Tag Archives: Sudan

Sudan Tribune

(EAST DARFUR) – Heavy fighting has erupted Monday in East Darfur state between Ma’alia and Rizeigat tribes amid fears that the deadly clashes could leave hundreds dead and injured.

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Maalia and Rezeigat delegations arrive at Al-Tawisha in North Darfur before the signing of a cessation of hostilities deal on 22 August 2013 (Photo: Hamid Abdulsalam/UNAMID)

Sudan Tribune correspondent quoted sources in East Darfur state capital, Ed-Daein as saying the security situation in the city is very tense following outbreak of fighting inside the locality of Abu Karinka which is considered a Ma’alia stronghold.

He noted that East Darfur governor, al-Tayeb Abdel-Karim, chaired an emergency meeting for the state’s security committee to discuss repercussions of the situation, pointing to a looming fierce war between the two tribes if authorities do not make decisive measures to stop the clashes.

The correspondent pointed that Ma’alia have evacuated hundreds of families from Abu Karinka with the approach of confrontations, saying the fate of those families is unknown because most of them have scattered in the desert in search of survival.

Other sources said that Rizeigat mobilized thousands of fellow tribesmen from several areas in Darfur and elsewhere to join the fight against Ma’alia claiming the latter refused to comply with repeated calls for reconciliation and seized their land.

On Saturday, the state governor said that mobilization of the armed tribesmen could lead to the deadliest clashes ever between the two sides.

He stressed that his government has sent large military reinforcements to create a buffer zone between the two tribes and prevent a security breakdown.

Reliable sources revealed to Sudan Tribune on Saturday that the federal government plans to deploy two army battalions to the area backed by two warplanes to monitor movement of the conflicting parties.

Meanwhile, the hybrid peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has expressed serious concern over the recent escalation of tensions between the Rizeigat and the Ma’alia tribes in East Darfur.

It urged in a statement circulated on Monday the “leaders and members of both tribes to exercise maximum restraint, engage in meaningful dialogue to resolve their dispute and refrain from all acts that would lead to violence and displacement.”

The mission welcomed the deployment of additional troops by the Sudanese government to create a buffer zone between the two tribes, calling on it to further intensify its efforts to avoid potential eruption of conflict.

UNAMID added that it “shall continue to protect affected civilians, facilitate and support all efforts by the Sudanese government, native administration, leaders of the two tribes and other stakeholders to de-escalate the tensions and achieve reconciliation between the Rizeigat and Ma’alia in accordance with its mandate.”

In Khartoum, UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Sudan ad interim, Geert Cappalaere, for his part, expressed deep concern at reports of clashes between Ma’alia and Rizeigat.

He called, in a statement on Monday, on warring tribes to stop fighting immediately, exercise restraint to prevent further escalation, and support mediation efforts to resolve the underlying causes of this conflict by peaceful means.

“These towns are full of ordinary people, most of them women and children, who are just trying to live in peace. They should not have to carry the burden of renewed conflict. I would like to remind all parties to this conflict that they have an obligation to protect civilians and to allow them unhindered access to humanitarian assistance.” he said.

The conflict between the Rezeigat and the Ma’alia tribes in East Darfur state is considered one of the longest and most deadly in the region.

Both the Rezeigat and the Ma’alia are pastoralist tribes, based in East Darfur. The centre of Rezeigat territory is in Ed Daein town, while the Ma’alia centre is in Adila, the second largest town after Ed-Daein.

Last month, 20 people were killed and several others injured in renewed clashes between the two tribes in East Darfur state.

In August 2014, 200 Ma’alia and 123 Rezeigat tribesmen were killed in clashes which took place in the Umm Rakubah area in East Darfur’ Abu Karinka locality.

Armed clashes between the two tribes in 2013 killed over 149 people and forced an estimated 51,000 people to flee their homes and seek shelter in Adila, Abu Karinka and Ed-Daein localities.

