon case. These activists face unfounded terror charges under draconian laws such as sedition and under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. While we welcome that Safoora Zargar was granted bail on humanitarian grounds, the others remain at high risk during a COVID-19 pandemic in prisons with not only inadequate sanitary conditions but also limited to no access to legal counsel and family members. A number of activists have tested positive in prison, including Akhil Gogoi and 80-year-old activist Varavara Rao amid a larger wave of infections that have affected many more prisoners across the country. Such charges against protestors, who were exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly must be dropped. We call on this Council to strengthen their demands to the government of India for accountability over the excessive use of force by the police and other State authorities against the demonstrators.

    In Algeria, between 30 March and 16 April 2020, the Special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, human rights defenders, issued three urgent appeals in relation to cases involving arbitrary and violent arrests, unfair trials and reprisals against human rights defenders and peaceful activists Olaya Saadi, Karim Tabbou and Slimane Hamitouche. Yet, the Council has been silent with no mention of the crackdown on Algerian civil society, including journalists.

    To conclude on a positive note, we welcome the progress in the establishment of the OHCHR country office in Sudan, and call on the international community to continue to provide support where needed to the transitional authorities. While also welcoming their latest reform announcements, we urge the transitional authorities to speed up the transitional process, including reforms within the judiciary and security sectors, in order to answer the renewed calls from protesters for the enjoyment of "freedom, peace and justice" of all in Sudan. We call on the Council to ensure continued monitoring and reporting on Sudan.

    ENDORSEMENTS

    International Service for Human Rights
    DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    Center for Reproductive Rights
    Franciscans International
    The Syrian Legal Development Programme
    Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR)
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
    International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA World)
    Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
    Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
    ARTICLE 19
    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
    IFEX
    Association for Progressive Communications
    International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    Amnesty International

     


    Current council members:

    Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Burkina FasoBrazil, Cameroon, Chile, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Eritrea, Fiji, Germany, India, Indonesia, ItalyJapan, Libya, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Senegal, Slovakia, SomaliaSudan, Spain, Togo, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela

    Civic space ratings from the CIVICUS Monitor

    OPEN NARROWED OBSTRUCTED  REPRESSED CLOSED

     

     

  • Reaction to human rights resolution on Sudan

    42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Response to resolution on Sudan

    CIVICUS welcomes the resolution on Sudan passed by the Human Rights Council this afternoon. Although it did not provide the international investigation of human rights violations since 2018 that civil society had called for, it extended the mandate of the Independent Expert on Sudan and kept the country under international scrutiny at this critical time. 

    We further welcome the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights and the transitional Sudanese government, and we hope this proves a collaboration which will lead to substantive human rights gains in the country. 

    ‘There is still a long way to go for human rights in Sudan, and we hope that these steps by both the international community and the transitional authorities on the ground prove the first steps towards ensuring full accountability for past human rights violations, as well as creating a safe enabling environment for civil society, human rights defenders and independent media in the country,’ said Paul Mulindwa, Advocacy Officer for Africa at CIVICUS.

    We reiterate calls on the transitional government of Sudan to to ensure the release of detained activists, work towards locating missing individuals from the 3 June sit-in dispersal, and refrain from using force against peaceful protesters and instead protect their right to freedom of expression, and work toward an effective and peaceful transition toward democracy. Read our earlier statement at the UN Human Rights Council here.

     

  • Statement: Countries of concern at the UN Human Rights Council

    41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Interactive Dialogue on Countries of Concern

    CIVICUS is deeply concerned by the grave situation in Sudan, and we call once again on the Council to take immediate steps to address this crisis, at the very least by establishing a fact-finding mission to monitor, verify and report on the situation to prevent further bloodshed and ensure that the perpetrators of these atrocities are held to account.

    In Saudi Arabia, human rights defenders face continued unwarranted detention. A wave of further arrests in April targeted those supporting the women’s rights movement and detained activists.  Saudi Arabia is not above Human Rights Council scrutiny and we reiterate calls on the Council to establish a monitoring mechanism over human rights violations in the country and call explicitly for the immediate and unconditional release of the detained Saudi women human rights defenders.

    In Guatemala, human rights defenders are being criminalized and harassed. Cases filed against Claudia Samoyoa Pineda and Jose Martinez Cabrera is illustrative of the authorities’ growing intolerance of independent dissent, including of those working on land and environmental defense. This is just one example of targeted reprisals levelled against civil society organisations and human rights defenders that have mobilised against a series of attacks on Guatemala's democratic institutional framework.

    Civic space in Afghanistan remains under serious threat. Violence against human rights defenders and journalists continues with impunity and state actors also have been implicated in violations against journalists. Women, civil society and victim's groups have been excluded from the peace processes, which threatens to undermine all hard-won gains. 

