Posts Tagged ‘Sudan’

50th session Human Rights Council: issues directly affecting Human Rights Defenders

June 22, 2022

A bit belatedly this overview for the 50th session:

The 50th session of the UN Human Rights Council, from 13 June to 8 July 2022, will consider issues including sexual orientation and gender identity, violence and discrimination against women and girls, poverty, peaceful assembly and association, and freedom of expression, among others. It will also present an opportunity to address grave human rights situations including in Afghanistan, Belarus, China, Eritrea, Israel and OPT, Russia, Sudan, Syria and Venezuela, among many others. With “HRC50 | Key issues on agenda of June 2022 session” the ISHR provided again its indispensable guide. Here’s an overview of some of the key issues on the agenda that are the most relevant to HRDs [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/02/21/guide-to-49th-session-of-human-rights-council-with-human-rights-defenders-focus/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/04/15/results-49th-session-human-rights-council-as-seen-by-ngos/

Thematic areas of interest

Here are some highlights of the session’s thematic discussions

Business and human rights

Despite their vital work to protect the environment and combat climate change, Indigenous peoples as well as land and environmental defenders continue to be attacked. New data shows an alarming pattern of violence and harassment as a precursor to lethal attacks against defenders. 

In 2020, Global Witness registered the killings of 137 land and environmental defenders in just five of the most dangerous countries for them: Colombia, Guatemala, Kenya, Mexico and the Philippines. However, a new dataset from the ALLIED Data Working Group, a coalition in which ISHR takes part, focused on these countries has for the first time documented what is often hidden – the non-lethal attacks, including threats, harassment, smear campaigns and stigmatisation that are a precursor to the shocking number of deaths we see each year.

The findings highlight the urgent need for States to monitor, collect data, report on the situation of these defenders, and address the root causes of attacks against them. ISHR urges all States to make a commitment to the systematic monitoring of attacks on indigenous, land and environmental defenders in their countries, and to take stronger action, together with civil society and relevant UN Special Procedures, to address the root causes of attacks in the debate with the Working Group due to take place on 21 June 2022. 

Reprisals

Reports of cases of intimidation and reprisal against those cooperating or seeking to cooperate with the UN not only continue, but grow. Intimidation and reprisals violate the rights of the individuals concerned, they constitute violations of international human rights law, and they undermine the UN human rights system.

The UN has taken action towards addressing this critical issue, including:

  • Requesting that the Secretary General prepare an annual report on cases and trends of reprisals;
  • Establishing a dedicated dialogue under item 5 to take place every September;
  • Affirmation by the Council of the particular responsibilities of its Members, President and Vice-Presidents to investigate and promote accountability for reprisals and intimidation; and
  • The appointment of the UN Assistant Secretary General on Human Rights as the Senior Official on addressing reprisals.

Despite this, ISHR remains deeply concerned about reprisals against civil society actors who try to engage with UN mechanisms, and consistent in its calls for all States and the Council to do more to address the situation.

During the 48th session, the Council adopted a resolution on reprisals. The text was adopted by consensus for the first time since 2009 and invites the UN Secretary General to submit his annual report on reprisals and intimidation to the UN General Assembly. Once again the resolution listed key trends, including that acts of intimidation and reprisals can signal patterns, increasing self-censorship, and the use of national security arguments and counter-terrorism strategies by States as justification for blocking access to the UN. The resolution also acknowledged the specific risks to individuals in vulnerable situations or belonging to marginalised groups, and called on the UN to implement gender-responsive policies to end reprisals. The Council called on States to combat impunity by conducting prompt, impartial and independent investigations and ensuring accountability for all acts of intimidation or reprisal, both online and offline, by condemning all such acts publicly, providing access to effective remedies for victims, and preventing any recurrence.

Item 5 of the Human Rights Council’s agenda provides a key opportunity for States to raise concerns about specific cases of reprisals, and for governments involved in existing cases to provide an update to the Council on any investigation or action taken toward accountability. The President should also update the Council on actions taken by the President and Bureau to follow up on cases and promote accountability under this item.

Due to the lack of a general debate under item 5 at HRC 50, ISHR encourages States to raise concerns about specific cases of reprisals during the interactive dialogues on the relevant countries on the agenda at this session or in the context of thematic interactive dialogues where relevant.

During the organisational meeting held on 30 May, the President of the Council stressed the importance of ensuring the safety of those participating in the Council’s work, and the obligation of States to prevent intimidation or reprisals.

In line with previous calls, ISHR expects the President of the Human Rights Council to publicly identify and denounce specific instances of reprisals by issuing formal statements, conducting press-briefings, corresponding directly with the State concerned, publicly releasing such correspondence with States involved, and insisting on undertakings from the State concerned to investigate, hold perpetrators accountable and report back to the Council on action taken.

Sexual orientation and gender identity

The mandate of the Independent Expert on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is up for renewal for the second time at this session. We will be following this closely and call on all States to support the mandate and contribute to the Council’s efforts to combat violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Other thematic reports

At this 50th session, the Council will discuss a range of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights through dedicated debates with the mandate holders and the High Commissioner, including interactive dialogues with:

  • The Special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
  • The Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
  • The Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health
  • The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
  • The Special Rapporteur on the right to education
  • The Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity
  • The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary of arbitrary executions
  • The Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights
  • The Special Rapporteur on promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change
  • The Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises
  • The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
  • The High Commissioner on State responses to pandemics 

In addition, the Council will hold dedicated debates on the rights of specific groups including;

  • The Special Rapporteur on the rights of internally displaced persons
  • The Working Group on discrimination against women and girls
  • The Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences
  • The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants
  • The Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children
  • The Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members
  • The Special Rapporteur on independence of judges and lawyers

Country-specific developments

Afghanistan

Together with WHRDs from the country and civil society organisations from all regions, ISHR calls on States to lead and support an Urgent Debate at HRC50 on women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Since August 2021, when the Taliban took control of the country, there has been an enormous deterioration in the recognition and protection of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan, including with respect to the rights to non-discrimination, education, work, public participation, health, and sexual and reproductive health. The Taliban has also imposed sweeping restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly and movement for women and girls. Afghanistan is now the only country in the world to expressly prohibit girls’ education.

The world’s worst women’s rights crisis demands a response and it would be unacceptable for the June session of the HRC, traditionally the session focused on gender-related issues, to pass without some meaningful action on the issue. I

The Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on the update on Afghanistan on 15 June 2022. 

