UN rights expert Radhouane Nouicer’s statement at end of first official visit
02 February 2023
Without political stability, the environment will not be conducive to improvement of the human rights situation
Sudan: UN rights expert Radhouane Nouicer’s statement at end of first official visit
Khartoum, 2 February 2023
Good afternoon. Thank you all for coming.
As you may be aware, I was appointed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights as his Designated Expert on the human rights situation in Sudan in December, succeeding Adama Dieng. During this visit to Sudan, the first in my official capacity, I have met with the authorities, civil society, and victims of human rights violations in Khartoum and in West Darfur. I have also held meetings with members of the diplomatic community and the UN country team.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the authorities in Sudan for their cooperation with my mandate, their support for my visit, and for the frank and constructive discussions we have had on human rights issues. I welcome the commitments made in my meetings with them to address the concerns I raised.
Four years ago, when Sudanese women, men and youth took to the streets demanding respect for their rights, full of hope for a safer and more just future, the world was watching in support. Sudan today stands at a critical crossroads. A new phase of the transition is urgently needed to continue the process towards democracy that was interrupted by the October 2021 military takeover and meet the population’s demands for freedom, peace, and justice.
I welcome the important human rights commitments in the Framework Agreement that was signed between civilian political forces and the military in December last year and hope that roadmaps will be soon established to address all five outstanding issues, with broad participation of concerned parties in an inclusive dialogue, so that a final agreement can be signed and a civilian government appointed. Resumption of legal and institutional reform, with the participation of civil society, must be a priority for a new government. Human rights and accountability must be central to the next government’s program.
That Sudan faces huge challenges was brought into clearer focus to me in my various meetings. In El Geneina, I met people who had been repeatedly displaced as a result of armed attacks against their communities, for which, to my understanding, no one has been held accountable. Some have been displaced for nearly 20 years but still hold hope that they will one day be able to return safely to their homes and lands. For that, they need security, and a political commitment to resolve the underlying causes of conflict. Implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement and the National Action Plan for the Protection of Civilians can help to resolve some of these issues. Failure to take action to protect the population will lead to further conflict and an increase in the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance.
The message of the victims and civil society representatives I have met is clear and I fully endorse it: all those responsible for human rights violations and abuses committed during Sudan’s conflicts must be held to account, in accordance with due process and without unjustified delays. This is the message I delivered to the authorities. Accountability and transitional justice require a process and credible mechanisms that address past crimes, their root causes, and prevent recurrence.
From my meetings with a large number of civil society representatives, including women and young people, I got a clear sense of a lack of confidence in the way things are going - an uncertainty about the future. Many reported increased restrictions on their activities, including increased bureaucracy, denial of NGO registration and undue scrutiny of their funding. They felt that the space that had opened for civil society during the transition is being closed again. A robust and diverse civil society is fundamental to democracy, and serious steps towards building trust between the population and state institutions is key for the success of any political process. Without political stability, the environment will not be conducive to improvement of the human rights situation.
In my meetings with the authorities, I raised several interlinked issues and made to them the following recommendations:
- To urgently address issues of accountability of security forces to the population within a framework of democratic civilian oversight, rule of law and respect for human rights. This should include a clear roadmap for security sector reform. As has been documented by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, human rights violations since the military takeover have included excessive use of force against protestors, arbitrary arrest and detentions of political opponents and civil society activists, torture and ill-treatment, attacks against hospitals and medical personnel, sexual violence and restrictions on freedom of opinion and expression. The committees established to investigate the human rights violations committed since the military takeover have not yet submitted their findings. The immunity from prosecution of members of the security forces implicated in human rights violations must be lifted. Victims and their families are waiting for justice, and Sudan’s future depends on the way the authorities address cases of accountability in Khartoum, Darfur, and in every region in the country.
- Establishing the Transitional Justice Commission, as per the law adopted in 2021, must be a priority in the coming period. I urge the Sudanese authorities to uphold their commitment to set up a comprehensive victim-centred and gender-sensitive transitional justice process that will address all human rights violations and abuses, provide justice to the victims and prevent their recurrence,
- Restrict the use of emergency legislation, in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Sudan has ratified. Emergency decrees have been used to detain people for long periods without respect for their due process rights, including the right to fair trial and representation. In West Darfur, I raised my concerns with the Wali and Security Committee about the impact of the decision to imprison hundreds of people without trial, many in other states. I welcome the release of most of them prior to my visit.
- Guarantee the rights and protection of women. Women have been at the forefront of the peaceful protests and have since the coup been victims of violence, intimidation and harassment and seen a roll-back of the gains won under the transitional government. I urge the authorities to publicly commit to and implement a zero-tolerance policy on sexual violence and take measures to stop all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls.
- The authorities should guarantee the progressive realization of economic, social and cultural rights. I am deeply concerned by the retrogression of the enjoyment of these rights, including basic services, due to the deterioration in the economy, increased cost of living and pressure on the population as a result of increased taxes and fees, without increase in their income.
We are at a critical moment in Sudan’s history. For Sudan’s democratic transition to succeed, there must be solidarity among all sectors of this culturally rich and diverse society. The time has come for Sudanese leaders from all parties, military and civilian, whatever their political positions, to set aside their personal interests and work for the common good of the Sudanese people.
I would like to thank all those national and international actors working to help Sudan along the path of democracy, development and prosperity.