Tag Archives: Sudan

Africa’s human rights tribunal issues damning decision in Sudan torture case

African Arguments

By Katherine Perks

Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, president of Sudan, listens to translated remarks during the opening of the 20th session of The New Partership for Africa's Development (NEPAD)

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission), Africa’s main human rights body, recently published a decision holding Sudan responsible for the arbitrary detention and torture of three prominent Sudanese human rights defenders. Osman Hummaida, Amir Suliman and Monim El Jak were detained and tortured by Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) in November 2008 for their alleged support to the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) investigations into mass atrocities perpetrated in Sudan’s Darfur region. They left Sudan shortly after their release, fearing for their safety.

The African Commission found that there were no effective remedies in Sudan to redress the violations suffered by the three complainants, and in any case, the authorities had failed to investigate or take any steps to remedy the harm caused. It also found that Sudan violated the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights when it forcibly closed the Khartoum Centre for Human Rights and Environmental Development (KCHRED), of which one of the complainants was Director, and froze the organisation’s assets on account of its perceived links with the ICC.

It would be an understatement to say the case was, and remains, politically sensitive. The ICC was investigating, and subsequently issued arrest warrants in 2009, for sitting President Omar Hassan Al Bashir, two other senior officials and a pro-government militia leader accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. A more recent arrest warrant, detailing three counts of genocide, was issued for Al Bashir in 2010.

Hummaida, Suliman and El Jak – three friends and colleagues – were detained for three days in November 2008. Their interrogation and torture at the hands of Sudan’s security centred on the whereabouts of alleged evidence proving they had supported the investigation against Al Bashir and his officials.

Although they could name some of the perpetrators involved in their detention and torture (after three days of torture, Hummaida was taken to meet with the then head of the national security, Salah Gosh) the African Commission made no findings of individual responsibility. This is because, unlike criminal tribunals such as the ICC that make findings of criminal responsibility for serious international crimes like torture, the African Commission focuses on state responsibility for violations of human rights law.

In its decision, the African Commission called on Sudan to investigate and hold the alleged perpetrators to account, pay compensation to the complainants, and re-open and unfreeze the bank account of KCHRED. It gave 180 days for Sudan to provide notice of steps taken to implement its recommendations.

The decision is important not least because it comes from Africa’s leading human rights body. Unlike international human rights bodies set up by the UN that have been criticised (rightly or wrongly) for imposing western norms on states, the African Commission monitors human rights standards negotiated and adopted by African states.

The problem is that states do not have a strong track record of implementing recommendations of the African Commission, and there are few avenues for ensuring compliance. It has been described as a “paper tiger”: a monitoring body without teeth. Its decisions are quasi-judicial, meaning they are not binding, and it has no enforcement powers.

Added to this, the African Commission has long been neglected within the African political system. It was not referred to in the AU Constitutive Act and thus does not enjoy status as an AU organ. It is under-funded and its Commissioners have bemoaned insufficient staffing and resources to implement their mandates.

In theory, if a state fails to comply with its recommendations, the African Commission can refer the case to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which does issue binding decisions. Yet just 24 out of 54 AU member states have accepted the jurisdiction of the court – and Sudan is not one of them. The African Commission can also report to political organs of the AU on state compliance with its decisions and these do have enforcement mechanisms.

In the case of Sudan, the possibility of state compliance with African Commission decisions therefore rests largely on political factors, and the weight given to them by the AU’s political organs.

The key political consideration for the AU is the balancing act between the implementation of agreed human rights standards and the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of states, enshrined in the AU Charter. Sudan, until now, has benefitted from near-unified support for the latter within the AU as well as from key members of the UN Security Council.

This truth is no better illuminated than with the ICC file on Darfur that the three human rights defenders were accused of supporting in 2008. As ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda recently attested to in an emphatic statement to the UN Security Council, there has been painfully little progress in the Darfur case since 2009.

Responsibility for this failure relates not only to the non-cooperation of Sudan but also the failure of the UN Security Council to enforce the ICC arrest warrants. Bashir has travelled to a number of countries in Africa and the Middle East since the warrants for his arrest were issued, emboldened by the support of countries such as China – a permanent member with a veto – that can effectively bar coercive Security Council action when states fail to effect the ICC arrest warrants.

Bensouda warned in December that this inaction serves to “embolden perpetrators to continue their brutality” and pleaded for Security Council support to apprehend Al Bashir, a “fugitive from justice”.