China 

The High Commissioner’s visit to China failed to adequately address widespread and systematic violations in the country, express solidarity with victims and defenders, or pave the way for meaningful monitoring of China’s human rights crisis across the Uyghur and Tibetan regions, Hong Kong and mainland China. The High Commissioner’s end of mission statement failed to address strong, specific concerns or make substantive, concrete recommendations to the governmen. The broad concerns issued in a light language do not match the scope and gravity of human rights violations across the country that have been thoroughly documented by UN experts and civil society and that could amount to crimes against humanity and genocide.

States should call on the High Commissioner to immediately publish her OHCHR report on the Uyghur region, with clear, compelling recommendations to the government, and present her findings in a briefing to the Human Rights Council. The High Commissioner should also ensure that the established annual meeting and working group for dialogue with the authorities are of public nature, include specific substantive recommendations to the government, and involve substantial consultation with a diverse set of independent civil society groups. China should also follow suit on promises for subsequent visits by the OHCHR by granting prompt unfettered access to Hong Kong and the Tibetan region. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/06/09/disappointment-with-un-high-commissioners-visit-to-xinjiang-boils-over/

Burundi

The Commission of Inquiry on Burundi (CoI) concluded its work at the 48th HRC session in October 2021 while a new resolution establishing a mandate of UN Special Rapporteur on Burundi was adopted, resolution 48/16. The resolution tasks the mandate with monitoring the human rights situation in the country, making recommendations for its imp­ro­ve­ment, and re­por­ting to the Human Rights Council. During the 50th HRC session, the newly nominated Special Rapporteur on Burundi will present their first oral update on 29 June 2022.

Egypt

Notwithstanding the launch of a national human rights strategy, the fundamental purpose of which is to deflect international scrutiny rather than advance human rights, there has been no significant improvement in the human rights situation in Egypt since the joint statement delivered by States in March 2021 at HRC46. Emblematic recent examples include: Ayman Hadhoud’s death in the custody of Egyptian security forces following his enforced disappearance over two months ago and the execution of seven people in Egypt on 8 and 10 March 2022 following trials in which the defendants were forcibly disappeared, tortured, and denied their right to a lawyer.

In response to the Egyptian President’s announcement of “reactivating the work of the Presidential Pardon Committee” on 26 April 2022, Egyptian human rights organisations submitted a proposal for a fair and transparent process to release political prisoners in Egypt. Yet, recent harsh sentences in unfair trials against peaceful critics demonstrate further the lack of political will of the Egyptian authorities to address the crisis of arbitrary detention in Egypt. ISHR joined more than 100 NGOs from around the world in urging the HRC to create a monitoring and reporting mechanism on the ever-deteriorating human rights situation in Egypt. 

Israel and oPT

This session, the COI on the oPt and Israel established in 2021 will present its first report to the HRC. Civil society from around the world had welcomed the historic resolution establishing the standing Commission of Inquiry to address Israel’s latest and ongoing violations against the Palestinian people on both sides of the Green Line, while also addressing the root causes of Israel’s settler colonialism and apartheid. The interactive dialogue with the CoI comes in the context of mounting recognition of Israel’s establishment and maintenance of an apartheid regime by Israel over the Palestinian people as a whole. During HRC49, the SR on the oPT called on the international community to accept and adopt his findings as well as the “findings by Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights organisations that apartheid is being practised by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory and beyond.” In its 2019 concluding observations, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination found that Israel’s policies violated Article 3 of ICERD pertaining to segregation and apartheid on both sides of the Green Line. In 2022, the Human Rights Committee concluding observations on Israel emphasized the “pre-existing systematic and structural discrimination against non-Jews”.

While some States continue to seek to undermine the mandate of the CoI and effective accountability mechanisms to put an end to Israel’s apartheid regime, CSOs support the CoI’s methodological approach to fulfill its vital mandate. We call on States to engage with the substance of the mandate of the CoI during the interactive dialogue, express support for this important accountability mechanism and ensure it has sufficient resources to discharge its mandate.

Russia 

Together with a coalition of international and regional NGOs, as well as numerous Russian civil society organisations, ISHR urges the Council to establish an independent international monitoring and reporting mechanism on Russia. In the context of the systematic repression of civil society organisations, severe restrictions on press freedoms and independent media, severe restrictions and criminalisation of many forms of free expression, association, assembly and peaceful protest, and the propagation of huge volumes of misinformation, a Special Rapporteur is necessary to ensure that the international community receives vital information about the human rights situation on the ground. 

Sudan

The Council will hold a debate with the High Commissioner and Expert on Sudan on 15 June 2022.

The Sudanese Women Rights Action documented from March to April 2022 the violations against women protesters, including arrests, injuries, and sexual violence. Their report also highlighted the economic and humanitarian situation in conflict areas and in the country in general. The report shows that “the coup leaders are using increasing violence against women protesters, including arrests, fabricated charges, direct lethal violence in protests, and sexual violence. The civic space is shrinking across Sudan, where human rights groups and WHRDs are not able to work freely and safely. Surveillance on internet, communication, movement, and offices of many groups led them to work from underground. The economic conditions and the fragile political situation is increasing women insecurity, as the peace process failed to end violence conflict areas. Women in Sudan are living in constant fear of violence with growing threats of the collapse of the state.”

In light of this context, ISHR urges all States to support the adoption of a resolution that ensures continued attention to Sudan’s human rights situation through enhanced interactive dia­logues at the Council’s 52nd and 53rd regular sessions. While the Expert’s mandate is ongoing, a resolution is required for the Council to hold public de­bates and continue to formally discuss the situation. A resolution at the Council’s 50th session would ope­ra­tio­nalise resolution S-32/1, which in its operative paragraph 19 called upon “the High Commis­sioner and the designated Expert to monitor human rights violations and abu­ses and to continue to bring information thereon to the attention of the Human Rights Council, and to advise on the further steps that may be needed if the situation continues to deteriorate.”

Venezuela

On 29 June, the Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on her report on the situation of human rights in Venezuela. The Council requested her to provide in this report a detailed assessment of the implementation of the recommendations made in her previous reports. Implementation of recommendations and improvements in the human rights situation on the ground remains a critical question as HRC mandates for OHCHR and the international investigative body for Venezuela expire in September. Venezuelan civil society groups continue to show evidence of a lack of any substantive human rights reform in the country, of a lack of meaningful cooperation by the State and – in fact – of regression in key areas such as judicial independence and civic space. ISHR urges States at the upcoming session to express support for the work of OHCHR in the country, and encourage the Office to speak clearly to realities on the ground. In addition, States should signal their support for the continuance of the work of the HRC’s fact-finding mission to the country through an extension of the Mission’s mandate at HRC51. 