    Lastly, we are deeply concerned at the situation in the Philippines. Despite progress on a bill to protect human rights defenders, the situation on the ground remains dire. Dozens of activists have been killed since 2016 under the Duterte administration and the work of CSOs, media and human rights defenders have been severely undermined by smear campaigns by the government.

    We call on the Council’s continued attention to, and call for urgent action on, these issues of serious concern.

     

  • Success in Sudan

    By Paul Mulindwa, an advocacy and campaigns officer with CIVICUS.

    Mediating a deadlocked political dispute is difficult work in the best of times. Mediating the conflict in Sudan between military rulers and opposition demonstrators – following the dramatic ouster of an autocratic leader, and against a background of widespread (violently suppressed) protests – was supposed to be nearly impossible. Yet the African Union has managed to do it.

    After weeks of tense negotiations, AU negotiators, led by Special Envoy Mohamed el Hacen Lebatt of Mauritania and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, managed to secure a power-sharing agreement between Sudan’s ruling military council and civilian opposition leaders. It is a major step toward ending the political crisis that has gripped Sudan for more than six months.

    The crisis began last December, when street protests erupted in response to cuts in bread and fuel subsidies. The economy was near collapse, following years of US sanctions (mostly lifted in 2017) and the loss of oil revenues following South Sudan’s independence in 2011, and the protests quickly grew into large-scale demonstrations against President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s brutal three-decade-long dictatorship.

    Read on: Project Syndicate 

     

  • SUDAN: ‘The government and the international community must engage more with civil society’

    Abdel Rahman El MahdiCIVICUS speaks about the prospects for democracy and civilian rule in Sudan with Abdel-Rahman El Mahdi, founder and director of the Sudanese Development Initiative (SUDIA). SUDIA is a civil society organisation (CSO) that works toward stability, development and good governance in Sudan. With 25 years of experience in international development, Abdel-Rahman specialises in organisational management and programming, with a thematic expertise extending to peacebuilding and human security, and civic engagement and democratic transformation.

     

    What was civil society’s reaction when Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok returned to power in November?

    After being ousted by a coup in October 2021, Prime Minister Hamdok managed to return to power in November as a result of a deal he reached with the military, which was signed on 21 November 2021. Reactions to this varied, because Sudanese civil society is very diverse.

    Since the December 2018 revolution, Sudanese civil society is in three distinct segments. The first contains what can be called revolutionary civil society movements and groups such as neighbourhood resistance committees, the Sudan Professional Association and other alliances and networks that sprang up during or in the aftermath of the revolution. Second, there is the segment that includes formal state-regulated CSOs, which are usually registered under various laws and have a licence to operate. Third, there are informal or traditional forms of civil society that existed from before independence, including the traditional or native administrative system and tribal leaders, and faith-based groups such as various Sufi groups.

    In terms of the size of their constituencies and their representation of the public, the biggest segment is that of informal and traditional forms of civil society, followed by revolutionary civil society movements and groups, with formal and state-regulated CSOs being the smallest. 

    Each part of civil society has had a different reaction to the Hamdok’s agreement with the military. On one end of the spectrum, traditional or native administrative structures and tribal leaders welcomed the agreement and were even represented at the signing ceremony. At the other, revolutionary civil society movements and groups completely opposed the agreement, which they saw as treason to the values and aspirations of the revolution. As for the third group – that of formal and state-regulated CSOs – reactions were mixed, with a majority seeing the agreement as the most viable way forward and the best possible outcome given the situation.

    Divisions and polarisation regarding the issue of military versus civilian rule and governance in the transition period are evident among both citizens and their representative institutions – including civil society and political parties – as well as among democracy movements in Sudan.

    How significant is the recent resignation of Prime Minister Hamdok? Has anything changed as a result?

    Prime Minister Hamdok’s resignation in early January 2022 is a significant development in the trajectory of Sudan’s transition. Hamdok was the only candidate viewed as acceptable by all the main parties that have shaped the transitional period over the past two years, namely the military, the Forces of Freedom and Change - a political coalition made up of civilian, political and armed groups and signatories to the constitutional declaration of 2019 -, revolutionary groups and the international community. His departure has only complicated the political crisis, because now agreement needs to be reached not just on how to proceed with the governance of the transitional period moving forward, but also on who will lead and represent the civilian element in future governance arrangements – and someone needs to be identified who might be acceptable to all parties involved.

    Representatives of the international community, the European Union and the Troika (Norway, the UK and the USA) issued a statement on 4 January 2022 in which they warned against any unilateral move by the military to appoint a new prime minister and called for a Sudanese-led and all-inclusive process to address this and other transitional issues. Meanwhile the situation on the ground continues to worsen, with protests in the capital, Khartoum, and in other cities continuing unabated.

    How has civil society organised since the coup?

