South Sudan: Release all people arbitrarily detained amid the conflict

South Sudanese authorities must release all people detained without charge by the security agencies, including 28 men currently held at the headquarters of the national intelligence agency in the capital Juba, said Amnesty International’s Secretary General today in an open letter to President Salva Kiir.
 
The call comes after the president publicly pledged to release all political detainees.
 
“Hundreds of people, mostly men, have been arrested without charge by security agents and held in torturous conditions for long periods of time, since the conflict began more than three years ago. Others have disappeared without a trace at the hands of National Security Service and Military Intelligence agents,” said Salil Shetty.
 
“While President Kiir’s pledge was welcome, we call on him to go a step further and order a full investigation into arbitrary detention practices of government security agencies, enforced disappearances, deaths in custody, torture and other ill-treatment.”
 
At least 20 men have died in detention at three separate detention centres in Juba between February 2014 and December 2016.

28 March 2017

South Sudan: UN peacekeepers must now step up to protect civilians

Spokespeople available
 
UN peacekeepers must redress serious failings and improve the protection of civilians in South Sudan from killing and rape by armed forces and other groups, said Amnesty International, following the sacking of the UN force commander in South Sudan. The organization is calling on the UN to release the full findings of the independent special investigation into abuses.
 
Field research conducted by Amnesty International in July, August and September 2016 revealed serious failings in the conduct of UN peacekeeping forces and exposed evidence that UN forces put civilians at risk by their actions as well as their inaction.
 
“Change at the top of the peacekeeping mission in South Sudan has to be matched by fast and drastic change amongst its 16,000 peacekeepers – it’s time they implemented their mandate to protect civilians from killing and rape,” said Joanne Mariner, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser.
 
“The UN mission must ensure the effective protection of civilians, particularly those who have sought refuge in UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) protection of civilian sites. It should expand the frequency of foot and motorised patrols and provide escorts to people who need to leave the sites, especially for essential purposes such as going to the market to buy food.”
 
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has asked for the replacement of the force commander, Lt Gen Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki, following the UN’s independent special investigation. It found that peacekeepers failed to respond when government soldiers attacked a compound housing international humanitarian workers in Juba in July.
 
Amnesty International’s research, published last month, shows that the UN’s response to the July attack on the Terrain camp was part of a dangerous pattern of inaction. In just one of the attacks documented by Amnesty International, a 24-year-old Nuer woman who was raped by five government soldiers just in front of the UN base in the Jebel neighbourhood in Juba said that UN peacekeepers and private security guards could see the attack but did not come to her aid.
 
In another incident, UN police shot tear gas canisters into a crowd of frightened Nuer civilians at the UN base in the same neighbourhood.

Open Letter: Hybrid Court

To: Hon. Chairperson, Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) of the Agreement for Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan.

 Cc: The Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)

 17 June 2016

Your Excellency,

We, the undersigned non-governmental organisations working in and outside of South Sudan, urge you to be un-deterred by an opinion article in the New York Times on 7 June attributed to the President and First Vice-President of South Sudan to forgo establishment of a Hybrid Court. We call on you to utilize all the means at your disposal to ensure that the Transitional Government of National Unity commit themselves to the court’s establishment, and to urge the African Union to press ahead with the court’s development as a matter of urgency.

In your statement to the AU Peace and Security Council on 29 January 2016, you implored the AU Commission to establish the Hybrid Court, stating, “If the legacy of conflict and impunity is to be finally broken in our continent’s newest state, we must also act and not disappoint a new generation of South Sudanese.” This view precisely articulates why the Hybrid Court is necessary not just for holding those suspected of criminal responsibility to account for their crimes under international law, but for rebuilding the nation of South Sudan.

The demand for justice, truth and reparation from the people of South Sudan is growing. For years, the country’s political and military elite have wielded violence for the attainment of their own objectives, against the interests of their people and with full impunity. Yet now, people across the country are expressing strong support for using criminal justice to hold them to account.

The Hybrid Court is just one element of the transitional justice mechanisms that the President and First Vice-President committed to in the peace agreement. But it is a crucially important element. Without the Hybrid Court, the culture of impunity will continue unabated, and the path to peace will be jeopardised. Based on widespread consultations it had with South Sudanese organisations, the AU’s own Commission of Inquiry came to this conclusion itself, stating that a sustainable peace is not possible without holding to account those suspected of criminal responsibility for crimes under international law and human rights abuses committed during the conflict.

The recent conviction of Hissène Habré to life in prison for crimes against humanity that he committed during his eight-year rule in Chad gives us hope that an AU-backed court can also bring justice for South Sudan. The future of South Sudan cannot be one in which those who have committed horrific acts of violence and abuses towards its citizens go unpunished.

 

We, the undersigned, urge Your Excellency to:

  1. Reaffirm the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Committee’s commitment to justice, truth and reparations for crimes under international law committed during the course of the conflict in South Sudan;
  2. Strongly remind the President and First Vice-President that they are obliged to establish the Hybrid Court, and meet all the other terms they signed onto in the peace agreement of August 2015;
  3. Urge the AU Commission to quickly press ahead with the development of the Hybrid Court, and to start a public consultation process in South Sudan to ensure South Sudanese citizens and civil society actively participate in the establishment of the Hybrid Court.
  4. Encourage AU member states to pledge their commitment to the formation of the Hybrid Court – as it is the first of its kind to be established by the AU Commission – through their public statements, the provision of experts on transitional justice and via financial support.

We stand in solidarity to support Your Excellency and JMEC’s efforts towards the realization of a sustainable and lasting peace in South Sudan.

Please accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of our highest consideration.

