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Human Rights Council Discusses Situation of Human Rights in Sudan and in Somalia

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The Human Rights Council this afternoon held an enhanced interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in Sudan, followed by an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia.

Speaking on Sudan were Kuwait on behalf of the Group of Arab States, European Union, Iceland on behalf of a group of countries, Burkina Faso on behalf of the Group of African States, Jordan, Qatar, Germany, Sierra Leone, Belgium, France, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Senegal, Iraq, Mauritania, Morocco, China, Australia, Botswana, Armenia, Switzerland, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Bahrain, Venezuela, Ethiopia, Russian Federation, Ireland, Yemen, United Kingdom, South Sudan, Egypt, Tunisia, Spain, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Chad, Brazil and Algeria.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations : Christian Solidarity Worldwide, World Evangelical Alliance, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, British Humanist Association, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Human Rights Watch, Next Century Foundation, Human Rights Information and Training Center, Amnesty International, World Organisation Against Torture, and International Institute for Rights and Development Geneva.

The Council then held an enhanced interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia.

Speaking on Somalia were Kuwait on behalf of the Group of Arab States, European Union, Iceland on behalf of a group of countries, Burkina Faso on behalf of the Group of African States, Jordan, Qatar, Germany, Sierra Leone, Belgium, France, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Senegal, Iraq, Mauritania, Morocco, China, Australia, Botswana, Armenia, Switzerland, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Bahrain, Venezuela, Ethiopia, Russian Federation, Ireland, Yemen, United Kingdom, South Sudan, Egypt, Spain, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Chad, Brazil, Algeria and Tunisia.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations : East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Reporters Sans Frontiers International, Next Century Foundation, Elizka Relief Foundation, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme, Ingenieurs du Monde, International Federation of Journalists, and International Institute for Rights and Development Geneva.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s forty-fifth regular session can be found here.

The Council will meet at 10 a.m. on Monday, 5 October to hold an interactive dialogue with the Fact-Finding Mission on Libya. It will then consider the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Guinea-Bissau and Guyana.

Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the Situation of Human Rights in Sudan

Opening Statements

MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, welcomed the signing of a peace deal last month. While looking forward to seeing the final comprehensive accord, she commended the parties for placing justice and human rights at its core, and for agreeing to establish a special criminal court for crimes committed in Darfur and to cooperate with the International Criminal Court. Her Office was prepared to support the implementation of the recommendations made at the Universal Periodic Review, as well as the accession to international human rights treaties to which Sudan was not yet a State party. Noting that the recent devastating floods presented a serious concern, as did the impact of COVID-19, she called on the donor community to mobilise the necessary resources. It was important to free the Sudanese people from the impediment of sanctions that had been imposed before the country's governance transition. Ms. Bachelet was deeply concerned about reports of recent inter-communal violence in east Sudan, as well as attacks against civilians, leading to growing protests in Darfur demanding protection and security reforms. While the Government’s response had improved, the continued recurrence of significant violence pointed to core grievances, suggesting that the ambitious reform agenda was yet to be translated into improvements on the ground.

ARISTIDE NONONSI, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan, said there had been developments since his last report and significant efforts had been made by the Transitional Government to address human rights concerns. However, significant challenges remained. Commending the Government for ensuring the successful establishment of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights country office in Khartoum, he encouraged the Government and the two armed groups that had not joined the peace accord to continue their dialogue to come to an agreement. Those responsible for grave human rights violations committed in the past decades in Sudan should be held to account through a fair trial that respected international standards. Mr. Nononsi urged the Government to promptly accede to the international human rights treaties to which Sudan was not a party.

ALI IBN ABI TALIB ABDELRAHMAN MAHMOUD, Permanent Representative of Sudan to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said the peace agreement should be finalized tomorrow, Saturday with the final signing in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. Likewise, to end armed conflicts, the Prime Minister had signed a joint agreement with the People's Liberation Movement of North Sudan. The Permanent Representative said he was proud of the work accomplished by his Government in the reconstruction of the human rights and justice system, with the guarantee of the independence of the judiciary, the rule of law and the promotion of the principle of accountability, not impunity. Amendments had been made to the penal code, including the abolition of the death penalty for crimes committed by minors. The Transitional Government had also worked to improve the status of women in society. The law on public order had been abolished, while female genital mutilation was now punished and the law had been amended to allow women to travel with their children without the prior consent of the father. Other improvements concerned guaranteeing freedom of religion or belief.

