UNICEF - new Sudan constitution should conform with international standards for children

UNICEF says despite some provisions for children, more needs to be done

KHARTOUM/GENEVA/NEW YORK/AMMAN, 13 July 2005 -- UNICEF congratulated Sudan today for including provisions in the Interim National Constitution that strengthen the rights of children and women. At the same time, the agency called for the elimination of exceptions that permit imposition of the death penalty for children under 18.

The Constitution was ratified by Sudan's National Assembly and the legislative council of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) on 8 July. It is intended to be in effect for the six-year Interim Period provided for in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, but can be amended if supported by three-quarters of the members of each chamber of the National Legislature.

"The interim Constitution clearly states the obligation of Government to protect the rights of all children," said UNICEF Representative JoAnna Van Gerpen. "Yet, as it reads now, the Constitution includes application of the death penalty for children under 18 in certain cases. This contravenes Article 37 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC) that stipulates that capital punishment should not be imposed for offences committed by persons below 18 years of age." Van Gerpen also encouraged Sudan to specify 18 as the minimum age for recruitment and voluntary joining into the armed forces in line with the Optional Protocol to the UN CRC to which Sudan is a signatory.

On the positive side, Van Gerpen congratulated Sudan on including "several provisions in the new Constitution that recognize that investing in children's health and education is a cost-effective means to accelerate the development of the country." The right to an education is recognized in the new Constitution and Government is called on to ensure equal access to free and compulsory primary education children. Equal access to free primary health care is also provided for. In addition, the State should combat harmful customs and traditions which undermine the dignity and the status of women. "Though not specifically mentioned," she added, "we assume this includes female genital cutting, which has a devastating physical and social impact on millions of children, women and families every year."

"Ensuring conformity with the international and regional conventions that Sudan has ratified should be a priority in the coming months," said UNICEF's Van Gerpen, "This is an opportunity that should not be missed."

For further information, contact:

Paula Claycomb, UNICEF Sudan, +249-12-309410,
El Fadil el Tahir, UNICEF Sudan +249-12-390627, eeltahir@unicef
Anis Salem, UNICEF Reg'l Office for the Middle East and North Africa, +962-6-553-9977,
Damien Personnaz, UNICEF Geneva, +41 22 909 5716,