Signed,

  1. Africa Peace Forum
  2. Amnesty International
  3. Assistance Mission for Africa (AMA)
  4. Centre for Citizens’ Participation on the African Union
  5. Center for Conflict Resolution (CECORE)
  6. Center for Livelihood, Research and Poverty Reduction (CLIP)
  7. Center for Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR)
  8. Community Empowerment Progress Organization (CEPO)
  9. Dialogue and Research Initiative
  10. East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP)
  11. Enough Project
  12. Foundation for Democracy and Accountable Governance (FODAG)
  13. Foundation for Youth Initiative
  14. Global Justice Center
  15. Human Rights Development Organization (HURIDO)
  16. Human Rights Watch
  17. Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART)
  18. International Center for Policy and Conflict (ICPC)
  19. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  20. International Refugee Rights Initiative
  21. Southern African Development Community – Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (SADC-CNGO)
  22. South Sudan Action Network on Small Arms (SSANSA)
  23. South Sudan Law Society (SSLS)
  24. South Sudan Women’s Empowerment Network (SSWEN)
  25. The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
  26. Transitional Justice Working Group
  27. Voice for Change
  28. Waging Peace
  29. Women’s Monthly Forum

South Sudan unity government a chance to ensure justice for possible war crimes

By Ken Scott,

On Wednesday, South Sudan’s rebel leader, Riek Machar was sworn in as first vice president. Yesterday, the new cabinet, which includes former rebels and members of the opposition, was sworn in. The formation of a transitional government of national unity is a big step forward for a nation ravaged by more than two years of armed conflict. But if a lasting peace is to be found, it will need to be built on the foundation of justice, truth and reparation.

As shown by numerous reports, including those of the recent United Nations Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (UN OHCHR) assessment mission to South Sudan and the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan (AU CISS), released in October 2015, parties to the two-year conflict committed shocking crimes under international law, such as acts of killings, torture, mutilations, rape and even forced cannibalism. These crimes must be urgently and impartially investigated and all those suspected of criminal responsibility held to account in fair trials without recourse to the death penalty. 

It is imperative that a systematic framework is quickly set up to investigate these crimes as a first step towards accountability. As evidence degrades and memories fade, each passing day takes South Sudan’s victims further away from justice.

The peace agreement signed in August last year, is a positive contribution towards ending impunity for abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law. It provide for power-sharing, demilitarization and security sector reform, while also setting out important transitional justice mechanisms. These include a reparation authority, a truth and reconciliation commission and a hybrid criminal court, to be established by the AU Commission (AUC).

Pleasantly surprising and encouraging is that the criminal accountability mechanism was readily accepted by both sides of the conflict. Indeed, when President Kiir signed the agreement, he listed 16 major reservations, but the establishment of a criminal court that might someday hold senior South Sudanese political and military leaders to account was not one of them.

The complete lack of accountability for previous cycles of violence in the region that is now South Sudan is one of the root causes of the recent conflict.  A failure to deal with deep grievances and ensure real justice only nurtured the next round of political violence. With few exceptions, most of community leaders Amnesty International has spoken with during this round of political violence believe that sustained peace can only be assured by real accountability for crimes committed by both parties to the conflict.

Taking immediate steps to set-up investigations on the ground will send a clear message that the demand for justice is being heard
Ken Scott

The peace accord requires the transitional government, “upon inception,” to initiate legislation to establish the hybrid court which, according to the agreement, will be put in place by the AUC. As illustrated by a joint letter sent in September last year by numerous South Sudanese and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to the Chair of the AUC, there is a genuine need to operationalize the hybrid court as soon as possible. 

Establishing a fully-operational hybrid court, with the necessary personnel, infrastructure and funding, will take some time, but collection and preservation of evidence must start now.

Physical evidence degrades quickly in a tropical environment and may also be intentionally destroyed, altered or concealed. Witness memories fade and their whereabouts become unknown. Vital evidence can be lost forever. This is why it is important that, alongside prompt steps to establish the hybrid court, the AU and the rest of the international community must urgently establish an interim investigative mechanism with a robust mandate to investigate possible war crimes and collect and preserve evidence. Taking immediate steps to set-up investigations on the ground will send a clear message that the demand for justice is being heard.

There is plenty of authority and clear precedent for such actions.  Commissions of experts were conducting investigations before the Yugoslavia and Rwanda tribunals were fully set up and functioning.

Likewise in Sudan, the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur was set up as a precursor to the UN Security Council referring the situation to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

The AUCISS report – and numerous other reports by organizations including Amnesty International – leave no doubt that crimes under international law have been committed in South Sudan by both parties to the conflict.

It is now time now for all those suspected of criminal responsibility to be brought to justice in fair trials.

Ken Scott was a consultant with Amnesty International and former senior prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and a special prosecutor at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

58th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Agenda Item 4: Human Rights Situation in Africa

Index: AFR 01/3794/2016

Chairperson, Honourable Commissioners

Amnesty International welcomes this opportunity to address the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on this occasion of its 58th ordinary session.

In the past year, the system of international protection of human rights, in Africa and beyond, faced hard knocks and challenges. There were several threats to mechanisms for human rights protection. In this region, the independence and autonomy of the African Commission was severely tested. As the continent rolls out activities in celebration of this year’s African Union theme, “human rights with particular focus on the rights of women”, Amnesty International calls for a renewed commitment to the protection of the regional human rights system. To make the African human rights system adequate for its task, states must protect the system itself. We call on states to refrain from actions that undermine the system, including attacks against or withdrawal of support from the system.

Rwanda’s withdrawal of its “Article 34(6) Declaration” in February 2016 is the most recent example of state action aimed at weakening the African human rights system, and in this particular case, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. In this regard, we call upon Rwanda to reconsider its decision.

The capacity of international institutions to respond to crisis or conflict situations was also severe tested in 2015. In Africa, recent and ongoing situations in Burundi, Central African Republic, Nigeria, Cameroon, Libya, Mali, and South Sudan and Sudan have exposed significant gaps in the African Union and the United Nation’s institutional response to crisis and conflict. There has been a persistent lack of a coherent approach to the conflict or crisis situations in these countries. More importantly, measures for addressing human rights violations and impunity have been weak and inadequate.

In South Sudan, the signing of a peace agreement in August 2015 has not deterred both parties to the conflict from committing gross violations of human rights, including mass killings of civilians. Amnesty International has documented and gathered evidence of one particular incident of mass killing that happened in Leer Town, Unity State, in October 2015. Between 20 and 23 October 2015, South Sudanese government forces detained dozens of men and boys in an air-tight shipping container causing the death of at least 62 of them. Government forces then loaded their bodies into a truck and dumped them in two open pits approximately 1km northeast of Leer town. The South Sudanese government has not acknowledged that dozens of men and boys were killed in the custody of its forces. It has also not publicly announced any investigation into the deaths of the detainees. Furthermore, no steps have been taken to hold perpetrators to account or to provide reparations aggrieved relatives of the deceased.