At the regional level, the AU has repeatedly called for non-cooperation by its member states and for the AU states with treaty obligations toward the ICC (there are 24) to renege. In January a resolution of the AU commended the Democratic Republic of Congo for failing to arrest Bashir during a state visit and questioned the wisdom of prosecuting African leaders, reaffirming its belief in the immunity from prosecution of “sitting Heads of State and other senior officials during their tenure in office”. From the beginning, the AU has also contended that the ICC investigation will disrupt on-going peace processes in Darfur.

Meanwhile, six years on from the indictments, peace remains illusive and civilians bear the brunt of conflict that continues to rage and grow more complex. In December and January, more than 20,700 people were newly displaced from their homes in North Darfur state alone.

Outside Darfur, targeted attacks on civilians by government ground and air forces in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states since conflict erupted between the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) and Khartoum’s government in mid-2011 has received woefully little international attention. Although reliable figures are difficult to obtain, an estimated 940,000 people are thought to be in need of humanitarian assistance in these areas.

The lack of international interest and information on Sudan can in part be blamed on the routine denial of visas to international journalists and the daily harassment faced by the local media. A growing list of issues is subjected to censorship, including the armed conflicts. On 16 February the entire print runs of 14 Khartoum newspapers were confiscated by the NISS before morning distribution without reasons being given.

In a recent Washington Post interview, Bashir denied the reports of ethnic cleansing, mass killings and rapes in Darfur that are the basis of the ICC investigation, claiming the process is purely political. What is clear is that the implementation or otherwise of human rights commitments made by states is a deeply political game that until now has shielded those responsible for mass atrocities in Sudan from the reach of justice.

The recent African Commission decision finding Sudan responsible for the arbitrary detention and torture of the three human rights activists for allegedly supporting the ICC investigations represents an important recognition of the harm they suffered, and the systemic failures in human rights protection in the country. Sudan’s compliance with the African Commission’s decision, including its call to hold the alleged perpetrators to account, will require significant pressure both from the African Commission itself by way of follow up, and from civil society calling on African leaders to uphold the authority of home-grown human rights institutions.

Against this backdrop it is easy to feel pessimistic about the trajectory of human rights protection mechanisms in Africa, and specifically the human rights crisis in Sudan. Yet Sudanese human rights defenders and activists show remarkable resilience and determination. Shortly after their release from detention and their flight from Sudan, Hummaida set up the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) a campaign organisation dedicated to monitoring and promoting human rights and law reform in Sudan. He directed the organization until his untimely death in 2014. Suliman leads the legal work of the organisation from exile, pursuing redress for countless other Sudanese torture survivors.

Katherine Perks is Programme Director at the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) based in Kampala, Uganda. She is a human rights advocate with a special interest in equality and non-discrimination. She previously conducted research and developed policy and campaign positions on human rights at Rights of Women, The Equal Rights Trust and Amnesty International.

Sudan becomes arms producer

Radio Dabanga/allAfrica

Abu Dhabi / Khartoum — A wide range of Sudanese weapons and military equipment are currently on display at the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (Idex) in Abu Dhabi.

All the weapons are produced by the state-owned Military Industry Corporation (MIC). Since its establishment in 1993, MIC has strongly expanded its production, making Sudan the third largest weapons producer in Africa, after Egypt and South Africa.

President Omar Al Bashir attended the Idex opening ceremony on Sunday. He arrived at the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Saturday, accompanied by a an 11-member delegation, comprised of Ministers of the Presidency, Defence, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Investments, Electricity, Minerals, Livestock and Fisheries, Labour, the director of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), and the head of police.

It is Al Bashir’s first official trip to the UAE since 2008. MIC spokesman, Ali Osman Mahmoud, said that the visit represents an effort on the part of the Sudanese government to improve ties with the UAE, Khaleeej Times reported on Monday.

Embargo

An international arms embargo was imposed on Sudan in the early 1990’s. “We ourselves had to meet the needs of our armed forces and reach self-sufficiency,” Mahmoud explained. “We have reached a level in which we are producing genuine, highly-efficient products. We now hope that we can compete with other countries.”

He said that all Sudanese weapons systems are battle-proven, and have been tested in the field. “Our army is already using these very same products.”

“We would like to pursue new technologies and get up to date, in the area of electro-optics, for example. We now have enough technologies that we are able to computerise, and upgrade all our systems,” the MIC spokesman added.

On display

The MIC presented the Khalifa-1, a self-propelled D-30 howitzer, capable of sending a 122-mm projectile to strike targets up to 20km away; the Khatim-2, which has been identified as the Sudanese version of the Iranian Boraq-2 IFV, which is similar to the Russian BMP-2; a mobile version of the Taka 107 mm multiple rocket launcher, as well as the Nimir long-range patrol vehicle; an unarmoured Tamal tactical vehicle, and the Sarsar-2 armoured reconnaissance vehicle, that is listed as being armoured to the Russian CEN level BR6.

