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Human Rights Council Discusses the Situation of Human Rights in Sudan, Somalia and the Central African Republic under its Agenda Item on Technical Assistance and Capacity Building

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Afternoon

The Human Rights Council this afternoon discussed the situation of human rights in Sudan, Somalia and the Central African Republic under its agenda item on technical assistance and capacity building.

In the interactive dialogue on Somalia, Isha Dyfan, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, said it had been a very challenging year for the people of Somalia on a number of fronts and expressed concern over the slow progress in the implementation of the new timetable for the electoral processes. She was disappointed that the Federal Electoral Law of 2020 did not include a 30 per cent minimum quota for women’s representation, which was evidence of how deeply patriarchal the political system remained. The withdrawal of forces of the African Union Mission in Somalia, if not carefully managed, may create important security vacuums, which would continue to be exploited by Al-Shabaab, clan militias and other groups, the Independent Expert warned.

Somalia, speaking as the country concerned, said Somalia had been facing significant challenges due to the electoral process and COVID-19. These challenges had made it difficult for the Somali Government to effectively address human rights protection. The report detailed the human rights challenges as well as progress made by Somalia and areas for improvement. Somalia reaffirmed its commitment to the implementation of the recommendations provided in the report of the Independent Expert.

In the interactive dialogue, speakers recognised that progress had been made in Somalia but also noted that challenges remained. Gender-based violence and abductions were a wide cause for concern, in particular violence against women and girls. Some speakers raised the issue of sustained attacks on journalists and media workers in a bid to gag freedom of expression in Somalia.

Speaking on Somalia were European Union, Denmark, Qatar, Egypt, United Nations Children’s Fund, France, Netherlands , Venezuela, Russian Federation, United States, China, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Yemen, United Kingdom, Ireland, Botswana, Mauritania, Sudan and Sri Lanka.

The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: International Federation of Journalists, Minority Rights Group, Elizka Relief Foundation, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Institut International pour les Droits et le Développement, Amnesty International, and United Nations Watch.

In the interactive dialogue on the Central African Republic, Yao Agbetse, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, highlighted the cooperation of the Central African authorities with his mandate as well as other stakeholders. He strongly condemned the Coalition of Patriots for Change and other armed groups which continued to sow insecurity and desolation among the population and urged them to immediately lay down their arms. With regard to the 2022 elections, the Independent Expert noted that the Central African authorities should put in place a plan to secure the electoral process - and to ensure that all citizens, without any discrimination, could obtain the necessary identity documents, including in the process of registration.

Central African Republic, speaking as a country concerned, said the Head of State had made justice the cornerstone of his public policy for a peaceful, united and prosperous Central African Republic. His fight against impunity was the guiding thread of his new five-year term. The Government was committed to all issues relating to the promotion and protection of human rights, which were key for lasting stability.

In the interactive dialogue on the Central African Republic, speakers noted the increased risks to children and called on parties to the conflict to stop all grave violations against children. They urged the Government to investigate human rights violations and abuses transparently and hold all perpetrators accountable. Efforts by the Government to fight against impunity were welcomed, including the arrest of armed group leader Eugene Ngaikosset and his indictment for crimes against humanity by the Central African Republic’s Special Criminal Court.

Speaking on the Central African Republic were Norway, European Union, United Nations Children's Fund, Senegal, Togo, Egypt, Angola, Venezuela, Russian Federation, Morocco, United States, Belgium and China.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its enhanced interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on Sudan.

Many speakers agreed that all human rights abuses must be investigated and welcomed the open approach of Sudan to work with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in order to improve human rights in the country. Positive steps in terms of legislative reforms and reforming the judiciary were also noted by Member States and the establishment of the transitional justice commission was widely welcomed. One speaker said violence in eastern Sudan and in Darfur had increased, while another speaker raised concern over discrimination against local Christians and leaders in Sudan, calling for the protection of religious minorities.

Speakers on Sudan were Norway, Egypt, European Union, Cameroon on behalf of Group of African States, Qatar, Germany, Senegal, France, Egypt, Iraq, Republic of Korea, Netherlands, Venezuela, Russian Federation, United States, China, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, Botswana, Belgium, United Arab Emirates, South Sudan, Jordan, Sri Lanka, Mauritania, Chad and Tunisia.

The following non-governmental organizations took the floor: Christian Solidarity Worldwide, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, World Evangelical Alliance, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme, Human Rights Watch, The International Organisation for LDCs, International Service for Human Rights, and Elizka Relief Foundation.

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-eighth regular session can be found here.