The large-scale violations of human rights in South Sudan and Burundi are the most palpable recent examples of the failure of multilateral or international initiatives to prevent or adequately respond to human rights violations in conflict or crisis situations. In this context, the adoption by the African Commission of Resolution 332 on Human Rights in Conflict Situations during its 19th extra-ordinary session in February 2016 is timely and commendable. We welcome the initiative to conduct a study on human rights in conflict situations in Africa. We pledge to offer technical and other support to the commissioner assigned to implement this resolution. We also wish to bring to the attention of the Commission of the existence of a civil society special interest group on peace and security which has been reflecting on strategies for enhancing the role of the African Commission in responding to conflict or crisis situation. Finally, as a first step towards the implementation of Resolution 332, we wish to propose that the Commission at its 59th ordinary session convenes an open and interactive discussion session on ‘human rights in conflict situations’ in order to open space for wider discussion on the subject.

Briefing Paper on South Sudan for Member States – Twenty-ninth session of the Human Rights Council

23 June 2015

A resolution that aims to establish a special rapporteur mandate on South Sudan is currently being deliberated at the Human Rights Council’s 29th session. The Council needs to address the serious lack of accountability for ongoing and widespread violations and abuses against the civilian population. We encourage members of the Council to bear the following in mind while negotiating the resolution.

Both parties to South Sudan’s conflict have committed violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights, including extrajudicial killings, the abduction of women and girls, rape and other forms of sexual violence, recruitment and use of children, looting and destruction of property. The parties have also attacked the UN protection of civilian sites (POCs) and sometimes fight in close proximity to the PoCs. Mortar shells have landed in these sites and caused civilian casualties. Some of these violations and abuses may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The conflict has displaced over 2 million persons, including 135,000 who are living in UN bases across the country and over 500,000 in neighbouring countries. There are ongoing incidents of fighting within Unity and Upper Nile states with parties to the conflict clashing in close proximity to the POCs.

The 23 January 2014 Cessation of Hostilities agreement brokered by the Inter- Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has been violated several times by both parties. On 5 March, a final deadline imposed by IGAD to achieve a peace agreement failed due to lack of consensus on the transitional government structure and power sharing. Early this month, IGAD unveiled a proposal with key provisions for an agreement on the resolution of the conflict. This included parameters for power-sharing and the structure of a transitional government, a permanent ceasefire and transitional security arrangements, a permanent constitution-making process and on transitional justice and national healing. Both the government and the opposition have rejected the proposal.

Notwithstanding the efforts of IGAD, the parties to the conflict currently seem to be aiming to achieve a military solution to the conflict. Both have made strategic military gains ahead of the start of the rainy season. Civilians continue to bear the brunt of the conflict. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported in the week of 15 June that at least 129 children were killed in Bentiu in May with boys being castrated and left to bleed to death and girls as young as eight years raped or killed.

Escalating violence

Amnesty International researchers were recently in South Sudan where they spoke to civilians fleeing conflict in Upper Nile, Jonglei and Unity states. The situation in Unity and Upper Nile states has not subsided, with both parties to the conflict carrying out targeted attacks against the civilian population and civilian property and infrastructure.  

In Bentiu, Unity state, Amnesty International researchers recently interviewed individuals who fled violence in Rubkona, Guit, Koch and Leer counties since 20 April. They consistently described men in Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) uniform or civilian clothing, mostly from the Bul Nuer ethnic group, attacking their villages, armed with axes, machetes and guns.  They gave chilling accounts of government forces setting entire villages on fire, killing and beating residents, looting livestock and other property, committing acts of sexual violence, and abducting women and children.

A woman from Chat Chara, in Rubkona County, described groups of young men allied with the government attacking her village, burning tukuls (thatch roofed mud structures) and beating residents.

They came and said, ‘bring your property out,’ and then they burnt our tukul. They beat us with sticks and metal rods, saying ‘where are the boys and young men?’ They took our property, our maize and clothes, and forced us to carry them towards Mayom. We were many women from the village. One woman got tired and was killed. They also shot her two-year old daughter.”

She was eventually let go and made her way to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) POC site.

Nyanaath (not hear real name), a mother of three, said that government forces attacked her village in Guit County on 10 May at noon. The attackers, some of whom were in uniform and others in civilian clothes, stole cows, looted property from tukuls and set all the tukuls on fire. The attackers then raped women, including her. Nyanaath told Amnesty International that soldiers took her, pushed her on her back and pulled down her underwear. One started raping her while another pointed his gun at her. She also saw 10 boys and girls between 10 and13 years old being abducted by soldiers.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported that between 29 April and 12 May, at least 28 towns and villages in Unity state were attacked, with civilians and their property targeted and looted. This has led to the displacement of over 15,000 people.

Abuses have also been reportedly committed by the opposition forces. Members of an armed group previously aligned with the government clashed with SPLA government forces on 21 April in Malakal town and are reported to have subsequently directed attacks against civilians. The armed group and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM/IO) forces took over control of Malakal from the government on 15 May. The government forces retook the town 10 days later.

A man from Atar in Piji county now in Malakal POC described how on 25 April, forces of the armed group attacked his r village:

“[The leader said they are] changing to the rebels’ side.  He told us that now they are killing civilians and we should run to Malakal as they will burn the [cattle] camp. He came to the village on 25 April around 2pm with 2 buses and one small bus and they attacked the people. Anyone they saw they shot, they had machine guns, big guns and RPGs and they burnt all the tukuls.  We ran away and it took us three days to get here [UNMISS Malakal].  We crossed the river at night, there is a shallow part where you can cross but some people were drowned when they fell into deep water stepping in holes.  We slept after crossing the river and then ran in the daytime.”

Conflict-related sexual violence

Persistent reports of sexual violence perpetrated by both government and opposition forces since the beginning of the conflict strongly indicate that conflict-related sexual violence is a consistent characteristic in all affected states. The current armed conflict environment places women and girls at a heightened risk of sexual violence.

Amnesty International has spoken to several witnesses and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence since the beginning of the conflict.

A 42 year old woman in Malakal POC narrated to Amnesty International how the Shilluk armed group killed 7 men and raped 18 women in February 2015 in Lul, Upper Nile State.