    Organising and responses to the military takeover of 25 October differ from one kind of civil society group to the other. Revolutionary civil society movements and groups, along with some political parties, have been organising mass protests in Khartoum and other cities and states to express their rejection of the 21 November political agreement and call for a civilian leadership for the transitional period.

    Beyond welcoming the agreement and military takeover, traditional native administrative structures and tribal leaders have thus far been absent from the scene, taking no visible actions or positions. Meanwhile, formal, state-regulated CSOs have been slow to mobilise a coordinated response but are gravitating towards facilitating dialogue between stakeholders and are beginning to take concrete actions towards that end.

    What factors led to the coup and what needs to happen for Sudan to get on the path to democracy?

    Several factors led to the coup and military takeover on 25 October 2021, but the most important in my opinion was the lack of a robust dispute resolution mechanism that should have been agreed to and put in place by the key parties leading the transitional period. Such a mechanism would have helped resolve differences among civilian elements and between the civilian and military elements of the transition.

    The transitional constitutional decree was a rushed fix to a complex and rapidly deteriorating situation and has many shortcomings, such as vague language allowing for different interpretations. The political milestones and issues to be tackled during the transitional period – including elections, constitution-making processes and to a great extent security sector reform and transitional justice – can be extremely divisive and are likely to be sharply contested by the key parties leading the transition. 

    To overcome these potentially divisive issues and improve the chances of a successful transition to a democratic, peaceful and just Sudan, it will require that such a dispute resolution mechanism is established in any future arrangement put in place to govern the remaining period of the transition.

    What role are international institutions playing, and what should they be doing?

    The role of international institutions, including the United Nations (UN) and African regional institutions, has been one of damage control rather than damage prevention. The United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) was deployed to Sudan in 2020 but throughout the months prior to the coup and the escalating tensions and differences between the parties leading the transitional period it remained totally absent. Its mediation role only materialised at a later stage, following the unfortunate events of 25 October and after the axe had already fallen, so to speak.

    Regional institutions such as the African Union and the Arab League have played a marginal role, with the former only issuing statements threatening suspension of Sudan’s membership, and the latter sending a delegation to help with negotiations in the wake of the coup.

    More recently, on 8 January 2022, UNITAMS issued a statement announcing it was ‘formally launching a UN-facilitated intra-Sudanese political process which is aimed at supporting Sudanese stakeholders in agreeing on a way out of the current political crisis and agree on a sustainable path forward towards democracy and peace’.

    While this step by UNITAMS is to be applauded, it is important for UNITAMS as well as the international community supporting UNITAMS to consider carefully the details of the process. Rather than taking a head-on approach or focusing on a single objective of just simply resolving the current political crisis, the process should include embedded elements that ensure ownership and transparency and help build visions for common ground amongst the stakeholders involved, for the transitional period and beyond. 

    The process should also ensure the elaboration of a dispute resolution mechanism for when differences arise. UNITAMS will have only one shot at this and if it fails, it will lose credibility and the continued presence of the mission in Sudan will come into question.

    Moreover, beyond the immediate challenge of surpassing the immediate political crisis, the UN and other international institutions need to step up their act and stay one step ahead of the transition game in Sudan. Transitions in countries such as Sudan, which is emerging from conflict and years of authoritarian rule, require greater agility, heightened levels of coordination and collaboration and more strategic responses on the part of the UN system and international institutions more generally. To achieve this, they need the help of Sudanese civil society, so they will also need to adopt a more structured and strategic approach in engaging with them, instead of the current ad hoc and largely symbolic form of engagement.

    What are the main challenges Sudanese civil society faces, and what support does civil society need?

    Three of the top-most challenges facing Sudanese CSOs are, in order of priority, the restrictive and disabling environment in which they operate, their limited financial viability and access to funding, and their limited organisational capacity. These are interconnected and have a knock-on effect on each other. They have thus far prevented civil society from playing the promising role that is expected of it in the context of the transition. 

    The 30-plus years of authoritarian rule in Sudan have had a devastating effect on the development of civil society and it will take years to reverse it. Both civil society and those investing in it need to factor this into their expectations and aspirations and adopt both short-term and long-term approaches to improving civil society’s contributions to the calls of the revolution: freedom, peace and justice. 

    Once the current political crisis is overcome and the path to the democratic transition is resumed, there must be greater investment in and commitment to civil society on the part of both the government and the international community. Support will be needed for efforts to improve civic space and create a more enabling environment for civil society. Support should also be geared towards facilitating dialogue across the various groups that make up the non-political civic scape in Sudan and strengthening their ability to act and speak as one on critical national issues and future challenges.

    Civic space in Sudan is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with SUDIA through itswebsite or itsFacebook orLinkedIn pages, and follow@FollowSUDIA on Twitter. 