The adoption of the report of the third cycle UPR on Venezuela will also take place on the 29 June or 1 July.  

Other country situations

The Council will hold an interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s annual report on 14 June 2022. The Council will hold debates on and is expected to consider resolutions addressing a range of country situations, in some instances involving the renewal of the relevant expert mandates. These include:

  • Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea
  • Interactive Dialogues with the High Commissioner and Special Rapporteur on Myanmar
  • Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner on Nicaragua
  • Interactive Dialogues with the High Commissioner on Ukraine
  • Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria
  • Interactive Dialogue with the International commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia 
  • Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Belarus
  • Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya
  • Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Central African Republic 

Council programme, appointments and resolutions

The President of the Human Rights Council will propose candidates for the following mandates: 

  1. Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief
  2. Special Rapporteur on the right to education
  3. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
  4. Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, member from African States
  5. Expert Mechanism on the Right to Development, member from Latin American and Caribbean States
  6. Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
  7. Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, member from Eastern European States
  8. Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, member from Western European and other States

Resolutions to be presented to the Council’s 50th session

At the organizational meeting on 30 May the following resolutions were announced (States leading the resolution in brackets):

  1. Elimination of discrimination against women (Mexico), mandate renewal 
  2. Freedom of expression (Brazil, Canada, Fiji, Sweden, Namibia, Netherlands) 
  3. Elimination of female genital mutilation (Africa Group)
  4. Rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association (Czech Republic, Indonesia, Lithuania, Maldives, Mexico), mandate renewal 
  5. Human rights situation in Sudan (United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, United States)
  6. Human rights situation in Syria (Germany, France, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Netherlands, Qatar, Turkey, United States, United Kingdom)
  7. Mandate of the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity  (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Uruguay), mandate renewal 
  8. Casualty recording and the promotion and protection of human rights (Liechtenstein, Croatia, Costa Rica, Sierra Leone) 
  9. Human rights and climate change (Bangladesh, Philippines, Viet Nam)
  10. Access to medicines and vaccines in the context of the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Senegal, South Africa, Thailand)
  11. Enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights (NAM)
  12. Independence and impartiality of the judiciary, jurors and assessors, and the independence of lawyers (Hungary, Australia, Botswana, Maldives, Mexico, Thailand)
  13. Human rights and the regulation of civilian acquisition, possession and use of firearms (Ecuador, Peru)
  14. Human rights in Belarus, mandate renewal (European Union)
  15. Human rights in Eritrea, mandate renewal (European Union) 
  16. The promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protest (Switzerland, Costa Rica)
  17. Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar (OIC) 
  18. Accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women (Canada), mandate renewal 
  19. Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (Austria, Honduras, Uganda), mandate renewal
  20. Human rights and international solidarity (Cuba)
  21. Social Forum (Cuba)

Read the calendar here

Adoption of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) reports

During this session, the Council will adopt the UPR working group reports on Myanmar, Togo, Syrian Arab Republic, Iceland, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Lithuania, Uganda, Timor-Leste, Republic of Moldova, South Sudan, Haiti and Sudan.

Panel discussions

During each Council session, panel discussions are held to provide member States and NGOs with opportunities to hear from subject-matter experts and raise questions. Seven panel discussions are scheduled for this upcoming session:

  1. Panel discussion on the root causes of human rights violations and abuses against Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar 
  2. Panel discussion on menstrual hygiene management, human rights and gender equality
  3. Panel discussion on good governance in the promotion and protection of human rights during and after the COVID-19 pandemic
  4. Annual full-day discussion on the human rights of women
  5. Panel discussion on the adverse impact of climate change on the full and effective enjoyment of human rights by people in vulnerable situations
  6. High-level panel discussion on countering the negative impact of disinformation on the enjoyment and realization of human rights
  7. Annual thematic panel discussion on technical cooperation and capacity-building

Stay up-to-date: Follow @ISHRglobal and #HRC50 on Twitter, and look out for its Human Rights Council Monitor. During the session, follow the live-updated programme of work on Sched. 

https://ishr.ch/latest-updates/hrc50-key-issues-on-agenda-of-june-2022-session/

Sudan: providing information against sexual violence to the UN equals “leaking state secrets”

April 26, 2022

Mat Nashed in Al-Jazeera of 18 April 2022 reports how Sulima Ishaq’s work against sexual violence is now being used against her.

On March 28, Volker Perthes told the United Nations’ Security Council that Sudanese government forces had raped 16 female protesters since last December’s anti-coup protests. He added that as UN envoy for Sudan, he was working with the Combating Violence Against Women (CVAW) Unit under the Ministry of Social Affairs and civil society to mitigate sexual violence in the country.

The next week, Sulima Ishaq, head of the unit, was interrogated by security services. Her lawyers say she is being investigated for accusations of “leaking state secrets” to the UN envoy under Article 47 of the country’s criminal act.

The information I gave to the [UN] had already been broadcasted on television channels and media outlets,” Ishaq, who is now worried that she’ll go to prison on trumped-up charges, told Al Jazeera over the phone. “But because the information was presented to the Security Council and the [coup forces] are afraid of getting sanctioned, they are [targeting] me now.”

In March, a Khartoum office – belonging to a commission investigating a June 3, 2019 incident in which security forces reportedly murdered at least 120 people to break up a sit-in – was raided by security forces.

According to Emma DiNapoli, a legal officer focusing on Sudan for Redress, a London-based non-profit advocating an end to torture worldwide, activists cooperating with the organisation have recently reported more security officers stalking them outside their homes. In some cases, this has resulted in unlawful arrests.

None of our partners has had arrest warrants issued against them, but I think there is a general sentiment that there is higher surveillance,” DiNapoli told Al Jazeera. “Even if they are not really being surveilled, [the arrests] are having a chilling effect.”

However, experts and rights groups say Ishaq’s case represents an escalation of a broader campaign to intimidate activists and put human rights defenders on high alert.

Kholood Khair, manager of Khartoum-based think-tank Insight Strategy Partners, told Al Jazeera that the coup government is trying to make an example out of Ishaq. The authorities, she said, are particularly irked since Ishaq is a civil servant, which gives her allegations more credibility in the eyes of the international community.

In Sudan, rape victims are traditionally harassed by the public and even punished by the police, so the number of people coming forward to Ishaq was seen as a big deal, Khair explained.

“Sulima was trying to highlight that rape is a weapon of war and a weapon of repression and the number of cases [documented] shows that it is a state tactic … not a case of just individual rapists,” she said.