Last March, the reconciliation conference between the two tribes, which was held under the auspices of Sudan’s first vice-president, Bakri Hassan Salih in the locality of Merowe in the Northern state, stalled over the right of land ownership known as Hakura (traditional land grant).

Tribal fighting has intensified in four of Darfur’s five states during the past two years leading to thousands of deaths and injuries and forcing over 300,000 people to flee their homes. They are usually triggered by land disputes, pasture rights and fighting over water resources. More than 7,000 people were killed in those clashes since 2007.


Sudan – Bashir says electoral victory has increased the burden on him

Sudan Tribune

2015 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir said that the confidence granted to him by the Sudanese people after his re-election has increased his responsibility and burden on his shoulders.

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Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir raises his arm as his supporters cheer at his victory speech after he won the presidential election at the National Congress Party headquarters in Khartoum, Sudan, Monday, April 27, 2015 (AP Photo/Jason Patinkin)

Al-Bashir told his cheering supporters at the National Congress Party (NCP) headquarters that he will work to meet the expectations of those who backed him.

He asserted that the transparency and fairness of the elections has dealt a blow to talk about the low voter turnout and served as a cultural model to others especially the “European colonial powers”.

“Our religion and history is better than theirs [Europeans] a million times”.

The incumbent said that Sudan is the land of the oldest civilization in history of Merowe in north Sudan adding that “it was not a surprise that they gave a lesson to those who look at themselves as guardians of Sudan”.

“With these elections, the Sudanese people gave the world a lesson in ethics, they gave the world a lesson in integrity,” he said.

Al-Bashir also praised Sudanese people saying that they “proved to be genuine people and disrupted attempts of the self-centered and deceived who said they had a pleasant surprise” in reference to the opposition which had announced earlier that the day of the election results announcement will carry a surprise to the ruling party.

“Thank you for your gift, which amounted to more than 200 armed vehicles which will be used to eliminate the terrorists and insurgents” he added.

The Sudanese army has announced over the weekend that it inflicted a crushing defeat on rebels in South Darfur and seized hundreds of vehicles.

Bashir stressed that those who boycotted the elections have exercised their constitutional right “because Sudan is free and its people are free…. whoever does not want to participate it is their right and we respect their opinion and we respect their position,” emphasizing that he would not accept orders or dictates of anyone.

“I salute the election commission and observers who testified with us that the polls were clean, free and transparent,” he added.

The NCP also secured an easy win in the parliamentary elections with 323 out of the 426 seats in the National Assembly.

The opposition boycotted the election, citing widespread crackdown on civil society and the media, which they say created an impossible environment to fairly contest Bashir’s presidency.

The African Union (AU) observer mission confirmed last week the low turnout in the elections saying it would not exceed 40% and said this could be partially due to boycott by opposition parties.

In a statement issued on Monday, the SPLM-N deputy chairman Abdel Aziz Helu rejected the outcome of the “fake elections” saying “it only confirms the regime’s lack of legitimacy”.

Helu further reiterated “the continuation of the armed struggle to serve to the Sudanese people and their rights in citizenship, freedom and democracy”.

In a message of solidarity with protesters in Lagawa town in West Kordofan state, the rebel leader hailed the successful boycott of elections and called to develop actions to achieve popular uprising in order to overthrow the regime.

The European Union, United States, Britain and Norway all criticized the election, saying the lack of a promised national dialogue left Sudan without an inclusive political process.

The Sudan Liberation Movement of Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) announced that it does not recognise the results of the elections and said that Sudanese people boycotted it.

Abu-Obeida al-Khalifa, an SLM official, said that the elections showed the true weight of the NCP and that the international community refused to recognise the results.

In Washington, the US State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told reporters that “we do not consider the outcome of these elections to be a credible expression of the will of the Sudanese people”.


Sudan – joint JEM-Minni-Minawi attack reported in Darfur

Sudan Tribune

April 25, 2015 (KHARTOUM) – A joint force of Sudan Liberation Movement – Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) attacked a South Darfur town near the South Sudanese border, a rebel military spokesperson said on Saturday.