     

  • SUDAN: ‘We are back to the situation that preceded the revolution’

    Nazik KabaloCIVICUS speaks about Sudan’s situation under military rule with Nazik Kabalo, a woman human rights defender (HRD) from Sudan. Nazik has worked in human rights advocacy, research and monitoring, with a focus on women’s rights, for the past 15 years.

    What happened to Sudan’s transition to democracy?

    Sudan is now facing the consequences of the major problems of the deal made by the military and civilian leaders in August 2019. Following the revolution, this deal initiated a transitional government in Sudan, a partnership between civilians and the military council. But this partnership was never equal: the military and former regime forces – including paramilitaries, militias, tribal militias and the security apparatus – had more economic and political power. They had controlled the country for 30 years, after all.

    On the other hand, for 30 years political parties and civil society had been under so much pressure that they only managed to stay together with the momentum of the revolution, to defeat the former regime. But the Sudanese democracy movement has too many internal divisions.

    Ours is an unfinished political transition that is missing transitional justice and mechanisms to limit the power of military and other armed groups. All armed groups had been involved in very severe human rights violations and remained partners with civilians in the new government. To be honest, I think the military coup was bound to happen. The political deal achieved in 2019 gave the presidency to the military for almost one and a half years. The coup happened on 25 October 2021, only few weeks before the date the military was expected to hand over the Supreme Council presidency to civilian leaders. But we always knew civilians didn’t really have a chance to lead the country.

    How has the situation evolved after the coup?

    Following the coup, the amount of violence and human rights violations was quite overwhelming. Violence is to be expected from the Sudanese military; it has led civil wars for 50 years and killing people is basically all it knows.

    Seven months after the coup, at least 102 people have been killed in peaceful protests, more than 4,000 have been injured, and over 5,000 have been detained. There have been attacks on the freedoms of association and expression. Journalists are being attacked: at least three female journalists have been prosecuted or arrested in the past couple of days. The military coup has completely destroyed the civic space and freedoms created after the revolution. Our military is learning from our neighbour, Egypt, to effectively crush the civic movement.

    For the past seven months we have lived under a state of emergency that was only lifted three weeks ago. But the lifting of the state of emergency made no difference to military practices on the ground. The international community has put some pressure on the government and the military but has not been able to stop the violence and civic space and human rights violations.

    An aspect to consider is that Sudan has three conflict areas: Blue Nile, Darfur and Nuba Mountains. As well as western and southern Sudan, there’s also inter-communal violence in eastern Sudan. The coup hasn’t been able to provide security, although this is always the main excuse for the military to take power. Violence in urban areas, including the capital, has increased, especially for women. Members of the security forces, including the Central Reserve Police (CRP), have perpetrated gang rapes and sexual assaults against women; for this reason, the CRP has been recently sanctioned by the USA. A peace agreement was signed in October 2020 with several armed groups but hasn’t been effectively implemented. 

    Sudan’s economy has been in a freefall since the coup. We expected to have our debt cancelled by this year, but because of the coup, the Paris Club, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank decided not to move forward. Instead, the IMF, the World Bank and international donors have frozen over two billion dollars in economic aid, which is directly affecting the general humanitarian situation. Recent reports from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimate at least half of Sudanese people will need humanitarian aid this year.

    Another impact of the coup was the internet shutdown. For at least seven weeks, HRDs lived under a complete communications shutdown. This has now been partially lifted, but internet and phone communications continue to be cut off on every day of protest – which means it has happened every single day for several weeks. Internet access is under very harsh surveillance, so no Sudanese activist feels safe to use the phone for work. Sudan has one of the worst cybercrime laws in the world: you can be prosecuted, tried and sentenced to five years in jail just for posting something on Facebook. A couple of months ago, a female HRD who reported the sexual violence that took place during protests was sent to jail, accused of posting ‘fake news’. She may be punished with up to 20 years in prison. The military have used this law to threaten activists both inside and outside Sudan.

    We are back to the situation that preceded the revolution. We feel that the old regime is back; in fact, the military has started appointing people from the former regime everywhere, from national television to the Humanitarian Commission, which is responsible for managing the work of civil society organisations (CSOs) inside Sudan. So CSOs are back to needing to request authorisation to hold meetings at venues outside our offices and are under constant surveillance. Activists, journalists and lawyers are being silenced because power went back to the military.

    What are protesters’ demands?

    Following the revolution, the deal reached between the military and civilians never satisfied the protest movement, which includes a high proportion of young people and women. They have never stopped protesting, not even during the transitional period, from August 2019 to October 2021. There have been at least 20 killings of HRDs since the transition began, but this hasn’t stopped them. So when the coup happened, people were instantly in the streets, even before an official announcement of the coup was made.