Mohamed Osman, Sudan researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said activists have always feared that they could be targeted for documenting human rights violations against protesters. He cited the recent arrests of journalists, lawyers and doctors who appear to have been targeted for tracking unlawful arrests and killings in the country.

But the targeting of a high-profile person like Ishaq suggests that security forces are even more sensitive to scrutiny following the United States’ decision to impose sanctions on the Central Reserve Police last month, said Osman. The US cited the unit’s excessive force against protesters – including the use of live ammunition – as the reason for the decision.

Ishaq told Al Jazeera that she wished the UN envoy had been more subtle by not mentioning her unit at the Security Council meeting, given the level of repression in Sudan. “I feel that the way [the information] was stated was a little bit insensitive,” she said.

In response, Fadi Al Qadi, the spokesperson for the UN envoy, told Al Jazeera that “the special representative to the secretary-general did not name any individual in the Security Council as a source”.

And now, an atmosphere of fear is slowly enveloping the country, causing dissidents, activists and civil society to beef up personal security and take more precautions to protect themselves and sources from the eye of the authorities.

One of them is Nabil Adeeb, the septuagenarian human rights lawyer heading the investigation into the June 2019 massacre.

After government forces stormed the tribunal’s office, there were fears that evidence could be compromised and that the names of witnesses – who provided testimonies that possibly implicated specific security branches in the massacre – could be exposed.

“Our records are secure and we know that nobody would be able to access them, but we are concerned that if we resume our activities in the same place then we might expose the investigation to unwanted people since the office could be bugged,” he said.

Adeeb  – who is also Ishaq’s lawyer – told Al Jazeera that she is currently being charged for defaming the security forces under Sudan’s cybercrime law, an accusation he believes has little merit.

He is concerned that Ishaq could still face more harassment and graver accusations for simply doing her job from the state, which should naturally be helping her instead. Ishaq too fears that the worst is yet to come.

”I think that I will be scapegoated to kick out Volker [from Sudan],” she said.  “I will then be charged for jeopardising national security for providing [him] with sensitive information.”

https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2022/4/18/sudan-investigates-social-worker-fo-leaking-state-secrets-to-un

Sudanese Fadia Khalaf, Defender of the Month of March

March 25, 2022

DefendDefenders’ regulary chooses a Defender of the Month. Here an example:

Fadia Khalaf was not meant to be an activist. By her own admission, she was born into a conservative Muslim family – the first of six siblings. In Saudi Arabia where she was born and raised, the ruling ideology in the Kingdom was wahabbism – a puritanical version of Islam in which women are strictly expected to stay in the background and not play any public role. Yet even in that conservative setting, she managed to nurture a political consciousness:

“I think reading at young age helped build my awareness on concepts like justice and rights in general. I was exposed to concepts around human freedom, and that nurtured the rebel in me,” she says. Fadia Khalaf Tweet

Now aged 25, Fadia is the Co-founder of Missing Initiative, a volunteer, youth organization dedicated to documenting all persons that are reported missing during Sudan’s ongoing political crisis. The initiative was started in the aftermath of the Khartoum massacre, when armed forces of the Sudanese Transitional Military Council attacked a protest outside the country’s military headquarters, killing at least 127 people.

From the start of protests to remove Bashir (Sudan’s long-serving President deposed in April 2019), we would always report people who we would realize never returned home after the protests. This was our way of looking out for each other. But after 3 June 2021 (the day of the Khartoum massacre), the situation was terrible. People were killed, women were raped, while many others were disappeared. All of a sudden, because of our past work, I started getting tens of phone-calls of people letting me know that their persons were missing, asking me to do something about it. I had to post all these missing cases on my social media platforms(Twitter & Instagram via @SlayKaiii) in addition to reporting to police, to try to find them. It was from that crisis that I and five other friends decided to start Missing initiative to continue searching for these people,” Fadia Khalaf Tweet

The initiative helps document persons announced missing, liaises with the police to conduct a search process, follows up on those in police detention to ensure the progress of their cases and helps some of those arrested find legal representation. To date, Missing Initiative has documented over 100 cases of missing persons, and helped locate about 60, from prisons to hospitals. Among these, at least five were found dead in city morgues.

“It’s horrifying, the conditions in which we find some of these people, if we find them at all. Some are in urgent need of medical attention from all forms of torture, others are imprisoned without charge. Others, we find, have died. But at least, it gives closure to their families,” she says. Fadia Khalaf Tweet

As a result of their work, Fadia says that Sudanese now recognise forced disappearances as a state crime, and have gradually developed a consciousness and vigilance to look out for each other against state-inspired violence.

These efforts have not been without consequences. Fadia says she and her colleagues have been threatened together with their families, and that she continues to be randomly followed and her phones tapped. She says as women human rights defenders (WHRDs) in a deeply patriarchal society, they’re even more endangered because the society does not believe they should have any rights at all, much less a voice.

“The day women rise in Sudan, patriarchy will fall because it thrives on subjugating women. And that’s why those like us are harassed because the system fears that we will awaken and empower other women to rise up and refuse to be dominated,” she says. Fadia Khalaf Tweet

Nonetheless, Fadia is optimistic, the growing women and youth agitation is unstoppable: “This spirit and desire for change, I have never seen it before. Young people are willing to die for a better country every day!  It is inspiring. All they need is to be empowered more,” she notes.

Guide to 49th session of Human Rights Council – with human rights defenders focus

February 21, 2022

The 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council, from 28 February – 1 April 2022, will consider issues including the protection of human rights defenders, freedom of religion or belief, protection and promotion of human rights while countering terrorism, the right to food and adequate housing, among others. It will also present an opportunity to address grave human rights situations in States including Nicaragua, Venezuela, China, Syria, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar, Eritrea, among many others. Here’s an overview of some of the key issues on the agenda. The ISHR has issued again its excellent Guide to the upcoming session and I have extracted from it the issues most directly related to human rights defenders:

Protection of human rights defenders

On 11 March 2022, the UN Special Rapporteur will present her report on the work of human rights defenders to address corruption. At the 49th session of the HRC, Norway will present a thematic resolution on human rights defenders in conflict and post-conflict situations. A group of NGOs have produced a list of 25 recommendations related to key concerns that should be addressed in the resolution. These include recommendations related to the removal of legislation that impinges upon the ability of defenders to do their work, including counter-terrorism legislation; the development of protection measures that take into account the specific needs of particular groups of defenders and the precarious nature of their situation in conflict and post-conflict contexts, and specific measures to support human rights defenders in such contexts, including in regard to the provision of cloud-based solutions for storage of documentation, flexible and reliable funding and swift responses in the case of the need for relocation of human rights defenders and their families. ISHR joins these calls and to impress upon the Council the need for a strong commitment to acknowledging and taking action to protect human rights defenders working in such contexts.  In addition, we call on all UN members to monitor and report on their implementation of the resolution in a comprehensive way, sharing updates on challenges faced and progress made during relevant UN dialogues and debates.   