The Council will resume its work at 9 a.m. on Thursday, 7 October, to conclude its interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic. It will then hold an interactive dialogue with the Fact-finding Mission on Libya, hear the presentation of country reports or oral updates by the Secretary-General or the High Commissioner on Cambodia, Georgia, Philippines and Yemen, then hold a general debate on technical assistance and capacity building.

Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Sudan

The enhanced interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Sudan, pursuant to resolution 45/25, started in the morning meeting and a summary can be found here.

Interactive Dialogue

Speakers said all human rights abuses in Sudan must be investigated and supported the United Nations capacity-building work in Sudan. Speakers also welcomed the open approach of Sudan to work with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in order to improve human rights in the country. A number of speakers welcomed the widening of the Government to include other political groups. The transition in Sudan had shown remarkable progress. Some speakers said human rights protections still needed to be guaranteed, adding that freedom of the press and the rights of women and girls still needed to see progress. The military and civilian authorities needed to further work together. Support for Sudan was reiterated by many delegations. Positive steps in terms of legislative reforms and reforming the judiciary were also commended. The establishment of the transitional justice commission was widely welcomed. Some speakers said concerns over civilian vulnerability remained and asked for continued cooperation on the situation in Sudan. One speaker said the internal political situation in Sudan was complex and as a result social tensions were increasing and the economic situation was worsening. The Peace Agreement was welcome and would help solve economic and social issues.

Some speakers encouraged continued progress regarding the rule of law, human rights and justice. At present, the peace process continued to be consolidated in Sudan. One speaker was opposed to the Council interfering in countries’ internal affairs and expressed his respect for Sudan’s sovereignty. The international community was called on by another speaker to positively contribute to efforts to help stabilise Sudan, including through capacity building to protect the human rights of the Sudanese people. Exceptional circumstances must also be taken into account. Sudan’s cooperation with the International Criminal Court into alleged crimes in Darfur was commended by one speaker, while challenges regarding civilian displacements were highlighted by other speakers. Sexual and gender-based violence was also highlighted as a concern by some speakers.

Other delegates continued to underscore their support for Sudan’s sovereignty and for its democratic transition process. The principles of the Juba Agreement were also noted in efforts to restore peace and stability in Sudan. Some speakers called on the High Commissioner to continue to provide the Council with oral updates until the transitional process in Sudan was complete. Violence in eastern Sudan and in Darfur had increased. Discrimination against local Christians and leaders in Sudan was raised as a cause for concern. One speaker called for the protection of religious minorities in Sudan. The problem of internal displacement in Darfur was noted by one speaker who said that the Government had not done enough to protect civilians there. Gender equality should be at the top of the transitional agenda, said one speaker. Women continued to face violence and discrimination. Sudanese women were struggling for gender equality despite the Peace Agreement, with tribal tensions continuing, as well as attacks. The support of the international community was needed.

Concluding Remarks

NADA AL-NASHIF, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, commended the measures taken and progress made by the Government of Sudan to address human rights concerns, particularly with regard to the fight against impunity. She stressed the need to implement the transitional justice measures provided for in the Juba Accord, including the establishment of the court for Darfur. Addressing the demands of the people for justice was imperative and the Office of the High Commissioner stood ready to assist the Government in this area. The Government should speed up independent commissions, including the transitional justice commission. Enhancing civic space was also a key area for partnership support moving forward. Important efforts were underway. Women’s representation within the Government still lagged behind what was required in the Juba Peace Agreement. They should participate in all transition and security processes. The Deputy High Commissioner encouraged the Government to implement its plan for women, peace and security. The Government had addressed measures to improve the economic situation in Sudan and to strengthen social protection. The United Nations Joint Human Rights Office would continue to support Sudan on transitional justice and the protection of civilians.

A colleague of VOLKER PERTHES, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sudan, said it was essential to find the resources to ensure the protection of civilians, which was at the heart of the Juba Peace Agreement, as well as strengthening the capacity of the police. Getting capacity in place and plans operational was needed. Impunity must also come to an end. Physical threats against women continued to be a challenge and also needed to be addressed.

ALI IBN ABI TALIB ABDELRAHMAN MAHMOUD, Permanent Representative of Sudan to the United Nations Office at Geneva, welcomed the dialogue as the last in a series on the human rights situation in Sudan. The Government of Sudan would pursue its human rights reform programme and would implement its national plan for the protection of civilians. He called on the international community to support the Government’s efforts in this area, as well as to help organise the return of Sudanese refugees abroad.

