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September 25, 2013

Expert: Sudan Human Rights Precarious, Especially in Conflict Areas

by Lisa Schlein

A United Nations expert is expressing concern about continuing violations of human rights in Sudan, especially in the conflict-affected areas of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The expert has just submitted his second report on the situation in Sudan to the U.N. Human Rights Council, covering the period from October 2012 to July 2013.  

The U.N. independent expert Mashood Baderin acknowledges the positive steps taken by the Sudanese government to improve human rights in the country.  Nevertheless, Baderin says these moves are too slow and do not go far enough in addressing serious violations.  

He says the general human rights situation in Sudan remains precarious. He says he is especially concerned about conditions in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile, where prolonged armed conflicts are having a devastating impact on human rights.  

“Violent attacks and banditry, which have had serious effects on the lives of civilians during the reporting period," he said. "The recurrent armed conflicts between government forces and armed rebel groups as well as inter-and intra-tribal clashes continue to result in serious human rights violations and large-scale displacement of civilians in different parts of the country.”  

Baderin, who visited North and South Darfur, says the clashes have resulted in the widespread loss of civilian life and have displaced an estimated 300,000 people between January and April.

The Nigerian law professor was unable to visit South Kordofan for security reasons. But, he says reports of indiscriminate aerial strikes by the Sudanese Air Force have resulted in civilian deaths and large displacements.

He says Blue Nile State is equally plagued with unrest amid sporadic fighting between government and rebel forces. He says many civilians remain trapped in rebel-controlled areas and the humanitarian situation there reportedly continues to deteriorate.

Baderin also condemns Sudan's National Security Service for impeding basic civil and political rights. He accuses the government of press censorship, arbitrary arrest, the continued detention of political prisoners and limiting freedom of religion.  

“The protection of women and children’s rights is another serious concern, particularly in conflict-affected areas," he said. "Sexual and gender-based violence still persists and needs to be effectively addressed…Women in the Sudan are denied the enjoyment of human rights protection provided under international law.”

Sudanese Justice Minister Mohamed Bishara Dosa put a positive spin on Baderin's report. He told the Human Rights Council that his government would cooperate with the U.N. expert to promote human rights conditions in Sudan.  

But Dosa said unilateral economic sanctions imposed on his country are an obstacle to development and well being.  

“This has a negative impact on human rights in Sudan," he said. "This is why Sudan hopes that your Council will put an end to these unilateral measures, which run counter to international law and to other human rights criteria…Sudan plays a positive role in human rights.  We need encouragement and not condemnation.”

The United States imposed economic sanctions on Sudan in 1997 over charges of terrorism as well as human rights abuses.

The war in Darfur broke out in 2003. The following year, in 2004, the U.N. Security Council imposed an arms embargo on Khartoum. This was in response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis and widespread human rights violations, including attacks on civilians.