Discussion

Speakers said the positive steps taken by Sudan towards establishing peace and meeting the expectations of its people deserved the support of the international community. The agreement to be signed in Juba tomorrow was an encouraging development, several speakers said, and also warmly welcomed the historic Peace Agreement signed by the Transitional Government and the Sudan Revolutionary Front on 31 August. The strong focus on human rights in the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan was also a welcome step. However, the transition was an ongoing process, which still faced several challenges. Speakers asked the Independent Expert what were the most pressing human rights issues in the country. The long-time suffering of the Sudanese people inflicted on them by unjust unilateral coercive measures must end, some speakers emphasised. Others welcomed the criminalisation of female genital mutilation. Genuine accountability for the most serious crimes against civilians and against protesters - including the violent dispersal of the sit-in in Khartoum on 3 June 2019, which killed over 120 people - remained elusive, speakers said.

Concluding Remarks

MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights , said her Office was working on areas that matched the Government’s priorities, including achieving the Sustainable Development Goals through human rights. The country office would coordinate with the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan.

ARISTIDE NONONSI, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan, said that despite the challenges, the Government had to tackle the remaining problems, some of which had been flagged by the speakers. In this context, it was important that the international community provide support to Sudan.

ALI IBN ABI TALIB ABDELRAHMAN MAHMOUD, Permanent Representative of Sudan to the United Nations Office at Geneva , said the road ahead was not easy, but Sudan was determined to achieve the democratic transition, and remained committed to the protection of civilians.

Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Somalia

Presentation of Report

ISHA DYFAN, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, presenting her report, said that, this year, the protracted armed conflict and chronic humanitarian crises had been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and the desert locust infestation. These various shocks had placed an unbearable burden on Somalia’s already fragile infrastructure and institutions. While commending the efforts of the Somali authorities and their international partners to address the pandemic amid the prolonged armed conflict and humanitarian crisis, she was concerned that some of these measures had seriously undermined the enjoyment of human rights. She regretted that progress towards the establishment of the national human rights institution remained stalled. She welcomed the recent appointment of a Special Prosecutor to investigate and follow up on the killings of journalists. Ms. Dyfan was extremely concerned about the dismissal by the Federal Parliament of the 2018 Sexual Offenses Bill in favour of a deeply flawed alternative - the Law on Sexual Intercourse Related Crimes - whose provisions allowed for child marriage and forced marriage. It was unacceptable to continue to invoke custom, tradition or religious considerations to justify violations against the rights and dignity of women and girls. These developments were regrettably signs of possible regression by the Somali authorities from their commitment to international human rights law.

Statement by Concerned Country

Somalia, speaking as a concerned country, expressed appreciation for the report which identified clearly the developments in Somalia over recent years, especially in the economic, social and cultural fields, through its relevant national plans, strategies and frameworks, as well as the commitment made by the Somali Government to further improvements. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government of Somalia had made a commitment to guarantee the protection of the rights of Somali people, in particular women, youth, children and displacement affected communities through the adoption of crucial policy and regulatory frameworks, namely the National Social Protection Policy, the Disaster Management Policy, and the Recovery and Resilience Framework. Development, peace and security were out of reach without the preservation of human rights. Somalia had adopted a human rights-based approach in its National Development Plan for 2020-2024 and was committed to end impunity and violent conflict, with all its power, against all kinds of crimes and criminals who violated human rights. Somalia had demonstrated its willingness to cooperate with its international partners, including United Nations agencies, and in particular with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Discussion

Speakers said that, in this period of transition between the African Union Mission to Somalia and the responsibility of the Somali Security Forces, the role of the Mission in strengthening prevention through strong measures deserved to be underlined in the report. Welcoming the Government’s efforts to establish a national human rights institute, speakers urged it to expedite the process and ensure its independence in conformity with the Paris Principles. Somalia should engage with the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict of the Security Council. The Government’s efforts to organize elections were commendable, speakers said. Speakers drew attention to the millions of internally displaced people in the country. Some speakers underscored that Government forces and Al-Shabab continued to threaten and kill journalists. Other speakers urged the Council to promote and protect the rights of the people of Somaliland. The Parliament should rescind the bill on sexual crimes as it ran counter to international standards. Speakers congratulated the Independent Expert for putting together a thorough report despite being prevented from traveling to the country because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The use of the death penalty, often imposed in the form of public executions by both the Government and Al Shabab, remained a source of concern, speakers said.

Concluding Remarks

ISHA DYFAN, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, said she would follow-up on recent developments in Somaliland, notably as regards legal changes that could lead to the promotion of child marriage. On the international community’s role, she said sustained advocacy had been one of the best tools to push the Government further. She encouraged civil society, particularly women’s groups, to continue their advocacy.

HRC20.116E