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UN: Cease-Fire in Sudan Encouraging; Human Rights Still Grim - 2002-03-29


In a report to the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva, a U.N. special investigator says the human rights situation in Sudan remains grim. The report on Sudan is among those that will be discussed during the six-week session of the human rights commission.

The U.N. special investigator, Gerhart Baum, said he is encouraged that a cease-fire agreement for the Nuba mountain region of Sudan seems to be holding. The region in southern Sudan has for years been the scene of fighting between rebels and government forces. Mr. Baum said the cease-fire has allowed relief agencies to deliver humanitarian aid and supplies. But the investigator, who made several fact-finding visits to the country, has said he was able to find no tangible improvement in Sudan's human rights situation.

He said the government has kept a state of emergency in force that allows for arbitrary security measures, including keeping people in detention for six to nine months and forbidding them to have any contact with the outside world.

"People remain subject to arbitrary interpretation, application of laws. While I noticed a decrease in the number of individual cases of arbitrary detention and torture, I was informed that individuals are sometimes subjected to more subtle and psychological forms of torture," Mr. Baum said.

He also said freedom of the press is limited, and cases of discrimination against Christians by the Muslim-led government continue to be reported.

The investigator has accused the government and the rebels, known as Sudan People's Liberation Movement, of seizing humanitarian assistance meant for civilians. As a consequence, he said the plight of civilians, especially those who are internally displaced, has worsened.

"I continue to receive reports of forced recruitment and food aid diversion. As a result, the plight of civilians remains of serious concern and displacements have continued unabated," Mr. Baum said.

In a response to Mr. Baum's report, Sudan's ambassador to the United Nations, Ibrahim Mirghani Ibrahim, said his government reaffirms its respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

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