“They took the men to the barracks, they told us to stay in the classrooms. At around 7 o’clock in the evening, we heard gunshots and the cries of people, we got alarmed and started screaming as well. We wanted to run, but the soldiers… told us to lie down. They searched our property and took what they wanted. They then took out the women at around 9pm. They took them all out to go rape them. Only two of us were left in the classroom. Me and another woman who had just given birth. They stayed with them until six in the morning. All the women came back. Most of them were crying, some couldn’t talk. One had a swollen face.”In October 2014, President Salva Kiir signed a communiqué with the Special Representative on violence against women committing the government to combating sexual violence. On 4 May 2015, the government acceded to the Convention against Torture and its additional protocol as well as two other key human rights treaties, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination on all Forms of Discrimination against Women.

The government needs to uphold and implement agreements that they have committed to and ensure security sector and law reform to address the gaps in protection and access to justice for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.

Increased Repression

Amnesty International and other organizations have documented several cases of violations by the National Security Service (NSS) and military intelligence (MI) since the country’s independence in 2011. In March 2015, the Justice Minister announced that the National Security Service Bill, passed by Parliament on October 8 2014, had become law. It grants the NSS extensive and broad powers of arrest, detention and seizure without adequate safeguard mechanisms or safeguards against abuse. This is despite domestic and international opposition to its passage, the absence of the President’s signature, and other views rejecting this position.

Cases of enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and prolonged detention have escalated since the conflict began with allegations of torture and ill-treatment while in custody.

A 40 year old man who was arrested by the NSS in February 2015 in Juba recounted his experience in custody to Amnesty International

‘In detention, they used to give us rice and either lentils or beans. Once a week on Wednesday. In National security headquarters in Jebel, they have dug a pool, it is filled with water, they tie your hands and feet and throw you in the water, when they feel you are getting weak or choking, they pull you out and press the water out of your chest and stomach until you vomit the water, they do this over and over again. They will say tell us what you know, you can see the marks here on my hands and feet. They tie with rope, very tightly. They also take electric wire, they connect to socket and beat your back with it…There are no doctors…No lawyers visit. My testimony was only taken once by the national security people. There were many Nuer and people from Equatoria. They were accusing me of supporting the opposition’

He was released in March 2015 through the intervention of a senior military official.

Another man, Simon (not his real name) told Amnesty International researchers that he was captured by NSS and military intelligence personnel at the end of February 2014, when he left the UNMISS POC site to withdraw money from his bank account. He said he was first detained at an NSS office near the Ministry of Justice and then transported to the NSS Headquarters in Jebel.

I found about 70 people in one cell. They didn’t say anything about why they had arrested me. Most of the people are from Nuer. They were just arrested on the streets but they would say they captured them in war, that they are rebels.

He remained in NSS detention for over two months, in poor conditions. He described being beaten and other forms of torture sustained by fellow detainees.

They beat me with pipes. They would say tell us what you have done… Others were pierced with needles. They would strip you naked and pierce your sensitive parts like the penis with the needles.  

Need for accountability

Although the government of South Sudan set up inquiries into conflict-related crimes in the months after fighting erupted, none of these has resulted in independent, impartial and effective investigations or accountability. South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir established an eight-member committee to investigate human rights abuses by government and opposition forces, which his administration touted to the international community as demonstrative of its commitment to accountability. The committee submitted a report to the president in December 2014. It has not been released publicly.

On 30 December 2013 the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) issued a communiqué calling upon the Chairperson of the AU Commission to “urgently establish a Commission to investigate the human rights violations and other abuses committed…and make recommendations on the best ways and means to ensure accountability, reconciliation and healing among all South Sudanese communities.” Members of the African Union Commission of Inquiry (AUCISS) on South Sudan were sworn in in March 2014. The AUCISS committed in its June 2014 interim report to produce a detailed final report containing findings and recommendations on healing, reconciliation, accountability and institutional reforms that would contribute to finding lasting solutions to the crisis in South Sudan

The Commission of Inquiry completed investigations and left South Sudan in August 2014. On 29 January 2015, the PSC decided to defer the consideration of the AUCISS report to a later date based on an understanding that publishing the report would impede the peace process.  On 13 June, the PSC issued a communique stating that a ministerial-level meeting would be convened in mid-July to consider the AUCISS report. It is not clear whether the report will be published then. The release of the AU Commission of Inquiry’s report could not only play an important role in helping to deter further violations and crimes but contribute to the design of a transitional justice process. So long as the report is shelved, justice remains on hold while parties are emboldened to commit further crimes without fear of the legal consequences.

In its June proposal, IGAD proposed ‘a hybrid court for South Sudan‘ (HCSS) to be established through a Memorandum of understanding between the AU, UN and the transitional government to be formed.  Its jurisdiction would include genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other international crimes. It also proposes the establishment of a national commission for truth, reconciliation and healing.

In light of the above, a Special Rapporteur would be a positive force to meet the international community’s obligations to ensure accountability and justice for abuse of human rights and international humanitarian law in South Sudan. Member states must act quickly to ensure the mandate is established while also calling on the AU to make public the report of the AUCISS. They must demand an end to the ongoing human rights violation and abuses and further urge the South Sudanese authorities to cooperate in the establishment of a hybrid court.

South Africa: Allowing Al-Bashir to evade justice shows total disregard for the law

The South African governments shocking failure to heed to its own court order and arrest Bashir is a betrayal to the hundreds of thousands of victims who were killed during the Darfur conflict, Amnesty International said today.

The North Gauteng High Court ruled this afternoon that the South African government’s failure to detain Sudan President Omar al-Bashir was inconsistent with the Constitution and that the government should have arrested him upon his arrival in the country pending a formal request from the ICC.

However, he was apparently allowed to leave this morning despite an interim order that he be prevented his departure.

“South Africa’s role was clear from the day president Omar Al-Bashir touched down in the country – he should have been arrested and handed over to the ICC to face trial for the war crimes he is alleged to have committed,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for Africa.

South Africa’s role was clear from the day president Omar Al-Bashir touched down in the country – he should have been arrested and handed over to the ICC to face trial for the war crimes he is alleged to have committed.
Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for Africa

“By failing to hand President Omar Al-Bashir over to the ICC during his stay in the country, the South African authorities, under the leadership of President Jacob Zuma, have through their inaction, aided Omar Al-Bashir in his quest to avoid justice.