    Since 2018, protesters have demanded real democracy and civilian rule. We have had military governments 90 per cent of the time since we became independent: 59 years out of 64. After the regime fell on 11 April 2019, people started a sit-in in front of the military’s headquarters. This continued for two months and ended with the Khartoum Massacre on 3 June 2019, with attacks perpetrated by militias and security forces. Two hundred people were killed and at least 60 women were gang-raped. In August a deal was reached with the military, despite the massacre that literally happened outside their headquarters! This was a stab in the heart for many democracy groups.

    Right now, the protest movement wants to make sure civilians are the ones ruling the country. Military leaders should go back to guarding the borders and shouldn’t have anything to do with running the government anymore. The 2019 deal didn’t work, which means our only option is demanding radical change that puts power in people’s hands. Resistance committees have a slogan of ‘three nos’: no partnership, no negotiation or compromise, and no legitimacy. A process of dialogue and negotiations led by some political parties is currently taking place, but resistance committees refuse to engage. Unfortunately, this has not been welcomed by some international actors, but it comes as a direct result of recent Sudanese experience.

    Who are the people on the streets?

    Protesters have built an amazing grassroots movement; resistance committees have formed in every neighbourhood, even every block. Those who participate in them are ordinary people who have nothing to lose, so unlike the civilian elites, they are willing to continue the struggle until the end. They organise street protests every single day and are creating new ways of protesting, such as strikes, stand-ups, music, movies and poems. They use every tool available, including recreating Sudanese traditions and bringing our cultural heritage to the streets.

    Women and feminist movements are doing an amazing job, breaking so many norms. During the revolution, many young women were on the frontlines. The Angry, a protest group that stays on the frontlines of every protest, protecting other people and leading clashes with the police, includes lots of young women.

    Women are also working to provide medical care and trauma support. After 50 years of civil war, you will definitely be a traumatised country, but this has intensified following the past five years of revolt. Before, one was able to distinguish between people from war zones and people from cities. Right now, the whole country is a war zone. There are machine guns everywhere, firing bullets into neighbourhoods, and children are dying inside their own homes because bullets go through their roofs.

    Diaspora activism has also been key. Activists from the diaspora have been super effective in spreading the word, and during the internet shutdown they were online 24/7 to get information out to the world, not only sharing it on social media but also connecting people inside Sudan, who could receive international calls but not domestic ones.

     What kind of work are pro-democracy groups doing?

    The pro-democracy camp is very diverse. There are longstanding CSOs that have always promoted and advocated for human rights and continue to document violations, advocate, engage and build capacity inside the democracy movements. There are also new grassroots groups, the resistance committees, thar right now are the key movement leaders: other CSOs will follow their lead since they express the majority view. Professional organisations and trade unions are also a major group; they are key in organising mobilisations in urban areas. Doctors, lawyers, engineers and similar roles play an important role in putting pressure through strikes and civil disobedience. 

    Unfortunately, for the time being there’s not a single unified network or body that can represent the democracy movement in Sudan. This is the movement’s main weakness. Resistance committees are trying to produce a unified political declaration and how to unify this movement while including all of Sudan, even conflict areas, is being discussed.

    What international support do Sudanese HRDs need?

    Our country must not be forgotten. The international community must take action and support the democracy movement’s demands for fundamental change. International human rights bodies must put make Sudan a priority. Sudanese civil society is fighting to get Sudan on top of their agenda, especially since the war started in Ukraine and most attention is going that way.

    Neglecting building democracy in Sudan and leaving power in the hands of the military would be a big mistake. What’s going on here isn’t disconnected from what’s going on in Ukraine. Reports indicate the involvement of the Sudanese military and militias in smuggling gold that supports the Russian economy during this conflict. Moreover, many reports have exposed the strong relations of Sudanese Rapid Support Forces (RSF) leaders with Russian leadership; they were in Russia the week the war started to ensure the flow of gold. RSF militias have relations with other African countries like Chad and the Central Africa Republic, which are sources of blood gold and blood diamonds entering Russia through Sudan. 

    Sanctions would be an important tool. A couple of days ago, the International Bar Association called on the UK to apply Magnitsky sanctions in Sudan. International CSOs should move ahead with similar actions.

    It’s understandably hard for the international community to deal with the people in the absence of an actual government or elite they could deal with. But young university students are the democracy movement’s leaders, and they represent us. Protests have continued for eight months now and will probably continue for many more, and activists need a lot of help.

    Because of persecution and violence, many CSOs and local groups have had to move their operations outside Sudan, and activists have had to relocate. Those working inside Sudan are having a very low-profile and using all the digital and physical security strategies available. Access to funding has also been increasingly challenging. The military wants to find out where funding for the democracy movement is coming from and has therefore increased surveillance, which makes it very risky to receive funds inside Sudan. Organisations working at grassroots levels and in conflict areas are suffering the most.