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Rebels from the Sudan Liberation Army led by Minni Minnawi (Photo: Reuters)

South Darfur governor, Adam Mahmoud Jar El-Nabi confirmed Saturday that the rebel fighters have crossed into his state coming from the neighbouring South Sudan.

During the past weeks, the Sudanese army soldiers and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militiamen prevented Darfur rebel groups from penetrating inside the Sudanese territory through West Kordofan and East Darfur. Also Sudanese warplanes bombarded several areas in South Sudan where the rebels allegedly were camping.

In a short statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Saturday evening, SLM-MM military spokesperson Ahmed Adaroub said claimed that the joint rebel force now controls Buram, 80km south of the South Darfur capital, Nyala.

SLM-MM and JEM fighters “captured the town on Saturday 25 April 2015 at 10 am after fierce battle in which many government soldiers and it’s militias were killed,” Adaroub claimed.

He added that further details about the operation would be released soon.

From Kass where he was visiting the families of gunmen killed by the UNAMID soldiers, Jar al-Nabi stated that RSF militiamen monitor a “significant force” of JEM and SLM-MM rebels coming from the South Sudan.

The governor said the battle between the government forces and the rebels would begin soon, adding they would not allow them to reach the mountainous area of Jebel Marra.

Sudan Tribune reporters in the state noticed a massive mobilisation of government troops since last Thursday saying that around 500 military vehicles left Nyala heading to Buram and El-Radoom which is on a triangle area bordering Central Africa Republic and South Sudan.

The director of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), Mohmaed Atta said that the SRF troops are carrying intensive operations in Darfur against the rebel factions and vowed to crush the rebellion this year.

Earlier this year, Atta renewed accusations that South Sudanese government continues to harbour and support Darfur rebel groups but Juba denied the claim.

Since last December the government forces launched a military campaign on the rebel positions in North and Central Darfur states.


IGAD endorses Sudan’s elections

Sudan Tribune

April 17, 2015 (KHARTOUM) – The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) approved of the conduct of the Sudanese elections and declared that it conformed with international standards and was credible overall.

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A Sudanese electoral worker breaks the seal on a ballot box as they begin the process of counting votes for the presidential and legislative elections in Khartoum, Sudan, Friday, April 17, 2015 (AP Photo/Abd Raouf)

Mohammud Abdulahi Hussien, head of IGAD elections monitoring team, said that they successfully deployed their observers to eight states and urged candidates to accept the results or else challenge it through legal venues if needed.

At a press conference he also urged all parties to engage in the national dialogue process launched by president Omer Hassan al-Bashir last year.

Hussien urged officials to train election workers to raise awareness among youngsters whom he said mostly refrained from voting this time around.

The IGAD official acknowledged logistical issues that hindered elections in several states but nonetheless said that the National Elections Commission (NEC) performance improved relative to 2010.

He also underlined the high level of participation and inclusion of women in the voting process.

Yesterday the African Union (AU) team led by former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo called for “enhancing” freedoms that would make for a more credible vote.

“I said there are a few things that could have [been] taken that could have made the quality of fairness and freedom to have been enhanced. But I will not say it is absolutely un-free or unfair,” Obasanjo said.

“Some measures could have been taken to enhance that,” he added.

The AU team affirmed that voter turnout was low and said it could be a result of boycott by opposition parties.

“It is not unlikely that the boycott has had some effect on the turnout of voters,” the AU team said in its preliminary assessment released today.

“The extension [of voting for an extra day] for the whole country was to allow more voters to cast their ballots”.

Obasanjo said on Thursday that the vote would likely not exceed 40%.

The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) issued a statement on Friday hailing the smooth conduct of the elections and its credibility despite attempts to derail it in several states by rebels.

It thanked observers who ignored western pressures and came to monitor the elections.

The vote counting has begun on Friday morning after polls were closed in most of the country on Thursday evening.