„It is completely unacceptable and shocking for South Africa, as a member of the ICC, to ignore its international obligations in this way and allow impunity free rein. Not only has it undermined the country’s commitment to the ICC, it has ridden roughshod over the rights and hopes for justice of all those people who were killed and displaced during the war in Darfur.”

President Omar Al-Bashir attended the 25th African Union Summit in South Africa between 13 June 2015 and 15 June 2015. As a member of the ICC South Africa had an obligation to arrest President Omar Al-Bashir and hand him over to the ICC.

President Omar Al-Bashir has two warrants of arrest against him issued by the International Criminal Court in 2009 and 2010 respectively. He is facing seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity as well as three counts of genocide.

The ICC has issued cooperation requests to all States Parties to the Rome Statute, including South Africa, for the arrest and surrender to the Court of Omar Al Bashir.

Background

Omar Al-Bashir is accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in the conflict in Darfur, Sudan, which has claimed more than 400 thousand lives and displaced more than two million others. The conflict started in 2003 and it continues to claim more lives.

SUDAN: ON OMAR AL-BASHIR’S 25TH YEAR IN POWER, AUTHORITIES MUST END RESTRICTIONS ON CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS

Index: AFR 54/015/2014

30 June 2014 

Sudan: On Omar al-Bashir’s 25th year in power, authorities must end restrictions on civil and political rights

On the 25th anniversary of the military coup that brought President Omar al-Bashir to power in Sudan, Amnesty International calls on the Sudanese authorities to reverse the shrinking space allowed for political opposition and freedom of expression. In the past year, several large demonstrations have been met with excessive force and arbitrary arrests by security forces. Other individuals have also been detained and charged under restrictive and discriminatory laws against adultery, apostasy and public decency that should be repealed. President Bashir’s announcement in January 2014 that he plans to hold a ‘national dialogue’ open to all political parties serves as a reminder that the Sudanese authorities must end such restrictions. They must release all those detained without charge and repeal legislation allowing for arbitrary detentions and restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly.

The practice of arbitrary detentions against political opposition was exemplified on 17 May 2014 when the former Prime Minister toppled in that 1989 coup, Sadiq Al Mahdi, was arrested and charged with undermining the Constitution. Al Mahdi, now leader of the opposition National Umma Party, was detained after publicly accusing the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a militia aligned with the government, of human rights abuses against civilians in Darfur. Sadiq Al Mahdi was released after a month in detention, but on 8 June another opposition leader, Ibrahim al-Sheikh, was arrested after he made similar statements about RSF activities. Al-Sheikh, head of the Sudanese Congress Party, now faces charges that could result in the death penalty if he is convicted. 

These arrests fit a wider pattern of arbitrary detentions and harassment by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) against perceived opponents of the ruling National Congress Party, including members of the opposition, independent journalists and political demonstrators. In the past year, students and political activists have organized a number of prominent, large-scale demonstrations across Sudan, which have been met with excessive use of force and arbitrary arrests by the NISS and police. On 23 September 2013 at protests in cities around Sudan against cuts to fuel subsidies, security forces used live ammunition against demonstrators killing over 170 people. They also arrested hundreds of activists and instructed the Chief Editors of several Khartoum’s newspapers to only publish information on the demonstrations provided to them by the NISS or police. A demonstration at the University of Khartoum on 11 March 2014 in response to increased violence in Darfur was forcibly supressed by the NISS and police using live ammunition and tear gas. A student, Ali Abakar Musa Idris, died in hospital from gunshot wounds he sustained as the protest was dispersed. In the days following this protest and Ali Abakar Musa Idris’ funeral, the NISS carried out a wave of arbitrary arrests across Khartoum of students and activists that participated in the protests. 

Sudan’s legal framework effectively allows for arbitrary detentions by permitting the NISS to detain individuals without judicial oversight. The 2010 National Security Act (NSA) stipulates that the NISS can arrest and detain any person for up to 30 days, and then extend the detention for up to four and a half months should the Director of the NISS consider it a necessity for the completion of the investigation. Since the NSA does not specify the grounds on which such detentions may be justified, detainees are often held incommunicado, leaving them vulnerable to torture and other ill-treatment. Amnesty International has documented numerous cases of individuals being arrested without being informed of the reason or the charges against them, and being held without access to a lawyer. It is common practice for the NISS to respond to requests for information from family members of those detained by denying the arrest or informing the family that they must wait for 15 days before requesting a visit. 

Three of those currently held without charge by the NISS, Mohamed Salah Mohamed Abdelrahman, Moamar Musa Mohamed and Taj Alsir Jaafar have been in detention since 12 May 2014 after the NISS arrested each of them separately outside the University of Khartoum. When two of the activists’ families were finally permitted to visit them in detention a month later, they noticed signs of beatings on their bodies. All three activists were involved in protests at the University of Khartoum in response to the killing of Ali Abakar Musa Idris, and Mohamed Salah Mohamed Abdelrahman and Taj Alsir Jaafar have both been detained without charge several times in the past. All three must either be charged with a recognizable offence or released, while Sudan’s authorities must respect the right of those critical of the government to freedom of expression, association and assembly and investigate all allegations of torture. The 2010 National Security Act must be repealed, and the NISS reformed to bring it into line with international human rights treaties and standards including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In addition to political opposition and activists, other groups and individuals exercising their rights to freedom of expression have faced harassment through ill-defined and discriminatory laws to combat public indecency. Under Sudan’s Public Order Regime, a woman can be stopped and arrested for wearing trousers or leaving her hair uncovered. Amira Osman Hamed was arrested by Sudan’s Public Order Police on 27 August 2013 for refusing to cover her hair with her headscarf. She was charged with ‘indecent dress’ under Article 152 of Sudan’s 1991 Criminal Code, which can carry a sentence of 40 lashes. Although her trial has been delayed since September 2013 due to an appeal by lawyer, her charges have not yet been dropped. 