A stabilised remote weapon station called the Ateed appeared to be identical to the ARIO-H762, which is made by an Iranian company.

Other new products on the main stand appeared to be of Chinese origin, among them the Sarib anti-tank guided missile, which strongly resembles the Chinese HJ-8 optically tracked, wire-guided system on the lightweight launcher. Another Chinese weapon, the 35 mm QLZ-87 automatic grenade launcher, of which the MIC says it produces under the name Ahmed was not on display.

Among the Sudanese-produced vehicles on display are self-propelled mortar and rocket-launching systems, and smaller vehicles for use on long-range patrols over rough terrain. Many of the MIC vehicles are designed to operate on long-distances in remote areas.

Sudan participated at the Idex for the first time in 2013.

(Sources: Khaleej Times, Sudan Tribune, Sudan Vision Daily)

Sudan – 18,000 displaced by government and militia attacks in Jebel Marra

Sudan Tribune

January 21, 2015 (KHARTOUM) – The number of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the capital of North Darfur state have reached 18,000 people said OCHA a UN body tasked with the coordination of humanitarian action on Wednesday.

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A child walks with her mother to their shelter at the Zam Zam camp for displaced people in North Darfur on 11 June 2014 (Photo: Albert Gonzalez Farran/AFP/Getty Images)

“The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that more than 18,000 people have been newly verified as displaced in El-Fasher, Shangil Tobaya, Tawila and Um Baru areas in North Darfur, according to humanitarian partners,” said Farhan Haq, UN chief deputy spokesperson.

Haq further said that more than 2,200 IDPs sought protection at the UNAMID site in Um Baru, adding that people continue to arrive too the base of the hybrid peacekeeping mission there.

He also pointed that 200 IDPs reached UNAMID camp in Sortony area which is not far from Jebel Marra “reportedly fearing attacks on villages in the area”.

Since the beginning of this year, the Sudanese army and the government militias carry out military attacks on the rebel positions in Jebel Marra in North Darfur.

The spokesperson of the army said they expulsed different factions of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) from the eastern part of Jebel Marra and captured strategic rebel positions.

Also the army and the rebels confirmed the death of the SLM-Minni Minnawi to operational commander Mohamed Hari on 13 January in an ambush near Orshi, North Darfur.

OCHA said aid groups on the ground provide civilians affected by the fighting in the area with humanitarian assistance including healthcare and household items.

However, the Un body says “that aid agencies aren’t able to access those displaced in the Jebel Marra area and assess their needs due to ongoing hostilities and access constraints.”

access to this isolated area continues to be a challenge for humanitarians but that efforts are underway to carry out a rapid assessment and deliver humanitarian assistance.

(ST)

Sudan – Umma Party preparing to go underground as government dissolves it

Sudan Tribune
January 18, 2015 (KHARTOUM) – The opposition National Umma Party (NUP) has agreed to freeze the work of its internal bodies and will operate secretly in the wake of the government’s move to dissolve the party, a senior NUP source told Sudan Tribune.

The decision was in response to a proposal made by NUP leader al-Sadiq al-Mahdi who is currently in Cairo that was taken up by the politburo in a meeting that continued till the early hours of Sunday.

The source, who requested anonymity, said that the proposal saw stiff resistance from current Secretary General Sara Nugdalla and group loyal to ex-SG Sideeg Ismail. Both ended up withdrawing from the meeting to express their disapproval of the move.

This week it was revealed that the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) filed a request since last December with the Council of Political parties to dissolve the NUP on the grounds that al-Mahdi is a signatory to the ‘Paris Declaration’ and ‘Sudan Call’ accords with rebel groups stressing that it calls for dismantling the one-party state and mobilizing all forces “to change the existing constitutional order in the country that carries a military aspect”.

The NISS said in its complaint that alliance with rebels violates Sudan interim constitution of 2005 and Political Parties Act of 2007.

It further said that these accords should be regarded as direct moral support that adopts the approach of military action carried out by rebel bearing arms against the existing constitutional system contrary to the obligations imposed on it by the Constitution and the law on the peaceful transfer of power through elections .

“[S]upporting them [rebels] from the NUP is inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution and the law,” reads the NISS filing seen by Sudan Tribune

“Based on the aforementioned, we ask your esteemed council to exercise and effect your authority contained in articles 10, 13, 14, and 19 of the Political Parties Act”.