    Civic space in Sudan is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Follow@nazik_kabalo on Twitter. 

     

  • Sudan: Civil society call on Human Rights Council to dispatch an independent international fact-finding mission to establish the facts and circumstances of alleged human rights violations committed in Sudan

    To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the UN Human Rights Council

    Dear Excellencies,

    We, the undersigned Sudanese, African and international organisations and individuals, write to you ahead of the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council (“the Council”), which will take place from 25 February-22 March 2019, to express our concerns and urge you to address the Sudanese government’s crackdown on peaceful demonstrators and ongoing violations of human rights. Since 13 December 2018, tens of thousands of people have protested throughout Sudan and the authorities have responded by indiscriminately firing live ammunition and tear gas into crowds of peaceful protesters killing more than 50 civilians.

     

  • Sudan: Civilian and political leaders must be immediately released

    Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS calls on the Sudanese military to stop using violence against peaceful protesters and respect the transitional government. On 25 October 2021, the Sudanese military dissolved the civilian government and proceeded to arrest and detain political leaders including Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. These actions by the military contravene the Constitutional Declaration (Charter) and the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people gained following nation wide protests in 2019. These developments pose major setbacks to the democratic commitments of the transitional leadership in Sudan and threaten to reverse any gains made over the last three years. More than seven protesters have been killed and 140 wounded as the military have used violence to quell peaceful protests calling for the transitional administration to be respected.

    The Sudanese military has arrested and detained many members of the Sovereign Council – the body tasked with managing the political transition ahead of planned elections, government officials, politicians, civilians, and the director of a public broadcaster. The military has also disrupted telecommunications and internet connectivity, restricting access to information. The disruption of the internet now limits freedom of expression and there are serious concerns that the military will resort to increased violence as protesters demonstrate against the military take over. Connectivity to the internet, the right to freedom of assembly and expression are crucial to the success of the democratic transition ahead of planned elections and the consolidation of democracy. These restrictions imposed by the military will derail the transition process and threaten stability ahead of elections.

    We call for the immediate release of detained civilians and politicians, who have been unlawfully arrested. All parties must exercise restraint, resumedialogue and engage in good faith within the framework of the Political Declaration and the Constitutional Decree to restore peace and constitutional order,said Paul Mulindwa, Advocacy and Campaigns Africa Lead for CIVICUS. To this end, it is critical that telecommunication and internet connectivity are immediately restored.

    On 16 October 2021, Prime Minister Hamdok, cautioned that Sudan was experiencing the “worst crisis” of its transition to civilian rule following the removal of longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir. His remarks pointed to the tensions between those who believe in a transition towards democracy and civilian leadership and those who want a return to military rule following a thwarted coup attempt on 21 September 2021.

    Background

    Sudan’s Sovereign Council is charged with leading the country through the current transitional process that would lead to elections in November 2022. Military and civilian leaders have been at odds since the establishment of the transition government in 2019. On Saturday, 23 October 2021, thousands of military-aligned protesters gathered in front of the presidential palace in the capital, Khartoum, calling for the resignation of the Sovereign Council. This protest was called by a military-aligned faction of the Forces of Freedom and Change alliance (FFC), that participated in the 2019 civil protests, which removed the former president al-Bashir. Amidst the current crisis, Sudan remains in a deep economic crisis and sharp division. The dissolution of transition government and military takeover exacerbate the situation.

    The CIVICUS Monitor an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in countries across the globe, rates civic space – the space for civil society – in Sudan as repressed.

     

  • SUDAN: Demands for political change are fuelled by brutal state response to protests

    Abdel Rahman El Mahdi Sudan2Following a year that was marked by the violent repression of any kind of opposition and dissent in Sudan, a situation that has continued unchanged into 2019, CIVICUS speaks to Abdel-Rahman El Mahdi, a civil society activist and founder of the Sudanese Development Initiative (SUDIA). SUDIA is a civil society organisation that works toward stability, development and good governance in Sudan. With over 20 years of experience in international development, Abdel-Rahman specialises in organisational management and programming, with a thematic expertise extending to peacebuilding and human security, and civic engagement and democratic transformation. 

    What is driving the current wave of protests in Sudan?

    The current wave of protests was initially sparked by the rising cost of living and the increasing difficulties the Sudanese people are facing in meeting their basic needs. Poor economic and fiscal policy coupled with unbridled corruption had led to record high inflation rates, widening poverty and causing critical shortages in basic commodities and services. Shortages of fuel and bread across the country had people standing in long queues for hours to get these basic living commodities. A chronic liquidity crisis where banks and ATMs were only dispensing up to 2,000 Sudanese pounds a day (approximately US$40) to account holders was also making things worse and fuelling a lack of confidence in the banking system and the overall situation of the country.