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, said her second report on the situation of human rights in Somalia covered the period from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021. She regretted that for the second time in a row, she had been unable to undertake a visit to the country, in spite of positive cooperation with the Federal Government of Somalia on that front, primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing travel and movement restrictions, but also to some extent, to the unpredictable political and security situation in Somalia, which was of serious concern. Nonetheless, she had continued to monitor the situation remotely. It had been a very challenging year for the people of Somalia on a number of fronts. She expressed concern over the slow progress in the implementation of the new timetable for the electoral processes at the various levels. She was also disappointed that the Federal Electoral Law of 2020 did not include a 30 per cent minimum quota for women’s representation, which was evidence of how deeply patriarchal the political system remained.

Despite the efforts from Somali security forces, the situation remained dire. Attacks against the civilian population and civilian objects were daily occurrences in Somalia. Ms. Dyfan also expressed concern over the high number of civilian casualties as a result of the ongoing armed conflict, frequent terrorist attacks and inter-clan conflict over access to and control of land, water and other resources. Thus far in 2021, the United Nations had documented 889 civilian casualties, with 401 civilians killed and 488 injured. Al-Shabaab was responsible for over 60 per cent of these civilian casualties, conducting indiscriminate attacks using weapons, including improvised explosive devices and other tactics to terrorise the population. Conflict related sexual violence and grave violations against children continued to be on the rise too.

The withdrawal of forces of the African Union Mission in Somalia, if not carefully managed, may create important security vacuums, which would continue to be exploited by Al-Shabaab, clan militias and other groups, the Independent Expert warned. She also highlighted how journalists, media workers and human rights defenders continued to suffer from attacks against their physical integrity, including extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and unlawful detention and harassment.

The COVID-19 pandemic, desert locust infestation, and repeated climatic shocks had exacerbated the humanitarian situation in Somalia.

Statement by Country Concerned

Somalia welcomed the report of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia. Somalia had been facing significant challenges due to the electoral process and COVID-19. These challenges had made it difficult for the Somali Government to effectively address human rights protection. The Government had worked with all relevant institutions to ensure that the existing protection framework was working during these demanding times. The report detailed the human rights challenges as well as progress made by Somalia and areas for improvement. Somalia reaffirmed its commitment to the implementation of the recommendations provided in the report of the Independent Expert. Somalia emphasised the need for dialogue with its partners to strengthen the implementation of the recommendations. The guiding role of the Human Rights Council was also vital in this process. Somalia thanked the Independent Expert and looked forward to welcome her for her first visit.

Interactive Dialogue

Speakers welcomed the report and recognised progress made in Somalia but also noted that challenges remained. Gender-based violence and abductions were a cause for concern in Somalia, in particular violence against women and girls.

The killing of human rights defenders and journalists in Somalia was also condemned. Unlawful detentions against journalists were another issue of concern. The Government of Somalia was urged to adopt legislation to offer them greater protection. Some speakers called on Somalia to release detainees and protect civilians, and also hold accountable those who had breached human rights laws. The COVID-19 pandemic had presented particular challenges for Somalia. Somalia was encouraged to continue to promote gender equality and prevent violations and abuses against children, including forced marriages and the use of children in armed conflicts. Somalia was also encouraged to improve access to justice.

One speaker regretted the lack of political will to ensure credible elections. Gender-based violence was a widely shared concern among speakers. Somalia was commended again for its cooperation with the human rights mechanisms and with the Independent Expert on the situation in Somalia. Speakers said they stood by Somalia and the international community was encouraged to continue to provide support for capacity building in Somalia. Some speakers condemned attacks on journalists in Somalia and asked the Human Rights Council to take a firm stance on the attacks. According to the report of the Independent Expert, sustained attacks on journalists and media workers had become permanent tactics - weaponised to intimidate and gag freedom of expression in Somalia. Concern was voiced over the deliberate targeting of vocal and brave journalists who reported on uncomfortable truths, and who became targets of attacks sponsored by different actors. This situation had been enabled, in part, by the failure of the political leadership to enact new and progressive laws that were aligned with the international legal instruments that Somalia had acceded to.

The Independent Expert’s recognition of continuing discrimination against members of minority clans in Somalia was welcomed and one speaker called on the Government of Somalia, the United Nations and all international and national organizations to recognise that minorities were still at high risk of being left behind and to work with those affected to identify ways in which such exclusion continued, including in access to health, education, nutrition, work, housing, water, sanitation and hygiene and, in fact, to all aid and development programmes. Remedies for additional exclusion for minority clan members should be designed and implemented immediately. One speaker said that 98 per cent of women aged 15 to 49 had undergone some form of female genital mutilation. This shocking figure was despite Somalia officially criminalising female genital mutilation. The religious nature of this procedure could not exempt the Government from holding violators to account.

