Sudan’s Rights-Abiding Transition is Under Threat

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Sudan’s Prime Minister Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok chairs a cabinet meeting in the capital Khartoum, Sudan on September 21, 2021. 
© 2021 AFP via Getty Images

Next week Sudan’s human rights record will be discussed at the United Nations Human Rights Council. The session comes at a critical time for Sudan, which is still in a difficult transition period following the ousting of ex-president Omer al-Bashir in 2019.  

Just a few days ago, residents of Khartoum woke to the news of a failed coup attempt. Following the event, civilian leaders, including Prime Minister Dr. Abdalla Hamdok, called for key reforms of the country’s security forces to be expeditated. But military leaders responded aggressively, challenging their civilian counterpart’s ability to carry out such reforms.

The upcoming UN session offers an opportunity for both Sudan and the Council to establish human rights commitments and priorities for the transition government, in line with recommendations in the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ latest report.

Take accountability. While key international treaties have been ratified and a handful of cases involving government force killings of protesters are now before the courts, impunity for serious past crimes remains largely the norm. Justice efforts have been ad hoc, with no clear strategy, and security forces have refused to cooperate in securing of evidence or lifting of immunities in several investigations.

In Darfur, despite the 2020 peace agreement, authorities have failed to deliver security or justice. In al-Geneina, the capital of west Darfur, violence in January and March left over 300 people dead, forced thousands to flee their homes, and resulted in massive property destruction. In September, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Sudan raised his concern at the surge in “intercommunal” violence and resulting civilian displacement.

Yet, despite these ongoing challenges, Sudan is seeking to block further reporting by the High Commissioner to the Council on her Office’s work in the country. Ongoing abuses and prevailing impunity in Darfur underline the need for robust human rights monitoring. Sudan’s authorities, especially the military, should allow regular access for UN and other rights monitors throughout the country, including to Darfur and Kordofan.

The Council should also ensure that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Khartoum has the means and political backing to support key reforms.

Now more than ever, international support and scrutiny needs to be maintained to ensure that those who fought for a better, more rights abiding future are not abandoned.    

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