Reprisals

Reports of cases of intimidation and reprisal against those cooperating or seeking to cooperate with the UN not only continue, but grow. Intimidation and reprisals violate the rights of the individuals concerned, they constitute violations of international human rights law and undermine the UN human rights system.

The UN has taken some action towards addressing this critical issue including:

  • an annual report by the Secretary General;
  • a dedicated dialogue under item 5 to take place every September;
  • The appointment of the UN Assistant Secretary General on Human Rights as the Senior Official on addressing reprisals.

Despite this, ISHR remains deeply concerned about reprisals against civil society actors who try to engage with UN mechanisms, and consistent in its calls for all States and the Council to do more to address the situation. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/

During the 48th session, the Council adopted a resolution on reprisals. The text was adopted by consensus for the first time since 2009 and invites the UN Secretary General to submit his annual report on reprisals and intimidation to the UN General Assembly. Once again the resolution listed key trends including that acts of intimidation and reprisals can signal patterns, increasing self-censorship, and the use of national security arguments and counter-terrorism strategies by States as justification for blocking access to the UN. The resolution also acknowledged the specific risks to individuals in vulnerable situations or belonging to marginalised groups, and called on the UN to implement gender-responsive policies to end reprisals. The Council called on States to combat impunity by conducting prompt, impartial and independent investigations and ensuring accountability for all acts of intimidation or reprisal, both online and offline, by condemning all such acts publicly, providing access to effective remedies for victims, and preventing any recurrence.

Item 5 of the Human Rights Council’s agenda provides a key opportunity for States to raise concerns about specific cases of reprisals, and for governments involved in existing cases to provide an update to the Council on any investigation or action taken toward accountability to be carried out. The President should also update the Council on actions taken by the President and Bureau to follow up on cases and promote accountability under this item.

Other thematic debates

At this 49th session, the Council will discuss a range of topics in depth through dedicated debates with mandate holders. The debates with mandate holders include: 

  • The Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights 
  • The Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief
  • The Special Rapporteur on torture
  • The Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy

In addition, the Council will hold dedicated debates on the rights of specific groups including the Special Rapporteur on minority issues

In addition, the Council will hold dedicated debates on interrelation of human rights and human rights thematic issues including:

  • The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism
  • The Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment

Country-specific developments

China: High Commissioner Bachelet has still not released her Office’s report on grave human rights violations in the Uyghur region, six months after announcing its upcoming publication, and three months since her spokesperson indicated it would only be a matter of ‘weeks’. Further delays risk entrenching the Chinese government’s sense of impunity, and will harm the credibility of, and confidence in her Office’s capacity to address grave violations, some of which could amount to atrocity crimes. States should urge the High Commissioner to promptly publish her report, and present it to the Human Rights Council as a matter of utmost priority.  This includes ensuring sustained pressure around China’s abuse of national security in discourse and law, and on the widespread and systematic use of enforced disappearance under ‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location’ (RSDL). See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/02/05/chinas-residential-surveillance-at-a-designated-location-needs-to-disappear/

Burundi: The Commission of Inquiry on Burundi (CoI) concluded its work at the 48th HRC session in October 2021 while a new resolution establishing a mandate of UN Special Rapporteur on Burundi was adopted, resolution 48/16. The resolution tasks the mandate with monitoring the human rights situation in the country, making recommendations for its imp­ro­ve­ment, and re­por­ting to the Human Rights Council. While the Spe­cial Rapporteur will be unable to continue the entirety of the investigative work carried out by the CoI, they will “collect, examine and assess” information on human rights deve­lop­ments. Ahead of HRC48 more than 40 organisations, including ISHR, urged the Council to continue its scrutiny and further work towards justice and accountability in Burundi. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/07/03/germain-rukuki-burundi-human-rights-defender-out-of-jail/

The UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) will ensure that evidence col­lec­ted by the CoI is “consolidated, preserved, accessible and usable in support of ongoing and future accountability efforts” including efforts to hold Bu­rundian officials responsible for atrocities in front of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Burundian government should resume its engagement with the Council and grant the Special Rap­porteur, who will be appointed in March 2022, access to the country for an official visit.

France: Following an urgent call by ISHR and the Comité Adama, UN experts sent two communications to the French government on 15 and 26 November 2021 asking for measures to ensure that human rights defenders, including people of African descent, enjoy a safe environment in which to carry out their legitimate work for human rights and justice. The lack of investigation in the case of Adama Traoré’s death and the judicial harassment against his sister Assa Traoré for her activism is a sign of broader systemic racism against Black people in policing and criminal justice in France. 

ISHR urges the HRC to continue its scrutiny and calls on France to ensure a prompt, transparent, and impartial investigation into the case of Adama Traoré; end the judicial harassment of Assa Traoré for her activism; accept the requests of the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism and the Working Group on People of African Descent to visit the country; end impunity for police violence; and ensure truly free and impartial investigations into the death or injury of anyone at the hands of the police, especially people of African descent.

Egypt: The joint statement delivered by States in March 2021 at the 46th session of the HRC played a critical role in securing the conditional release of several human rights defenders and journalists arbitrarily detained throughout 2021 and 2022. Regrettably, these releases do not reflect any significant change in Egypt’s systematic attacks on civic space and human rights defenders, including arbitrary detention, torture, ill-treatment, enforced disappearances and criminalisation of the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly or public participation. On 3 February 2022, 175 parliamentarians from across Europe urged the HRC to establish a “long overdue monitoring and reporting mechanism on Egypt”. ISHR joined more than 100 NGOs from around the world in urging the HRC to create a monitoring and reporting mechanism on the ever-deteriorating human rights situation in Egypt. Continued, sustained and coordinated action on Egypt at the HRC is more necessary than ever. The HRC should follow up on the 2021 State joint statement and heed the calls of civil society and parliamentarians. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/01/11/the-arabic-network-for-human-rights-information-has-shut-down/

