Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sudan: International observers and diplomatic missions fail to explicitly and resolutely criticize human rights and electoral abuses

Source: Human Rights Watch (HRW) - Between April 11 and 15, 2010, Sudan held its first multi-party national elections in almost 25 years—a milestone set forth in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended a 22-year civil war between the country's northern Arab-dominated government and southern non-Arab populations. However, a range of human rights violations marred the historic vote, and now threaten to jeopardize the referendum on self-determination that Southern Sudan is scheduled to hold in January 2011.

Human Rights Watch documented numerous human rights abuses perpetrated by the two main partners in the Government of National Unity (GNU): the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the former southern rebel movement, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM). These include arbitrary arrests and intimidating opponents, voters, and election observers before and during the election period, when international and domestic election observers reported numerous electoral irregularities. These reports led the National Elections Commission (NEC) to hold new elections in many constituencies.

Since the election, the situation has worsened. In northern states, the NCP, which dominates the GNU, has cracked down on opponents, activists, and journalists; in southern states, the SPLM and its security forces have fought forces allied to independent candidates; in Darfur, the Sudanese government continues to fight rebel forces and the civilians with whom they are aligned, deploying aerial bombs and ground forces to do so.

Political intolerance, repression, and violence have eroded the legitimacy of the elections across Sudan, and violated the right of the Sudanese people to elect their government in genuinely free and fair elections. They have contributed to a worsening human rights situation throughout the country by emboldening the NCP and SPLM—neither of which have not been forced to account for their actions—in their clampdown against opponents. They have raised the specter of growing instability in states such as Central Equatoria, Jonglei, Unity, and Western Bahr el Ghazal, and they have set a worrying precedent for Southern Sudan's forthcoming referendum on self-determination.

International observers and diplomatic missions have failed to explicitly and resolutely criticize these documented human rights and electoral abuses, or to call for accountability and reform. The US and EU have been relatively muted in their criticism, expressing concern about voting "irregularities," circumscribed political freedoms, and elections that fall short of international standards. But they have not condemned the widespread abuses, nor have they pressed for accountability and reforms. Meanwhile, the Arab League (also known as the League of Arab States), African Union (AU), and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)—a seven-country regional organization based in East Africa—have issued statements that failed to mention election-related abuses at all.

The international community, and specifically Sudan's foreign partners and sponsors to the CPA, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Norway, must urge Sudanese authorities to end abuses and cease granting impunity to those who commit them. In order to bolster chances for a peaceful referendum in January 2011, and to ensure the democratic transformation that the CPA envisages, they must also intensify pressure on Sudan to improve its human rights record, and condemn human rights violations, intimidation, and violence.

The Government of National Unity and the semi-autonomous southern Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) should both act immediately to restore public confidence in the country's political process by ending repression of civil and political rights, and other human rights violations. Arbitrary arrests must stop, and opposition members and political and student activists who have been arbitrarily detained must be released. Allegations of abuse including those related to elections must be investigated and prosecuted. Human Rights Watch also urges Sudanese authorities to undertake legal and institutional reforms of the national security, media, and electoral bodies to ensure free and fair elections in the future.

In addition, although Omar al-Bashir has been re-elected as Sudan's president, he is still wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur. The Sudanese government must cooperate with the court, as required by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1593, to bring to justice al-Bashir and two other Sudanese suspects subject to warrants issued by the ICC.1 These are Ahmed Haroun, former state minister for humanitarian affairs and current governor of Southern Kordofan, and the Janjaweed militia leader known as Ali Kosheib (a pseudonym for Ali Mohammed Ali), both of whom also face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur.

Read the report