Article 152 prohibits behaviour “contrary to public morality” and “indecent, or immoral dress, which causes annoyance to public feelings.” Since it does not specify what is covered by “immoral” or “indecent” dress, it gives the police, prosecution and courts broad discretion to judge whether a person has acted or dressed in an indecent manner. In addition to its vagueness, the law is discriminatory in its application. Although the Public Order Regime applies to both men and women, those sentenced to flogging are overwhelmingly women. It also imposes unreasonable restrictions on the human rights of freedom of peaceful assembly. In 2003 eight women were flogged in public using a wire and plastic whip after picnicking with male friends in public, prompting the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to call for Article 152 to be revised. The authorities must repeal the provisions of the Public Order Regime and drop the charges against Amira Osman Hamed. Sudan should abolish flogging as a punishment, since it violates the prohibition of cruel and degrading treatment and punishment under international human rights law.

The case of Meriam Yeyha Ibrahim, a Sudanese Christian woman released from detention after significant international response, further demonstrates the need for Sudan to repeal laws that restrict freedom of expression and association. After being arrested for adultery in August 2013 due to her marriage to a Christian man, she was given the further charge of apostasy in February 2014 after insisting that she has been raised as a Christian. Meriam was sentenced to flogging for adultery and death by hanging for apostasy in May 2014 under Articles 146 and 126 of the 1991 Criminal Code respectively. Although this verdict has since been overturned, these two articles must now be removed from Sudan’s criminal code. Article 126 criminalizing apostasy is incompatible with Sudan’s obligations under Article 18 of the ICCPR to protect the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Article 146 criminalizing adultery violates the right to freedom of expression and association under Article 22 of the ICCPR and invariably discriminates against women in its enforcement. Sudan should also abolish the death penalty, which Amnesty International considers to be the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and a violation of the right to life.

In January 2014 President Omar al-Bashir announced plans to achieve peace in Sudan and protect constitutional rights through a ‘national dialogue’, open to participation by all parties and even armed movements. He followed this up in April 2014 with a promise to release all political detainees. Yet the cases mentioned in this statement represent only a small sample of the restrictions on expression, association and assembly that people in Sudan continue to face and that will hinder any meaningful attempts for a national dialogue. To prevent further such violations, Sudanese authorities must:

Repeal all laws that breach Sudan’s international obligations to respect the freedoms of expression, association and assembly, including Articles 126, 146 and 152 of the Criminal Code;

Immediately and unconditionally release all those whose deprivation of liberty results from the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly;

Ensure that Sudanese security services end the practice of arbitrary detentions of activists and investigate all allegations of torture in detention.


 

Sudan: Satellite images of indiscriminate bombing reveal potential war crime in Southern Kordofan

26.06.1014

Analysis of satellite images shows bomb craters measuring up to 20 metres in diameter.

Analysis of satellite images shows bomb craters measuring up to 20 metres in diameter. © DigitalGlobe

Attacks on civilian areas, including indiscriminate aerial bombardments by Sudan’s government forces, have resulted in increased destruction in Southern Kordofan and may constitute a war crime, Amnesty International said in a new briefing published today

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 17.38.47The armed conflict – which began
three years ago – has intensified following the launch of a new military operation by Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) on 14 April. Satellite images secured by Amnesty International during that period offer further evidence of indiscriminate aerial bombardments and correspond to reports that homes, markets, hospitals and schools have been bombed. 

“The evidence captured in these images taken over a sustained period in May corresponds to numerous reports of attacks on civilian areas that are not only a clear violation of international humanitarian law but may also constitute a war crime,” said Michelle Kagari, Deputy Regional Director for Eastern Africa at Amnesty International. 

The recent intensification of fighting between SAF and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), has been accompanied by sustained indiscriminate aerial bombardments by the SAF in civilian areas including in Heiban Um Dorein and Delami counties. 

These aerial attacks often use unguided weapons such as barrel bombs which are rolled out manually from aircraft, and parachute-retarded bombs launched from aircraft at high altitudes, causing extensive damage to civilian areas. 

Between 15 and 22 May, human rights monitors documented over 200 bombs dropped over Tangal, in Um Dorein County. On 26 and 28 May, 33 bombs were reportedly dropped on Kauda, a town with no known military presence, damaging homes and other buildings, including the office of a local NGO. 

Analysis of satellite images of Kauda taken between 20 and 31 May shows craters and burn scars measuring up to 20 metres in diameter. In the most populous southern area of Kauda, 17 such craters were created over the 11-day observation period. 

The months of May to August are the key planting season in Southern Kordofan. By intensifying attacks during this time and at harvest, the SAF are hindering people’s ability to cultivate their fields. This in turn contributes to an already acute situation of food insecurity. Over the last three years, Amnesty International has documented a pattern of attacks during these months. The Sudanese government continues to block humanitarian assistance to civilians in opposition-held areas, placing civilians in an extremely precarious situation. 

“After three years of conflict the people of Southern Kordofan, already desperately vulnerable to hunger and disease, are facing a looming humanitarian catastrophe,” said Michelle Kagari. 

Amnesty International is calling on the government of Sudan to immediately end indiscriminate ground attacks and indiscriminate aerial bombardments in civilian areas and to urgently grant access to humanitarian organizations. 

“The world has watched this conflict unfold from the sidelines. The time has now come for the international community to ensure that the government of Sudan ends its indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas which are causing suffering on a massive scale.”  

Background 

On 14 April 2014, the Sudanese government publicly launched its “Decisive Summer” military operation to “end all rebellion in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur”, which includes deploying the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) as support for the Sudanese Armed Forces. 

Failure to distinguish between civilians and combatants is a breach of the fundamental “principle of distinction” under international humanitarian law. It is a war crime to intentionally direct attacks against civilians or civilian objects. 

The SPLM-N reported that 90,000 people were displaced within Southern Kordofan in May, adding to the reported 800,000 people displaced or otherwise affected by the conflict in SPLM-N areas since the start of the conflict.  

Amnesty International is calling on the government of Sudan to:

  • Cease immediately all violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile including indiscriminate aerial bombardments in civilian areas, and deliberate attacks against civilians and civilian objects;
  • Take all necessary precautions in all attacks in order to protect civilians, including by warning civilians of impending attacks on military objectives;
  • Grant immediate and unhindered access to UN agencies and international humanitarian organizations to all areas of Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan to facilitate the urgent provision of all necessary assistance to civilians affected by the conflict, including food, shelter and medical care;
  • Initiate prompt, effective and impartial investigations into violations of international human rights and humanitarian law and bring those suspected of criminal responsibility to justice before ordinary civilian courts in fair trials, without the death penalty.