     

  • Sudan: Ensure continued public debates on the human rights situation

    To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (Geneva, Switzerland)

    Excellencies,

    Following the military coup of 25 October 2021,[1] the UN Human Rights Council took urgent action by holding a special session, on 5 November 2021, and adopting a resolution re­ques­ting the High Commis­sioner to designate an Expert on Human Rights in the Sudan.[2]

    As per resolution S-32/1, which was adopted by consensus with the support of the Group of African Sta­tes, the Expert’s mandate will be ongoing “until the restoration of [Sudan’s] civi­lian-led Govern­ment.” The Council made it clear that the term of office for the designated Expert will conclude “upon the restoration of [Sudan’s] civilian-led Government.”[3]

    Ahead of the Council’s 50th session (13 June-8 July 2022), we, the undersigned non-governmental organisations, are writing to urge your delegation to support the adoption of a resolution that ensures continued attention to Sudan’s human rights situation through enhanced interactive dia­logues at the Council’s 52nd and 53rd regular sessions.

    While the Expert’s mandate is ongoing, a resolution is required for the Council to hold public de­bates and continue to formally discuss the situation. A resolution at the Council’s 50th session would ope­ra­tio­nalise resolution S-32/1, which in its operative paragraph 19 called upon “the High Commis­sioner and the designated Expert to monitor human rights violations and abu­ses and to continue to bring information thereon to the attention of the Human Rights Council, and to advise on the further steps that may be needed if the situation continues to deteriorate.”

    *   *   *

    As the de facto military authorities are consolidating their power[4] and human rights violations continue, including against peaceful protesters[5] and in Darfur and other conflict areas,[6] once-yearly reporting by the High Com­mis­sioner as part of her reports and updates under the Council’s agenda item 2, followed by a ge­neral debate, would be insufficient to maintain an adequate level of atten­tion to the country.

    The Council has a responsibility to follow up on its meaningful action on Sudan. It should ensure that the High Commissioner publicly and regularly reports on the human rights situation and that dedicated public debates continue to be held. The High Commissioner, with the assistance of the desi­gna­ted Expert on Human Rights in the Sudan, should be able to present updates and reports on the situ­ation of human rights in Sudan.

    Programme budget implications (PBIs) are required for the formal presentation of reports to the Council and holding of interactive dialogues and enhanced interactive dialogues. A resolution with the necessary PBIs could be approached from a technical perspective; it could be a procedural text that achieves just this: mobilising budget for reports and public debates on Sudan.

    We believe that interactive dialogues on Sudan’s hu­man rights situation should be held in an enhanced format, allowing for the participation of various stakeholders, including UN agency and civil society representatives. We also believe that the Council should discuss the human rights situation in Sudan at least twice a year. Furthermore, we believe that to avoid any risk of a public reporting gap, the Council should act at its 50th session – the last session during which presentation of a comprehensive written report is currently planned.

    Ahead of the Council’s 50th session, we therefore urge your delegation to support the adoption of a resolution that:

    • Recalls resolution S-32/1, including its request that the High Commis­sioner and the desi­gna­ted Expert continue to report on human rights violations and abu­ses com­mitted in Sudan and to advise on the further steps that may be needed;
    • Requests the High Commissioner, with the assistance of the designated Expert on Human Rights in the Sudan, to update the Council at its 52nd session, in an en­han­ced interactive dialogue, on the situation of human rights in Sudan; and
    • Further requests the High Commissioner, with the assistance of the designated Expert on Human Rights in the Sudan, to present to the Council, at its 53rd session, a comprehensive written report focusing on the situation of human rights in Sudan, to be followed by an enhanced interactive dialogue, and to continue to report on the situation of human rights in Sudan to the Council twice a year.

    We thank you for your attention to these pressing issues and stand ready to provide your delegation with further information as required.

