Hope of human rights improvement in Sudan

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afrol News, 7 November - Peace talks on the Sudan offer hope for an improvement in the country's human rights situation, a United Nations expert said today. Basic human rights remain unheard of in Sudan, but the peace negotiations are including a debate around introducing several such rights. 

Gerhart Baum, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Sudan, however told journalists in New York today that national reconciliation could only hope to succeed if "human rights become part of the peace process - not part of the post-war scenario, but part of the peace process."

Suppression of civil society, harassment against political parties and activists, and threats posed by the police persist in the Sudan, Mr Baum said. While there had been no significant improvement in the country's human rights picture, "there is no alternative to rule by civil society which is founded on respect for minorities, which is strengthening tolerance, which is able to build up trust and confidence and to build up a process of reconciliation," he added.

The international community should help the Sudan "to strengthen education, to build up local authorities, to train the police, to train the judiciary," the Special Rapporteur said. 

Voicing hope that the talks would continue, he called on outside mediators - including the United States, United Kingdom, Norway and Kenya - to help both sides to come to substantial agreement in the near future. He also called for greater UN involvement in the Sudan "in the political field as well as in the field of human rights."

Ongoing fighting is exacerbating suffering in the Sudan, where some 4 million people had been displaced and 2 million killed over the course of two decades of civil war. "It's a forgotten conflict, unfortunately, but now I hope that common efforts from all sides - from inside and outside - can really help the country to build up a future," he said.

In his report to the UN General Assembly last month, Mr Baum had said he had "continued to receive information pointing to the perpetration by all parties to the conflict of numerous serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law."

Among the main issues of concern in Sudan were those related to the continued state of emergency, the "virtual impunity" enjoyed by the security services, the persistence of press censorship and the limited room for the political activities of opposition parties, the UN report said.

The state of emergency had allowed the establishment of Special Courts in Darfur, western Sudan, which were of "deep concern" and not in keeping with relevant international standards, according to Mr Baum's report.

Although the human rights abuses by the Khartoum government obtained most attention, also the rebels in Southern Sudan had been criticised. Mr Baum called on the rebels to develop genuine democratic structures, and urged them and their allied militias to do their utmost to prevent human rights violations. 

All parties to Sudan's 19-year civil war were called upon to use their influence to put an end to violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. "The burden represented by the war cannot provide any justification for human rights abuses," Mr Baum concluded in his report.

Sources: Based on UN sources and afrol archives

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