The articles referenced by NISS states that a political party would be deprived from contesting in elections or have its activities frozen or be dissolved through an order of the Constitutional Court based on a lawsuit filed by a two-third majority of Council of Political Parties.

The NUP deputy chairman Fadlallah Burma said on Wednesday that they are preparing legal and political arguments refuting the NISS demand.

Burma called this move a “violation of the constitution and bypassing democracy”.

On Saturday, opposition parties the house of late PM Ismail al-Azhari expressed solidarity with the NUP in face of dissolution threats.

The Sudanese Communist Party (SCP) and NUP held a meeting today and issued a joint statement expressing their rejection of the dissolution request calling it a breach of an inherent constitutional right for a old party exercising its right with “responsibility and patriotism”.

Last December, Sudanese political and armed opposition forces and civil society organizations signed the “Sudan Call” agreement in Addis Ababa which calls for ending the war, dismantling the one-party state, achieving a comprehensive peace and democratic transition in the country.

This was preceded by the signing of the “Paris Declaration” last August between the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) and the NUP which calls for a comprehensive solution involving all the political forces including rebel groups. It further stresses on the need to create a conducive environment in order to hold a genuine national dialogue.

Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir described the signatories as agents, traitors and mercenaries who sealed these deals with sponsorship of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Israeli intelligence service (Mossad).

Bashir also vowed to try al-Mahdi, who has been based in Cairo since the accords, once he returns to Sudan for his alliance with SRF unless he disavows these agreements.

But al-Mahdi rejected these conditions and demanded an apology for Bashir’s accusations.

The leader of Sudan’s opposition National Umma Party (NUP), Sadiq al-Mahdi (Photo: Reuters)

(ST)

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Sudan – al-Mahdi calls on Bashir to accept unity of Sudan’s opposition groups

Sudan Tribune

(ADDIS ABABA) – Leader of the opposition National Umma Party (NUP) has called on president Omer al-Bashir to admit the unity of the opposition groups, adding the conditions are favourable for an inclusive and comprehensive peace process in Sudan .

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Sadiq al-Mahdi speaks to reporters in a press conference held in Addis Ababa on 30 Nov 2014 (ST)

Sadiq al-Mahdi was speaking to reporters following a meeting held with the head of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) on Sunday before the departure of Thabo Mbeki to Berlin.

In his remarks al-Mahdi said a comprehensive conference with a neutral chairmanship is needed to achieve democratic transition in Sudan once the warring parties reach a cessation of hostilities .

He further wondered why the Sudanese government refuses to negotiate with the rebel alliance Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF), considering the government position is the main obstacle in the current negotiations.

“The problem is that the government does not want to recognise the new reality. This reality that the weapon bearers formed one platform which is the (Sudanese) Revolutionary Front. Why the government refuses to recognise it? Particularly the (SRF) renounced call to overthrow the regime by force and its claim for self-determination,” he said.

“Why (the government) does not want to recognise the Revolutionary Front as a negotiator, and why it does not recognise the unity of the opposition which only wants a just and comprehensive peace”.

The existence of a single platform facilitates comprehensive solutions,” he emphasised.

Few hours before al-Mahdi’s remarks, president Omer al-Bashir warned the opposition parties against any agreement with the rebel groups saying it impact negatively on the morale of the Sudanese army soldiers who are fighting rebels.

He also said al-Mahdi will be tried for signing the Paris Declaration with the SRF groups.

However, ignoring Bashir’s threats, Mahdi announced the opposition forces including the NUP and National Consensus Forces (NCF) will sign a new agreement with the rebel groups.

There will be post Paris Declaration which was between the SRF and the NUP and now we want to expand the base of the agreement.

He pointed that this step is supportive to the ongoing efforts to reach a peaceful settlement because all the (opposition and rebel) parties recognise the decision 456 of the African Union Peace and Security Council and the AUHIP agreement on national dialogue and constitutional process signed by the Paris Declaration forces and the national dialogue committee.

(ST)

Sudan – UN concern over military’s presence at mass rape probe

Reuters

(Reuters) – The heavy presence of Sudan’s military during an investigation by international peacekeepers of an alleged mass rape incident in Sudan’s western Darfur region has raised serious concerns at the Security Council, Australia’s U.N. envoy said on Monday.

Those concerns were reinforced by remarks from a U.N. official, who described the menacing atmosphere the alleged rape victims were subjected to due to the presence of Sudanese troops while they were interviewed about possible acts of sexual violence.

Last week the United Nations said Sudanese troops had denied U.N. and African Union peacekeepers access to a town in Darfur called Tabit where they wanted to investigate reports of an alleged mass rape of some 200 women and girls.