Partial results showed a handful of wins for independent and non-NCP candidates particularly in the northern states of Sudan.

But observers nonetheless expect a sweeping win for NCP candidates in all elections including presidency.

African Union confirms low turn-out in Sudan election

Sudan Tribune

 (KHARTOUM) – The head of the African Union observation mission for the Sudanese general election has confessed the weak participation of the Sudanese voters and estimate that nearly one-third of voters casted their bailout.

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Election officials at a polling station on the first day of Sudan’s presidential and legislative elections in Khartoum on 13 April 2015 (Photo: AP/Mosa’ab Elshamy)

Speaking in a press conference after the end of the four-day elections, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo told reporters that the percentage of eligible voters varies between 30 and 35 adding “the turnout was low, almost is less than 40%.”

Obasanjo attributed this small turnout to the boycott by opposition and civil society groups, but added that the elections should not affect the national dialogue between the Sudanese political forces to end war and achieve democratic reforms.

The National Election Commission (NEC) announced that the vote count operation will begin on Friday and the result will be officially announced on 27 April.

The opposition parties and civil society groups called to boycott the electoral process as the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) rejected their demand to postpone the elections and prioritise the African Union supported efforts to bring peace and engage a comprehensive national process for a new constitution.

Obasanjo noted that the vote faced difficulties in troubled Blue Nile and South Kordofan states where the government troops fight the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N).

He also mentioned the logistical problems that triggered the extension of vote process in Al Jazirah state and some parts of Darfur region.

In a report disclosed recently, an African Union technical team tasked with evaluating the pre-elections environment in Sudan said the political environment in the country is restrictive due to the lack of political freedoms and continuation of war in different parts of the country.

In a report submitted to the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) last month, the assessment mission advised not to send a monitoring mission due to its inconsistency with the standards of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

However, the AUPSC went against its recommendations, underscoring its involvement in the ongoing efforts to end Sudan’s conflict and operate a smooth democratic transition.

Sudan Tribune reporters spotted several polling stations were empty from voters in different electoral constituencies in the Sudanese capital on Thursday while the ruling party urged its membership to work actively to bring voters to the vote centres.

Several heads of polling stations complained of weak voter turnout on the fourth day, also they pointed to the existence of errors related to the fall of voters names and the repetition of the names of electors in a number of electoral constituencies.


However presidential assistant and NCP vice president Ibrahim Ghandour told reporters they are satisfied with the election turnout, adding they are not part in the NEC’s decision to extend the vote period.

“I can assure you that we are quite satisfied with the turnout of (election),” Ghandour said in a press briefing for foreign reporters at the premises of the ruling party on Thursday evening.

“Those who are talking about the low turnout they just do not know what is going on or they are deliberately talk about,” he said in English.

He further explained that his government was not involved in the decision of the electoral body to extend the vote for an additional day after the small participation during the three-day vote period.


The head of the Chinese delegation to monitor the Sudanese election , Zhang Xun, said electoral process was characterised by transparency, stability and safety, and was held in line with international electoral standards .

In a press conference held at the Chinese embassy in Khartoum on Thursday, Xun stressed that the Sudanese elections are an internal matter for the people of Sudan alone, adding “We firmly reject (foreign) interference in the affairs of others.”


Sudan – African Union panel says no chance of credible elections 

Sudan Tribune

April 14, 2015 (WASHINGTON) – An African Union (AU) panel tasked with evaluating the pre-elections environment in Sudan concluded that it would not be possible to hold credible polls in the East African nation, recommending that the pan-African body not send a monitoring mission.

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A Sudanese woman casts her ballot on the first day of Sudan’s presidential and legislative elections in Izba, an impoverished neighbourhood on the outskirts of Khartoum, on 13 April 2015 (Photo: AP/Mosa’ab Elshamy)

“The overall political environment is restrictive, which impacted on political participation by other stakeholders, including opposition parties, civil society and the media. Media houses and civil society organisations were barred from discussing issues relating to the conflict in the country and certain political and social topics,” the pre-election assessment mission said in its report submitted to the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) last month.