    Sincerely,

    1. Act for Sudan
    2. African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
    3. African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS)
    4. AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network)
    5. Amnesty International
    6. Association of Sudanese-American Professors in America (ASAPA)
    7. Atrocities Watch
    8. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
    9. CIVICUS
    10. CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide)
    11. Darfur Bar Association
    12. Darfur Network for Monitoring and Documentation
    13. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    14. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
    15. Geneva for Human Rights / Genève pour les Droits de l’Homme (GHR)
    16. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P)
    17. Governance Programming Overseas
    18. HAKI Africa – Kenya
    19. HUDO Centre
    20. Human Rights and Advocacy Network for Democracy – Sudan
    21. Human Rights Watch
    22. International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)
    23. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    24. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    25. International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI)
    26. International Service for Human Rights
    27. Investors Against Genocide
    28. Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) – Sudan
    29. Justice Africa Sudan
    30. Justice Centre for Advocacy and Legal Consultations – Sudan
    31. Kamma Organisation for Development Initiatives (KODI)
    32. Lawyers for Justice Sudan
    33. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
    34. Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur
    35. Never Again Coalition
    36. Nubsud Human Rights Monitors Organization (NHRMO)
    37. Physicians for Human Rights
    38. REDRESS
    39. Regional Centre for Training and Development of Civil Society (RCDCS) – Sudan
    40. Regional Coalition for WHRDs in MENA (WHRDMENA Coalition)
    41. Rights for Peace
    42. Rights Realization Centre (RRC)
    43. Sudan and South Sudan Forum e.V.
    44. Sudan’s Doctors for Human Rights
    45. The Sudanese Archives
    46. Sudanese Human Rights Initiative (SHRI)
    47. Sudanese Lawyers and Legal Practitioners’ Association in the UK
    48. Sudanese Women Rights Action
    49. Sudan Human Rights Monitor (SHRM)
    50. Sudan Transparency and Policy Tracker
    51. Sudan Unlimited
    52. SUDO (UK)
    53. Waging Peace

     

    [1] DefendDefenders et al., “Sudan: The UN Human Rights Council should act urgently and hold a special session,” 28 October 2021, https://defenddefenders.org/sudan-the-un-human-rights-council-should-act-urgently-and-hold-a-special-session/ (accessed 4 May 2022).

    [2] DefendDefenders, “The UN Human Rights Council takes a step to address the crisis in Sudan,” 5 November 2021, https://defenddefenders.org/the-un-human-rights-council-takes-a-step-to-address-the-crisis-in-sudan/ (accessed 4 May 2022).

    [3] HRC resolution S-32/1, UN Doc. A/HRC/RES/S-32/1, available at https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G21/319/08/PDF/G2131908.pdf (operative paragraphs 15 and 17).

    [4] Sudan Information Service, “Sudan Uprising Report: Build up to the military coup of 25 October,” 6 November 2021, https://www.sudaninthenews.com/political-briefings (accessed 4 May 2022).

    [5] Human Rights Watch, “Sudan: Ongoing Clampdown on Peaceful Protesters 3 Months After Coup; Concrete Action Needed to End Repression,” 3 February 2022, https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/02/03/sudan-ongoing-clampdown-peaceful-protesters (accessed 4 May 2022).

    [6] African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS), “West Darfur: 35 people killed and a dozen injured in Jebel Moon attack as security continues to deteriorate in Sudan,” 24 March 2022, https://www.acjps.org/west-darfur-35-people-killed-and-a-dozen-injured-in-jebel-moon-attack-as-security-continues-to-deteriorate-across-sudan/ (accessed 9 May 2022).

     

  • Sudan: Excessive force of protests continues under transitional government

    42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Statement on the situation of human rights in Sudan

    CIVICUS and the Sudanese Development Initiative are encouraged by the agreement reached between the Forces for Freedom and Change and the Transitional Military Council on 5 July 2019.  We applaud the African Union and Ethiopia for their role in mediating the Sudanese-led talks and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) for its support to the process.

    Consequently, there has been some improvement, albeit minimal, in the human rights situation in Sudan. There are reports of activists and human rights defenders facing intimidation, arrests and government surveillance as well as Sudanese militia continuing to use excessive force to respond to peaceful protests. 

    Security personnel who used excessive force in June 2019 against peaceful protesters have not been held accountable and brought to justice. We are outraged that four school children were among five people shot dead by security forces during a peaceful protest in the Sudanese city - El-Obeid on 29 July 2019. 

    Mr. President, CIVICUS welcomes the agreement reached in August 2019 which includes a commitment to conduct an investigation into the violence perpetrated against peaceful protesters in June 2019. However, for sustainable peace and stability in Sudan, it is imperative for an independent, impartial and transparent investigation be immediately conducted into violations and abuses committed in relation to peaceful protests since December 2018 to ensure justice to all victims of such violence. 

    We call on the transitional government to ensure the release of detained activists, work towards locating missing individuals from the 3 June sit-in dispersal, and refrain from using force against peaceful protesters.  The transitional government should move away from Sudan’s turbulent past by  protecting  the right to freedom of expression for all persons, and work towards an effective and peaceful transition toward democracy.

    We urge the Sudanese authorities and citizens to continue their commitments and spirit of dialogue in addressing all the underlying causes of the protests which has resulted in this historic revolution. 

    We call on the Council to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert at this critical time, and we ask the Independent Expert on Sudan what steps the international community, including the Human Rights Council, should be taking to address the ongoing human rights violations in Sudan, and to ensure accountability for perpetrators and justice for those affected since December 2018?

     

  • Sudan: Free women detainees!

    CIVICUS joins civil society groups in calling for the immediate release of Sudanese women human rights defenders in detention, and accountability for the crimes committed against them.

     

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