 

South Sudan: the UN Human Rights Council must support international efforts to address the dire situation


Written statement to the 26th session of the UN Human Rights Council (10-27 June 2014)

Index: AFR 65/006/2014

28 May 2014 

Atrocities have been committed by both parties to the conflict in South Sudan, including ethnically motivated attacks on civilians constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity. The cycle of violence is spiraling out of control, and humanitarian actors have rung the alarm that widespread famine looms. The virtual total impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of serious violations and abuses has had the pernicious effect of fostering even more violence.

Reports have been released, including by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), on violations and abuses perpetrated in a conflict that has forced over one million people to flee their homes and driven the world’s youngest country to the brink of a humanitarian disaster.

According to UNMISS, 4.9 million people in South Sudan need humanitarian assistance and the country faces the worst risk of famine in Africa since the mid-1980s, with some 3.7 million people at a high risk of food insecurity in the coming year. The conflict prevented many farmers from working during planting season. Now that the rainy season has begun, many roads are impassable preventing the distribution of humanitarian aid. UNMISS and humanitarian agencies have reported restrictions on their movement and activities, harassment of their personnel by both government and opposition forces, and looting of their food supplies and facilities.

Yet, the Human Rights Council (the Council) has, to date, failed to convene in a special session that would have allowed it to be briefed without delay on the situation and to decide on the most appropriate response to prevent further violations and abuses. This has been a lost opportunity to put in place regular public reporting on the situation, which is an important element of ensuring accountability.

This statement draws from Amnesty International’s report ‘Nowhere Safe: Civilians Under Attack in South Sudan’, released on 8 May 2014 and based on field research to South Sudan undertaken in March 2014. The report documents first-hand accounts from survivors of massacres, victims of sexual abuse and witnesses. 

Attacks against civilians

The current conflict, which began on 15 December 2013, has resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, including many civilians. Over one million people are internally displaced, including some 87,000 who have sought shelter in increasingly overcrowded UNMISS bases. Other internally displaced persons are sheltering in open, rural areas without reliable access to food, water, shelter and sanitation. At least 350,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries. 

Both government and opposition forces have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and other grave human rights violations abuses. These include widespread attacks on civilians, including targeted killings based on ethnicity, executions of soldiers hors de combat, abduction and sexual assault of women and young girls, disappearances, destruction of homes and other civilian property, attacks on medical facilities and places of sanctuary, and looting of resources from humanitarian agencies. 

In the March 2014 mission Amnesty International also collected evidence from across the country of individuals being tortured and subjected to sexual violence before they were killed, and received testimonies from survivors of sexual violence in Juba and in Pariang, Unity State, of government forces killing women by inserting sticks into their vaginas. Amnesty International also interviewed an individual leading government efforts to collect and bury bodies in Bor after government forces recaptured the town on 18 January 2014, who found that 11 of the bodies he counted showed signs of sexual violence, and one of them had a piece of wood inserted in her vagina. He also told Amnesty International that after government forces regained control, he found 18 bodies of Dinka women in and around the compound of the town’s St Andrew’s Cathedral, and that six of the bodies were found naked below the waist. Amnesty International also received reports from multiple sources that between 19 and 20 March 2014, three individuals were killed by government security forces in Bentiu and their bodies grotesquely mutilated. One man was found with his throat slit, his eyes gouged out and his feet cut off.

Violence continues, particularly in Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity states, despite a cessation of hostilities agreement signed on 23 January 2014 by representatives of the government and the opposition forces (known as the SPLM/A in Opposition), in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Recent attacks on civilians include the events of 15-16 April 2014 in Bentiu, the capital of Unity state. According to UNMISS, upon taking Bentiu, opposition forces killed approximately 200 people who were seeking refuge at a mosque, and a further 33 people in the hospital according to Médecins Sans Frontières. The fighting resulted in a new wave of civilians fleeing Bentiu, with the number of people sheltering in the nearby UNMISS base rising from 8,000 on 15 April to 22,500 on 24 April 2014. On 17 April 2014 the UNMISS protection of civilians site in Bor was attacked by a group of armed men, resulting in at least 50 people being killed. A recommitment to the cessation of hostilities agreement was signed on 5 May, and on 9 May President Salva Kiir and Dr Riek Machar, leader the SPLM/A in Opposition, signed an agreement “to resolve the conflict”. Not only were these agreements ignored by both sides, but they also did not deter forces on either side from carrying out targeted violence against civilians.

Accountability measures 

The lack of accountability for serious human rights violations and abuses in the past has contributed to the violence that has plagued South Sudan. Already in 2012, Amnesty International had urged the Human Rights Council to support the development of robust and effective human rights and justice mechanisms in South Sudan by creating an Independent Expert mandate, a recommendation it reiterated in 2013. Regrettably, the Council has made no use of its preventive mandate to create one.

The almost total impunity enjoyed by perpetrators has led individuals and groups who have been affected by violence to feel that the only way to ensure punishment of perpetrators and prevention of future abuses is to take the law into their own hands and engage in reprisal attacks. 

The government’s initiatives towards investigations and accountability for crimes that have occurred since 15 December 2013 have not led to tangible outcomes. A board of investigation set up by the Inspector General of the South Sudan National Police Service to investigate human rights violations carried out by elements of the security forces has yet to announce results of their investigation. The Human Rights Abuses Investigation Committee established by presidential decree in mid-February 2014 had not yet started work when Amnesty International delegates were in South Sudan in March. There has been no public information about the Committee’s terms of reference or of the progress it has made to date. Two investigation committees were set up by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) Chief of General Staff on 31 December 2013, and according to SPLA spokesperson Phillip Aguer in February 2014, 100 people were subsequently arrested. However, all of them escaped during a gunfight among soldiers at the Giyada military barracks in Juba on 5 March 2014. The Director of Military Justice told Amnesty International that a General Court Martial had been set up to try soldiers for looting and killing and had started hearing cases, but he was unable to give any information on the number or status of trials.