“Those who ignored this ruling either have their licenses withdrawn or arrested and detained by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). Thus, freedom of expression, association and assembly were generally not respected,” the report adds.

The committee noted that it held meetings with all stakeholders including officials in the Sudanese government and the National Elections Commission (NEC), political parties, civil society groups, media representatives, candidates, Political Party Affairs Council, the Human Rights Commission, parliament, the AU-UN hybrid operations in Darfur (UNAMID), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), AU liaison office to Sudan, Arab League, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), African ambassadors, European Union (EU) and the troika countries’ (US, UK and Norway) ambassadors in Khartoum.

It added that asidefrom the government, NEC, representatives of public institutions, the Arab League envoy and some African ambassadors, most stakeholders wanted the AU to “distance itself from observing the elections”.

The mission led by Idrissa Kamara said the elections will take place amid “intense political polarisation”, against the backdrop of ongoing armed conflict in several parts of the country and international sanctions.

It concluded that that “the necessary conditions and environment for the holding of transparent, competitive, free and fair elections as agreed in the AU principles governing democratic elections have not been satisfied”.

“The existing government’s security measures put substantial restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly and do not provide an environment for free participation in the electoral process,” the report found.

The committee recommended that the AU not send an observation mission, saying that doing so “under this circumstance would not be viable and effective and would not contribute to democracy building”.

It called for the polls to be postponed in favour of furthering the national dialogue process initiated by president Omer Hassan al-Bashir last year on the basis that this would “allow more time for the creation of an enabling environment for credible, transparent and competitive elections”.

In a meeting held last week, the AUPSC brushed aside the findings and recommendations in the report and decided to send an observation mission headed by former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo to monitor the three-day presidential and parliamentary electios, which got underway on Monday.

The decision drew strong criticism from the country’s rebel group, which expressed anger at the AUPSC for ignoring the recommendations of the pre-elections committee.

The country’s main opposition forces are boycotting the elections in which 15 little known candidates are challenging the incumbent. The voter turnout was very low in the first two days of the polls.

The ruling party had rejected calls by Sudanese opposition to postpone the general elections until after the national dialogue and formation of a transitional government and insists that it is a constitutional requirement that must be met.

Bashir launched the national dialogue initiative more than a year ago in which he urged opposition parties and rebels alike to join the dialogue table to discuss all the pressing issues.

But the initiative faced serious setbacks after rebel groups and leftist parties refused to join and after the National Umma Party (NUP) led by al-Sadiq al-Mahdi withdrew from the process in protest of al-Mahdi’s brief arrest last May.

Earlier this year, several political parties including the Reform Now Movement (RNM) led by Ghazi Salah al-Din and the Just Peace Forum (JPF) led by al-Tayeb Mustafa and the Alliance of the Peoples’ Working Forces (APWF) announced they had decided to suspend participation in the national dialogue until the requirements of a conducive environment are met.

Last Thursday the EU announced that it will not send a mission to observe this elections.

“When dialogue is bypassed, some groups are excluded and civil and political rights are infringed, the upcoming elections cannot produce a credible result with legitimacy throughout the country,” said a statement by EU representative of foreign affairs and security affairs and vice-president of the commission, Federica Mogherini.

“The people of Sudan deserve better. We therefore chose not to engage in support of these elections,” she added.

Canadian foreign minister Rob Nicholson echoed the same sentiments.

“Canada is disappointed by the failure of Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, to deliver on his promise to hold an inclusive national dialogue in the lead-up to the Sudanese general and presidential elections,” he said in a statement.

Over the past year, Sudanese authorities have been accused of repeatedly seizing newspaper print runs, ordering political arrests, including those of opposition leaders, and hindering election activities and targeting civilians in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

“These actions have obstructed the emergence of a free and open democratic process and have led many opposition parties to boycott the elections. As a result, the outcome of the elections will not reflect the will of all Sudanese people,” said Nicholson.


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.