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Sudan: human rights violations in govt-areas

Sudan : Empty promises - human rights violations in government-controlled areas

As Sudanese mark the first anniversary of the signing of the Machakos Protocol, which paved the way for the current peace process, Amnesty International is calling for human rights to be made a full component of any forthcoming peace agreement.

"Unless human rights for all become a full component of a forthcoming agreement crucial for the future of Sudan, peace will not be sustainable," Amnesty International said today in a new report entitled Sudan: Empty promises? Human rights violations in government-controlled areas (full report online at http://amnesty-news.c.tclk.net/maabgaKaaZekHbb0hPub/ ).

The report, earlier submitted as a Memorandum to the government, details the continuing human rights violations committed by the Sudanese security forces in areas outside the south.

"While the world's attention has focused on supporting initiatives to end the conflict between the government and the armed opposition Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), people in government-controlled areas continue to suffer violations of their human rights, rooted in the same issues of discrimination and injustice that fuelled the war in the south."

"The government of Sudan has made many gestures hinting at greater openness and promotion of human rights in areas it controls. But too often positive rhetoric has not been converted into concrete action in favour of human rights," Amnesty International said.

An emerging conflict in Darfur, western Sudan, where a group of sedentary farmers took up arms against the government in February 2003 because of what they perceive as the lack of government protection of their people and the marginalisation of the region, further illustrates the effects of the government's willingness to violate human rights when facing problems.

Darfur has been the scene of attacks by armed groups on sedentary people and the government has reacted to the situation by detaining incommunicado community leaders and perceived government critics. In 2001, it established Special Courts in Darfur to deal with murders, armed attacks and banditry. These courts have handed down death sentences and cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments after grossly unfair trials.

In other areas of Sudan, including in the capital Khartoum, incommunicado detention of political opponents, students and ordinary citizens as well as torture by the security forces remain common. Journalists are subjected to restrictions imposed by the security forces and civil society activists are routinely arrested, arbitrarily detained and harassed. Students and internally displaced persons have been injured or killed as a result of the use of excessive force by the police and security forces. Above all, the lack of judicial accountability of the security forces for any action they take, including acts of torture, is maintained in laws which are inconsistent with international human rights principles.

"While the focus is on the horrendous abuses committed by both sides of the armed conflict in the south, human rights violations committed by government forces in areas it controls are being ignored. The Sudanese government has failed to stop or investigate not only war-related abuses by its armed forces and allied militia groups in the south, but also abuses by its security forces outside the context of the conflict. This is why human rights violations in Sudan continue unabated," Amnesty International said.

Amnesty International is urging the Sudanese government to implement its recommendations and now fulfil the promises it made to respect and protect international human rights law, in particular to:

- abolish Articles 31 and 33 of the National Security Forces Act, which allow the security forces to detain people incommunicado without charge and give them immunity from prosecution;

- abolish provisions of the Special and Specialized Criminal Courts in Darfur which contravene international standards of fairness;

- end harsh restrictions by the security forces on the Sudanese press;

- immediately stop arresting, detaining or harassing civil society activists, including political opponents, human rights defenders and women's rights activists;

- investigate impartially and independently reports of killings and torture by the security forces and bring the suspected perpetrators to justice;

- allow an independent and impartial Commission of Inquiry to investigate the worsening situation in Darfur and human rights monitors into the region.

The organization calls on international mediators of the Sudan peace process, donor countries and other interested parties in the talks to put the human rights of all Sudanese at the core of their efforts.

"A final peace agreement should not only put an end to the war in the south, but also guarantee in law and in practice the basic human rights of all Sudanese people," Amnesty International said.

Background

The Machakos Protocol was signed on 20 July 2002 in Machakos, eastern Kenya, as a first step to end the 20-years old armed conflict in southern Sudan. Since then, peace talks between both parties to the conflict have continued, under the auspices of the regional body Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and international mediators - including Kenya, the United States, the United Kingdom and Norway.

The mediators are hoping for a final agreement to be signed at the end of August 2003. Negotiations have been mainly about security, wealth-sharing and power-sharing arrangements; although human rights were mentioned in the Machakos Protocol, they are not addressed adequately in the peace talks. The situation outside the southern war zones of Sudan is not covered in the IGAD-sponsored peace process and civil society groups are not allowed at the negotiating table.

For a full copy of the report "Sudan: Empty promises? Human rights violations in government-controlled areas", please see: http://amnesty-news.c.tclk.net/maabgaKaaZekHbb0hPub/

View all documents on Sudan at http://amnesty-news.c.tclk.net/maabgaKaaZekIbb0hPub/

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