Nicaragua: A year after Council resolution 46/2, civil society reporting indicates no meaningful action has been taken by Nicaragua to implement any of the Council’s recommendations to the government. Instead, it has deepened its crackdown on human rights defenders and any form of dissent, and further closed civil society space ahead of the November 2021 electoral process. The government’s absolute disregard for cooperation with international and regional mechanisms, including the treaty bodies, is an additional sign that the government does not intend to revert course on the country’s human rights crisis. ISHR, jointly with the Colectivo 18/2, urges the Human Rights Council to establish an independent mechanism to investigate grave human rights violations since April 2018 in Nicaragua, as well as their root causes. The mechanism should verify alleged grave violations, identify perpetrators, and preserve evidence, with a view to long-term accountability processesSee also my post of today: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/02/21/nicaragua-death-in-detention-and-sham-trial/

Saudi Arabia: According to ALQST’s 2021 annual report, for a short time in early 2021, intense global pressure on Saudi Arabia’s leaders to improve their dismal human rights record resulted in some minor reforms and concessions, yet, when the pressure eased, the Saudi authorities resumed their habitual pattern of abuses with renewed intensity. A number of high-profile women human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience were conditionally released, but they remain under severe restrictions which means that while they are released, they are not yet free. Saudi authorities continue to crackdown on freedom of expression and hand down lengthy prison sentences to human rights defenders. Saudi Arabia is sensitive regarding its reputation and susceptible to international pressure.

Sudan: On 5 November 2021, the Human Rights Council held a special session to address the ongoing situation in the Republic of Sudan and mandated an Expert on human rights in Sudan to monitor and report on the situation until the restoration of its civilian-led Government. The HRC must extend the reporting mandate of the Expert as the human rights situation is deteriorating. The military is closing the civic space for women’s rights groups and women human rights defenders, including by stigmatising women’s rights groups as terrorists or drug abusers. The recent arrests of women human rights defenders are part of a systemic attack against WHRDs in Sudan. The military and security forces are using social media and traditional media to defame women protesters. Women’s rights groups and WHRDs are facing a new wave of attacks that include framing charges to prolong the detention of WHRDs and defame the women’s rights movement. The military reinstated the authorities of the former regime’s security forces in December 2021 in the emergency order number 3. The new emergency order gave Sudanese security complete impunity and protection from accountability for any form of violations on duty.  Sudanese security forces have a well-documented history of sexual abuse and torture of women detainees. WHRDs in detention are at risk of maltreatment, torture, and sexual violence. 

Venezuela is back under the microscope with updates from the Office of the High Commissioner and from the Council’s fact-finding mission on the country both scheduled for 17th March. Attention on the human rights situation in the country follows hot on the heels of the Universal Periodic Review of Venezuela that took place at the end of January.  The Council session is taking place at a time that Venezuelan civil society continues facing restrictions and attacks on their work. The head of human rights organisation, Fundaredes, has now been arbitrarily detained for 224 days. The Council session is an opportunity for States to express concern about the restrictions on civil society, and to enquire about the implementation of prior recommendations made to Venezuela by both OHCHR and the Mission. Despite being a Council member, Venezuela has yet to allow the Council’s own fact-finding mission access to the country, something the Council as a whole should denounce. 

The High Commissioner will provide an oral update to the Council on 7 March. The Council will consider updates, reports on and is expected to consider resolutions addressing a range of country situations, in some instances involving the renewal of the relevant expert mandates. These include:

  • Oral update and interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea
  • Oral update and interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on the Tigray region of Ethiopia 
  • Interactive Dialogue on the High Commissioner’s written update on Sri Lanka
  • Interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s report on  Nicaragua
  • Interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s report on Afghanistan
  • Interactive Dialogue on the High Commissioner’s report on ensuring accountability and justice in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem
  • Oral updates and interactive dialogues with the High Commissioner and fact-finding mission on Venezuela 
  • Oral update bv the High Commissioner and interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
  • Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the OHCHR’s report on Belarus
  • Interactive Dialogue on the High Commissioner’s report, enhanced interactive dialogue on the Secretary-General’s report, and interactive dialogue on the Special Rapporteur’s report on Myanmar
  • Interactive Dialogue on the Special Rapporteur’s report on Iran
  • Interactive Dialogue on the Commission of Inquiry’s report on Syria 
  • Interactive Dialogue on the Special Rapporteur’s report on the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967
  • Interactive Dialogues on the High Commissioner’s report and Commission on Human Rights’ report on South Sudan
  • Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner on Ukraine
  • High-level Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Central African Republic
  • Oral updates and enhanced interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner and the team of international experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Oral update by the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia 
  • Interactive Dialogue on the Independent Expert’s report on Mali 
  • Interactive Dialogue on the fact-finding mission’s report on Libya

Appointment of mandate holders

The President of the Human Rights Council will propose candidates for the following mandates: 

  1. Three members of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (one from the Pacific, one from Central and South America and the Caribbean, and one from Central and Eastern Europe, the Russian Federation, Central Asia and Transcaucasia); 
  2. The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change; 
  3. The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan; 
  4. The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burundi; 
  5. The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967; 
  6. A member of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, from Western European and other States; 
  7. A member of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, from Asia-Pacific States; 
  8. A member of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, from Asia-Pacific States;
  9. A member of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, from Latin American and Caribbean States (an unforeseen vacancy that has arisen due to a resignation).

Resolutions to be presented to the Council’s 49th session

At the organisational meeting on 14 February the following resolutions were announced (States leading the resolution in brackets):

  1. Human rights of persons belonging to minorities (Austria, Mexico, Slovenia)
  2. Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against, persons based on religion or belief (Pakistan on behalf of the OIC) 
  3. Human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the obligation to ensure accountability and justice (Pakistan on behalf of the OIC) 
  4. Cultural rights (Cuba)
  5. The negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights (Azerbaijan on behalf of NAM)
  6. Right to work (Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Mexico, Romania)
  7.  Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran – mandate renewal (Iceland, Moldova, North Macedonia, UK) 
  8. Rights of the child (GRULAC and EU)
  9. Human rights defenders (Norway)
  10. Adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and the right to non-discrimination in this context (Germany, Brazil, Finland, Namibia)
  11. Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic – mandate renewal (France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Netherlands, Qatar, Turkey, UK, USA)
  12. Situation of human rights in South Sudan – mandate renewal (Albania, Norway, USA, UK)
  13. Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism – mandate renewal (Mexico)
  14. Prevention of genocide (Armenia)
  15. Situation of human rights in Belarus – mandate renewal (EU)
  16. Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)- mandate renewal (EU) 
  17. Situation of human rights in Myanmar – mandate renewal (EU)
  18. Freedom of religion or belief (EU)
  19. Technical assistance and capacity-building for Mali in the field of human rights (Africa Group)
  20. Technical assistance and capacity-building for South Sudan (Africa Group) 
  21. Role of states in countering the negative impact of disinformation on human rights (Ukraine)

During this session, the Council will adopt the UPR working group reports on Myanmar, Greece, Suriname, Samoa, Hungary, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Papua New Guinea, Tajikistan, United Republic of Tanzania, Eswatini, Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand and Ireland.