The joint U.N.-AU force in Darfur, known as UNAMID, issued a statement on Monday saying a verification team it sent to Tabit had been granted access to the village after a delay of nearly one week. UNAMID said none of those interviewed confirmed they had been raped and the investigation team found no evidence to support the allegations.

The issue was discussed by the Security Council. Australia Ambassador Gary Quinlan said U.N. special envoy on sexual violence in armed conflict Zainab Hawa Bangura and a number of council members voiced concern about the Sudanese military being present when alleged rape victims were interviewed.

“Ms. Bangura added … that there had been a heavy military presence during the team’s visit and she stressed that while the rape allegations remained unverified, in her view it was not possible to conclude that no sexual violence took place,” said Quinlan, president of the 15-nation council this month.

“A number of members of the council expressed very strong concern over this,” he said, adding that Bangura was worried about a possible “a wall of silence” and that the atmosphere created was one of threats and “fear of reprisal”.

A U.N. official familiar with UNAMID, who is not authorized to speak to the media, said in an interview the situation during Sunday’s investigation was not conducive to a proper examination of allegations of mass rape.

“It was an obvious atmosphere of intimidation,” the official said on condition of anonymity, adding that the military were present in every house the UNAMID team visited to conduct interviews.

One alleged rape victim told members of the team that Sudanese military officials ordered them not to speak to the UNAMID team, saying that a committee headed by an army commander would talk to UNAMID on their behalf.

The U.N. official added that some of the Sudanese soldiers were drunk, which only heightened the menacing atmosphere for the alleged rape victims. The official also noted that some of the soldiers were in uniform and others in civilian clothes.

Sudan’s U.N. mission did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Law and order have collapsed in much of Darfur, where mainly African tribes took up arms in 2003 against the Arab-led government in Khartoum, which they accused of discriminating against them. UNAMID has been deployed in the region since 2007.

Last month, an internal U.N. review found that UNAMID had failed to provide U.N. headquarters in New York with full reports on attacks against civilians and peacekeepers. The review had been ordered in response to media reports alleging that UNAMID intentionally covered up details of deadly attacks.

Sudan – ruling NCP wants to stop election of state governors and have pressident appopint them

Sudan Tribune

October 27, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The National Congress Party (NCP) would forgo the direct election of state governors and instead recommend their appointment by the president of the republic, said a leading member of the ruling party on Monday.

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Delegates attend the general convention of the ruling National Congress Party in Khartoum October 23, 2014. (Photo Reuters Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)

The head of NCP legal secretary, al-Fadel Haj Suleiman, told Sudan Tribune that the Leadership Council will discard the party’s nominees for governors in the next year election and recommend that the president of the republic appoint state governors rather than elect them.

The NCP regional conventions held in the 17 Sudanese states selected 51 people, each state submitted three nominees. The party’s leadership has to pick one of the three to run for governor in the gubernatorial race.

“The General Convention of the party issued a recommendation, requiring to review the federal system, including the selection of governors, after divisions over the appointment or election,” Suleiman said.

He was referring to the failure of the fourth convention, which wrapped up on Saturday, to reach a consensus over the matter.

President al-Bashir in his speech at the opening session of the party’s conference underlined the tribal and ethnic alliances that transpired during the regional conventions particularly in Darfur when it came to select the nominees for governor, and called to correct the “negative effects” of the current territorial administrative system.

“The issue needs to be studied to determine positive and negative effects of previous experiences,” Suleiman said, emphasising that negative tribal and ethnic practices appeared during the nomination of the party’s candidates for the gubernatorial election.

Last September in remarks delivered at the party’s convention in South Darfur’s capital Nyala Ghandour vigorously denounced the functioning of the ruling party in the state saying “the loyalty of its membership is based on tribal affiliations”.

Ghandour further said the “NCP principles call to strengthen the national unity and bring people together on common interests.

Suleiman expected the party opts for the appointment of governors by the president of the republic and advocated saying “this step does not break the principles of democratic governance because an elected president can select the governors who are accountable before elected regional assemblies that can recommend to relieve them.”

He further said that every regional assembly can nominate several persons and the president chooses one of them as governor. Or the head of state can submit some names to the state legislators who will select one of them.

Suleiman said the leadership council might discuss the appointment or the election of governors in its first meeting within a week.

The general convention of the ruling party selected the incumbent president Omer al-Bashir as its candidate for the presidential election scheduled for April 2015.

Last January, Bashir called for a national dialogue process aiming to end war in the Two Areas and Darfur, but also to discuss democratic reforms paving for a permanent constitution.

(ST)