Sudan: Human rights agenda for lasting peace

Both parties to the Sudanese internal conflict signed a peace protocol on 20 July in Machakos, Kenya, and are set to resume peace negotiations on 12 August, under the auspices of the regional body Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and observers from the United States (US), the United Kingdom, Norway and Italy.

'The Machakos Protocol mentions that human rights should be guaranteed in a peace agreement between both parties to the Sudanese civil war. Amnesty International welcomes this commitment as an important statement and underlines that only peace based on human rights for all the people of Sudan will last', the organisation said.

Fundamental human rights which should be respected and protected in any future peace agreement in Sudan include:

- A full enjoyment of the right to life. Both government and armed opposition forces have been responsible for extra-judicial executions and unlawful killings of thousands of civilians in their conduct of the war. The government has carried out direct and indiscriminate aerial bombings on civilians in many parts of southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains, killing hundreds and injuring more. Both government and armed opposition forces must prohibit unlawful killings and deliberate, disproportionate or indiscriminate attacks on civilians and respect at all times international human rights and humanitarian law.

- A full enjoyment of the right to liberty and security. Humanitarian sources estimate that the armed conflict has displaced more than 4.5 million persons since 1983. The primary cause of internal displacement of civilians in Sudan is direct attack or the threat of attack by armed groups. Thousands of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and Children's rights have been abducted by government-allied forces, but also by armed opposition groups. Both parties to the peace protocol must commit to protect the human life and dignity and security of all Sudanese. Civilians must have their rights to protection against deliberate and arbitrary displacement, to assistance during displacement and to safe return respected. The plight of internally displaced can only be improved by an expressed commitment of the parties to the war to respect international law and allow unimpeded access for humanitarian agencies and human rights monitors to all areas of Sudan.

- The right not to be tortured or subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including the death penalty. Armed forces from all sides are responsible for horrendous attacks and maiming of civilians, including rape and other forms of sexual violence primarily against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights. In the areas of Sudan physically outside the war zones, the Sudanese security and police forces are also responsible for torturing political opponents, human rights activists and persons suspected to disagree with the central authorities. The Sudanese Penal Code provides for cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments, including floggings, amputations and death by hanging or crucifixion. Torture and brutality by armed or security forces should be eradicated; any case of torture, including rape, should be independently and thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice in fair trials. Cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments as well as the death penalty should be abolished.

- The right not to be arbitrarily arrested and detained and the right to a fair trial. Torture in places of detention in Sudan is compounded by the fact that detainees have been held incommunicado, without access to lawyers and relatives. Many have been held without charge or trial for months. Others have been asked to report daily to the security services, in an apparent attempt to repress opposition to the government. Judicial proceedings are in many cases summary and arbitrary, with the accused often deprived of proper defence counsel and of the right to appeal. Incommunicado detention should be ended and all detainees have prompt access to lawyers and families; all political prisoners held without charge or trial should be tried in fair trials or immediately released; respect for the right to fair trial, according to international human rights standards, must be ensured in all areas of Sudan.

- The right to free expression, association and assembly. Under the Sudanese government critics of the authorities have been harassed, arrested and imprisoned, often without charge or trial. Newspapers are subjected to government censorship. Persons who have demonstrated against government policies have been shot at with live ammunition by the police, often in violation of the international standards on the use of force. Political parties who do not agree with the government line are banned. The SPLM has also harassed and detained critics in the areas under its control and repressed civil society. The peaceful expression of ideas and opinions, including on war and peace issues, which does not constitute advocacy of violence, should be guaranteed and any person detained solely for the expression of conscientiously held beliefs should be released immediately and unconditionally.

- The right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of ethnic origin, religion or sex. Both the government and the SPLA have used ethnicity and religion as incentives to assemble armed forces for the war, intensifying tensions between people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds in Sudan. Internally displaced persons from all corners of Sudan residing in northern Sudan face daily discriminatory practices by government security forces. Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights are particularly affected by discriminatory laws and practices restricting their rights, in all areas of Sudan. There should be no distinction or discrimination against anyone on the grounds of ethnic origin, religion, sex or other status in the enjoyment of human rights and freedoms. Discriminatory laws against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights should be abolished; the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights (CEDAW) should be signed and ratified by the Sudanese authorities and implemented in all areas of Sudan.

Amnesty International also believes that, in order to ensure respect and protection of the fundamental human rights of the people of Sudan, a peace agreement must also guarantee an independent and impartial monitoring of any allegations of human rights abuses by the parties to the war and an end to the culture of impunity in Sudan. The principle of independent and impartial monitoring, such as the one brokered by the US and accepted by both parties to the war to investigate attacks on civilians and civilian objects, must be applied to all allegations of serious human rights abuses. Justice must prevail and perpetrators of serious human rights abuses be made accountable.

Background

The Machakos Protocol results from the resumption of talks between the Sudanese government and the SPLM/A on 18 June 2002 as part of the years-long peace initiative on Sudan by IGAD. Peace talks sponsored by IGAD have stalled for years. However, following the nomination by the United States of John Danforth as Special Envoy for peace on Sudan in September 2001, international pressure is being applied on both parties to the Sudanese conflict to engage seriously in a process for peace. The US Special Envoy on Sudan had prior to the resumption of peace talks brokered four agreements between the Sudanese government and the SPLM/A, not all yet fully implemented: an internationally-monitored humanitarian cease-fire in the Nuba Mountains; an agreement to stop attacks on civilians, to be internationally monitored; an investigation into the issue of slavery by a commission composed of outside specialists; and the establishment of days of tranquility in the war zones for medical purposes.

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