During each Council session, panel discussions are held to provide member States and NGOs with opportunities to hear from subject-matter experts and raise questions. 7 panel discussions and 1 thematic meeting are scheduled for this upcoming session:

To stay up-to-date: Follow @ISHRglobal and #HRC49 on Twitter, and look out for our Human Rights Council Monitor.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/10/19/48th-session-of-the-human-rights-council-outcomes/

https://ishr.ch/latest-updates/hrc49-key-issues-on-agenda-of-march-2022-session/

Profile of Human Rights Defender Elrudia Abdalla Hussein from Sudan

April 16, 2021

By the time Elrudia Abdalla Hussein, a Sudanese woman human rights defender was in secondary school, she had witnessed the killings of countless people. Growing up in Darfur, she observed violence and human rights abuses. “If you do not have power, you do not have rights,” she concluded.  As a result, she decided to join a student association during her tertiary education to raise awareness about human rights and fight injustice.

When strangers entered their family home in 2010, Elrudia and her husband decided to flee to Uganda with their children. As a refugee, Elrudia faced new human rights challenges. Many of the Sudanese refugee women in her community are single mothers struggling financially. Coming from a war zone, they often face mental health challenges. Many of them only know basic English, making it difficult to navigate the Ugandan refugee system. When one of the women in Elrudia’s community struggled to pay rent, she got together with a group of Sudanese refugee women to help out.

We decided to come together as sisters, and all put in a financial contribution to pay two months of her rent. After this, we decided to continue the communal support and founded an association.Sudanese Women for Peace and Development association not only helps refugee women financially, but also with asylum procedures, referrals for support by other NGOs, counselling, trainings, and raising awareness about their rights. It is run entirely by volunteers from the Sudanese refugee community, who also fund the project to a large extent.

As refugees, it can be quite tricky to defend human rights in Uganda: involvement in politics can lead to an investigation that could ultimately revoke refugee status, but the line between politics and human rights is often rather thin. Elrudia’s association clearly focuses on social work, yet they carefully steer clear of any speech or activity that could be interpreted as political – a difficult balancing act sometimes. Another difficulty Elrudia and other exiled HRDs face is how to generate income for their families. Refugees have to rely on informal jobs to cover expenses like rent, food or school fees, so Elrudia often sells food she has prepared – while running the women’s association and also completing her master’s degree in Agriculture and Economics.

What keeps her going is hope: “I see things getting better around me. It’s easier to be in touch with friends and family back in Darfur. That gives me hope. Seeing the impact that we make in our community pushes me to continue, despite the difficulties. And: when I start something, I finish it!

hajooj kuka: another case for the International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk (ICFR)

September 20, 2020

He, along with four other artists (Duaa Tarig Mohamed Ahmed, Abdel Rahman Mohamed Hamdan, Ayman Khalaf Allah Mohamed Ahmed, and Ahmed Elsadig Ahmed Hammad), have been jailed for two months in Khartoum following an attack on the Civic Lab, where they were creating  art for community engagement.

hajooj kuka is an exceptional filmmaker and TIFF has been proud to present his work,” said Vicente and Bailey. “His films Beats of the Antonov and aKasha revealed a singular view of life in Sudan through the eyes of a remarkable artist. hajooj, along with four other artists, is now in prison in Sudan and we need to bring attention to this urgent and troubling situation. When an artist is silenced, society as a whole suffers.

According to the Sudanese organization Gisa, where kuka is co-director: “The case, which was policed, prosecuted, and judged by al-Bashir era authorities, points to a dangerous backsliding in Sudan as oppressive laws put in place by the former regime continue to stifle free expression and target artists and human rights defenders.”

In an effort to increase awareness of kuka’s imprisonment and to demonstrate the value of artistic and political expression, both Beats of the Antonov and aKasha will be available to rent for free for a few days. TIFF also encouraged audiences to contact the Sudanese Embassy in their country and follow #ReleaseTheArtistsSudan on social media to learn more about this issue.

Two of kuka’s films, Beats of the Antonov (2014) and aKasha (2018), have premiered at TIFF, with the former winning the TIFF People’s Choice Award for Best Documentary.

See also: https://www.dabangasudan.org/en/all-news/article/artists-sentenced-to-two-months-imprisonment-in-sudan

Oslo Freedom Forum 24-25 September goes on-line

August 17, 2020

For the first time, the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is bringing its Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) online. “While the circumstances may keep us apart, our commitment to supporting activists in their struggle against authoritarian regimes is stronger than ever. Join us online from September 24-25 for the only virtual conference that puts human rights at the top of the global agenda. The political and health crises of the past six months have reminded us how authoritarians use human tragedy to advance their own agendas. Corrupt regimes around the world have exploited the COVID-19 pandemic to impose restrictions on freedom of speech, to arrest peaceful protesters, and to silence dissent. The courage and determination of activists and citizens alike have been tested, yet they remain resilient in the face of tyranny.”

Confirmed speakers for the 2020 Oslo Freedom Forum include:

  • Taiwan’s Digital Minister Audrey Tang
  • Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey
  • Uyghur journalist Gulchehra Hoja
  • Thai opposition leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit
  • Gambian anti-rape activist and survivor Fatou Toufah Jallow
  • Exiled Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Nathan Law
  • North Korean defector Eunhee Park
  • Sudanese doctor and pro-democracy activist Mohamed Nagi Alassam
  • Russian investigative journalist Lyudmila Savchuk
  • Cuban environmentalist and LGBTQ+ rights activist Ariel Ruiz Urquiola
  • “Who Owns Huawei?” author and professor Christopher Balding
  • Oscar-winning film director Bryan Fogel

More speakers to be announced soon.  