Concluding Remarks

ISHA DYFAN, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, thanked speakers for their observations and comments - and thanked the Somali Government for its statement. Civil space did continue to shrink - and this could be further exasperated during the elections. She urged Somalia to protect journalists and to ensure a fair election, where people belonging to minority groups could begin to build confidence in the human rights system in Somalia. The protection of civilians needed to be ensured. Equipment and training would enable the armed forces to further protect civilians. Laws and frameworks also needed to be set up to protect civilians. In this context, the Independent Expert reiterated her calls for the existing state and regional human rights commissions to effectively execute their mandates.

Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in the Central African Republic

Presentation of Report

YAO AGBETSE, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, presenting his report, highlighted the cooperation of the Central African authorities with his mandate as well as other stakeholders. The lack of field missions linked to the constraints imposed by COVID-19 had somewhat been offset by virtual and physical interviews with the actors involved. The presidential and legislative elections of 27 December 2020 had been severely disrupted by the Coalition of Patriots for Change, formed a few days earlier by certain armed groups in violation of their commitments under the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic. Their activities, including attacks against civilians, local authorities, and agents of the sub-prefectural electoral authority, had destabilised the electoral process. The Independent Expert strongly condemned the Coalition of Patriots for Change and other armed groups which continued to sow insecurity and desolation among the population and urged them to immediately lay down their arms. He had received several reports of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the Coalition of Patriots for Change, the Central African Armed Forces and Russian instructors.

With regard to the 2022 elections, the Independent Expert noted that the Central African authorities should put in place a plan to secure the electoral process - and to ensure that all citizens, without any discrimination, could obtain the necessary identity documents, including in the process of registration. The Independent Expert also called on the Central African authorities to work for the safe return of displaced persons and refugees to their place of residence or to Central African territory so that they could participate in the democratic process. The report also underlined the state of exhaustion of the disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration and repatriation process and called for a new impetus to invest in the areas freed from the grip of armed groups, in particular within security, justice, health, education, access to drinking water and unhindered movement to restore the confidence of the population, slow down the recruitment of children into the ranks of armed groups, put an end to conflict-related sexual violence, and allow the population to enjoy their right to movement. and to carry out agricultural, commercial and other activities.

Statement by Country Concerned

Central African Republic said the Head of State had made justice the cornerstone of his public policy for a peaceful, united and prosperous Central African Republic. His fight against impunity was the guiding thread of his new five-year term. The Government was committed to all issues relating to the promotion and protection of human rights, which were key for lasting stability. The Government was also committed to peace and human rights as set out in conventions and agreements that the Central African Republic had enshrined in the preamble of its constitution. He expressed the Government and people’s gratitude to the international community and agencies for their support. It was essential for the general inspectorate of the national army to be supported in its mission to raise awareness about human rights.

The Government had appointed a gender focal point and confirmed that schools and hospitals had been liberated from the control of the Coalition of Patriots for Change. The Coalition of Patriots for Change continued to commit human rights violations. The human rights situation had evolved very significantly following the recovery of State control of territories that used to be under the control of the rebels. The Central African Republic affirmed the proper functioning of ordinary courts throughout the national territory resulting in the redeployment of judicial and penitentiary actors and public justice services.

Interactive Dialogue

Speakers noted the increased risks to children in the Central African Republic and called on parties to the conflict to stop all grave violations against children. Speakers also shared deep concern over the extrajudicial and summary killings, torture and conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence. One speaker noted that the report indicated that the national army, internal security forces and Russian instructors and employees of private security companies were responsible for several violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of international human rights law - and said that all use of violence against the civilian population must stop. The protection from sexual and gender-based violence remained a serious challenge, and speakers said that the situation for women and children was dire. Some delegates called for strengthened monitoring of human rights in the evolving context and called on all actors involved to ensure accountability for human rights violations and abuses, in order to end impunity.

One speaker said there was misinformation against the Russian Federation in the report. Claims of the involvement of Russian instructors in committing illegal acts were defamatory. The report did not meet the established criteria of objectivity and impartiality. Some speakers continued to share their concern over reports of atrocities and human rights abuses by the Armed Forces of the Central African Republic, Russian-supported mercenaries, and armed groups. This included reports of atrocities against Muslim communities, including the Peuhl. Speakers urged the Government to investigate human rights violations and abuses transparently and hold all perpetrators accountable. Efforts by the Government to fight against impunity were welcomed, including the arrest of armed group leader Eugene Ngaikosset and his indictment for crimes against humanity by the Special Criminal Court.

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2021/10/le-conseil-des-droits-de-lhomme-se-penche-sur-les-situations-en

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