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/21/human-rights-foundation-uses-2019-oslo-freedom-forum-for-rebranding/

Oslo Freedom Forum

 

Sudanese woman human rights defender laureate of Martine Anstett Prize 2020

April 21, 2020
Tahani Abbas Khartoum- Ahmed Younes
On Tuesday 12 March 2020 Asharq al-Awsat reported – somewhat garbled – that Tahani Abbas, a Sudanese human rights activist, was awarded “the Martin Institute Prize in Switzerland.” The newspaper surely meant: the Martine Anstett Prize for Human Rights (see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/martine-anstett-human-rights-prize).
Ms. Abbas told Asharq Al-Awsat that she was proud to receive the prize and because it embodies the distant world’s perception of the Sudanese people’s struggle and shows that the world is watching out for human rights. She went on to say that “personally, the award credits me with a strong role with regards to defending human rights and makes me feel that our efforts and positions in the defense of human rights are appreciated and did not go in vain.” In her acceptance speech, Abbas stressed that all Sudanese women qualify to stand in her place and receive the prize, adding that “I am only a miniature and symbolic example that personifies that struggle of all the women of Sudan. I am an extension of Sudan’s feminist struggle, which is deeply ingrained in its history since before the era of the Kandakes or Nubian Queens, passing through Mendi, daughter of the Sultan Ajabna, and reaching the icon of the Sudanese revolution, Alaa Salah.”

Despite the admiration of observers and the organizers of the prize for the role of Sudanese women in the revolution, Abbas demonstrated her anger at what she calls “women’s weak political participation of after the revolution”. However, she says “Despite being denied political participation after the success of the revolution, our struggle will not stop.”  Abbas has been an active human rights defender since 2009 and is a member of many Sudanese feminist and human rights groups. She is a member of the executive committee of the Regional Alliance of Women Human Rights Defenders of North Africa and the Middle East, a member of the executive committee of the No to the Oppression of Sudanese Women Initiative, the My Fair Home campaign which is concerned with domestic workers, the I am Sudanese, which is concerned with nationality and a member of the Sudanese Alliance to End Child Marriage.

In her assessment of the human rights situation in Sudan after the revolution, she says that it has improved a lot as per international standards. She said: ”The reports of international human rights organizations demonstrate this, and, locally, we feel that, as human rights defenders, we have achieved some victories.”

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/10/16/martine-anstett-honored-with-own-human-rights-award/

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/2176746/sudanese-female-activist-wins-martin-institute-prize-human-rights-defenders

Human Rights in Africa in 2019: rage

January 16, 2020

There was rage across the African continent last year, says Human Rights Watch in its annual report, with no sign of cooling down in 2020. In Sudan and Guinea, there were manifestations of frustration with entrenched leadership.  In Zimbabwe, protests mostly about economic conditions.  While in rural Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, they were about the rights of communities displaced by conflict. But the public outrage is good to see, said Human Rights Watch (HRW) at its Johannesburg report unveiling. Africa Advocacy director for HRW Carine Kaneza Nantulya says ordinary citizens took the spotlight this year.v”We’ve seen, I think, the average men and women of the African continent taking agency, being agents for their own for the changes they wanted to see, which we saw an increase of peaceful protest in different countries,” she said. “The second takeaway is that we’ve also seen a backsliding from government in terms of political and civic space.”

That has taken the form of outright police aggression and repression, as seen in Southern Africa, says the group’s Southern Africa researcher, Dewa Mavhinga. “We expected more from southern African leaders, including President Ramaphosa of South Africa, based on their commitment and promises to fulfill people’s rights across the region, “ he said.   “But we saw that there was a constriction of space for human rights defenders in countries like Zimbabwe,” Mavhinga told VOA.

But there was also a glimmer of hope, as Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize for his reform agenda and for his reconciliatory moves with arch-enemy Eritrea, noted HRW’s Africa deputy advocacy director, Babatunde Olugboji. “He’s done quite a few great things in Ethiopia, he’s released political prisoners and is actually reforming some repressive laws,” he said. “He sort of made peace with Eritrea. So things are moving in the right direction, mostly,” said Olugboji.   “There’s still a lot to be done in Ethiopia,” he added.

He pointed to an event few people could have predicted at this time last year: the popular uprising that led to the ouster of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir after a 30-year rule marked by oppression,  human rights abuses, and  attempted genocide in the Darfur region.

Today, 30 August, International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance

August 30, 2019

Many NGOs pay today attention to the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. Here the example of AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network) which published the following on 27 August:

For each disappeared, more activists stand up! Stop enforced disappearances against human rights defenders

On 13 April 2015, Sandra Kodouda, a Sudanese human rights defender (HRD), was abducted in Khartoum, Sudan by a group of unidentified men. Three days later she returned home with a dislocated shoulder and clear signs of physical abuse. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/04/17/update-sandra-kodouda-in-sudan-injured-but-back-from-illegal-detention-by-niss/]

Some months later, on 10 December 2015, Burundian HRD Marie Claudette Kwizera was abducted in Bujumbura, Burundi by individuals believed to be members of the Burundian National Intelligence Service (SNR). Marie is still missing.  

The cases of Sandra and Marie are not unique – it was just one of the few cases of enforced disappearance of African HRDs that made the headlines. Every year, African activists disappear without a trace, and without any media coverage. More importantly, no investigation is carried out, and no accountability is ensured. The alleged perpetrators continue to walk the streets, or, in most cases, rule the country, without any repercussions. Meanwhile, the victims are often tortured and many are killed, or live in constant fear of being killed, and the family and friends of the victim are left in the agony of not knowing the fate of their beloved. 

In international human rights law, an enforced disappearance occurs when a person is abducted or imprisoned by state agents or by a third party with the authorisation, support or acquiescence of the state, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the person’s fate and whereabouts, which place the victim outside the protection of the law. When used systematically, it constitutes a crime against humanity according to the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons Against Enforced Disappearances (ICPPED). 

Yet, it is a longstanding, systematic, and widespread tactic, often used by governments to silence HRDs, and as a strategy to spread terror within society. During the 1990s in Algeria, it is estimated that at least 7000 critical voices were abducted by government forces alone during the civil war. In Egypt, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms’ campaign, “Stop Enforced Disappearances”, has documented more than 1000 cases of enforced disappearances of HRDs under Al-Sisi’s regime. During the current revolution in Sudan, hundreds of peaceful protests were abducted, disappeared, allegedly by the security forces. The fate and whereabouts of most of the victims remains unknown.

Despite threats and reprisals, the families and the communities of the victim continue to stand up and call for justice. For instance, every year,  Burkinabe students commemorate Dabo Boukary, a student activist who disappeared during student protests in 1990. In Burundi, the impactful campaign “Ndondeza” (where are they?) continues to put pressure on the government and to call for justice. For each person that disappears, more activists stand up.

On 30 August, we commemorate the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance. We call on states to investigate cases of enforced disappearance and to ensure accountability; to ratify and implement the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances; and to ensure adequate reparations to the survivors, and their families.

We continue to stand in solidarity with HRDs that have disappeared, been tortured, and/or killed. We continue to demand #JusticeForActivists.

For each disappeared, more activists stand up! Stop enforced disappearances against human rights defenders