Members of the African Union (AU) Commission of Inquiry were finally sworn in March 2014. They first travelled to Juba at the end of April and also met with South Sudanese civil society in Nairobi and Kampala in May 2014. The Commission has not yet started field investigations outside of Juba. On 15 May 2014, it issued a declaration that it is “leaning towards the creation of a hybrid court…to be established jointly by the African Union and the United Nations” to prosecute international crimes. The Commission has announced the release of an initial report for June 2014.

Amnesty International urges the Human Rights Council, its members and observers to respond robustly to the human rights situation in South Sudan, including by:

giving without further delay consideration to the situation in South Sudan, by convening in a special session or urgent debate;

providing the AU Commission of Inquiry with an opportunity to brief the Council on its progress, initial recommendations, and any support that the Council or other UN entities could provide to support the Commission’s work;

condemning attacks on civilians and against humanitarian personnel and assets, and obstructions to the delivery of humanitarian assistance;

calling on all parties to the conflict to grant immediate and unhindered access for humanitarian assistance to reach internally displaced persons;

calling for the mobilization of adequate humanitarian support to ensure that the basic needs of all persons affected by the conflict are met;

calling on the Government of South Sudan to ensure that perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses are held accountable for their actions. National investigations into human rights violations and abuses against civilians should proceed and take place under independent and impartial civilian courts rather than military courts.

establishing regular public reporting on the human rights situation in South Sudan.

Statement on the human rights situation in Africa to the African Commission on Human and Peoples‘ Rights


29. April 2014

The Chairperson
African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
55th Ordinary Session
Luanda
Angola

In South Sudan conflict broke out in December 2013 following tensions within the leadership of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement government. The party and the army split between supporters of President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar’s. This followed political contestation over the Vice President’s decision to challenge for the presidency in elections scheduled for 2015. The army divided in large part along ethnic lines, with many Nuer defecting from the government forces and aligning themselves with former Vice-President Riek Machar. Although the conflict was triggered by a political dispute, the fighting has taken on an ethnic dimension. Amnesty International has documented cases in which Dinka, Nuer and Shilluk civilians, including the elderly and children, have been targeted and killed on the basis of their ethnicity. As a result of the conflict, over a million civilians have fled their homes. Of these, 800,000 people are displaced within South Sudan, approximately 10% of whom have taken shelter in UNMISS compounds around the country, where they face serious security risks. On 17 April, armed men attacked the UNMISS compound in Bor, where over 5,000 people had taken refuge, killing over 50 people. 270,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries, particularly Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Sudan. Despite the cessation of hostilities agreement signed on 23 January 2014, violence continues with little hope for abating as peace negotiations between the warring parties have effectively stalled. Since the outbreak of violence in South Sudan on 15 December 2013, both government and opposition forces have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and other grave human rights abuses. They have killed civilians and executed fighters hors de combat; abducted and sexually assaulted women and girls; arbitrarily detained civilians, some of whose whereabouts are still unknown; burned down homes, damaged and destroyed medical facilities; attacked places of sanctuary; and looted public and private property as well as desperately needed food and humanitarian aid.

Welcoming its resolution passed on the 5th Extra- Ordinary Session 14 March 2014, Amnesty International calls upon the African Commission to: Reiterate its call on the Government of South Sudan to immediately ratify and domesticate the African Charter and other fundamental human rights instruments; Reiterate its call on the parties to the conflict to cease all violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. In particular, all forces should immediately cease unlawful killings, acts of sexual violence and any other attacks on civilians, looting and destruction of public and private property;

  • Call on the government of South Sudan to initiate independent criminal investigations into allegations of crimes under international law committed by all parties to the conflict;
  • Call on the government of South Sudan to adequately protect Internally Displaced populations, ensure their security, and help create conditions that would allow them to cultivate;
  • Condemn attacks against humanitarian personnel, assets and other obstructions to the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Call for all parties to the conflict to grant immediate and unhindered access for humanitarian assistance to reach internally displaced persons;
  • Call for the mobilization of adequate humanitarian support to ensure that the basic needs of all populations affected by the conflict are met; and
  • Call on countries hosting refugee populations to take all necessary measures to ensure their security, adequate humanitarian assistance, and freedom of movement.

PUBLIC STATEMENT


13. March 2014 (AFR 65/001/2014)

South Sudan: Commission of Inquiry is a key opportunity to address ongoing abuses

Amnesty International welcomes yesterday’s swearing in of members of the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan. The Commission, which was established by the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) on 7 March 2014, was set up to investigate abuses perpetrated in the ongoing conflict in South Sudan. As South Sudan approaches its third month of a conflict marked by violence against civilians, Amnesty International urges the AUPSC and those sitting on the Commission to interpret its mandate in the strongest terms to enable criminal investigations and prosecutions of those responsible for gross human rights abuses.

The Commission was first proposed by the AUPSC on 31 December 2013, two weeks into the conflict between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and anti-government forces broadly known as the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM/A in Opposition). Since then, thousands of people have been killed in a conflict that has been accompanied by sustained violence against civilians and civilian objects, and between soldiers and militias from the country’s two largest ethnic communities – the Dinka and the Nuer. Members of other ethnic communities have also been affected by this violence, which has included targeted killings of civilians on the basis of their ethnicity, sexual violence and attacks on churches, hospitals and homes. Several major towns have been largely destroyed, villages have been razed, and nearly 900,000 people have fled their homes.

The Commission will consist of five experts headed by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo. Its stated purpose is to “investigate the human rights violations and other abuses committed during the armed conflict in South Sudan, and make recommendations on the best way and means to ensure accountability, reconciliation and healing among all South Sudanese communities.” The Commission’s mandate includes the investigation of human rights abuses by all parties to the conflict and the compilation of information to assist in identifying perpetrators of violations and abuses so that those responsible will be held to account. The Commission will also make recommendations on accountability mechanisms.

This inclusion of accountability is in marked contrast with past peace agreements in South Sudan, including the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the agreement that ended the war between the SPLM and Sudan and ultimately led to the creation of South Sudan in 2011. The CPA did not contain measures to bring perpetrators of abuses to justice or to compensate the victims of these abuses. Since the current conflict began, civil society organizations in South Sudan and the diaspora have made several public statements calling for perpetrators to be held to account. Such statements were released on 25 January and 6 March 2014.

Amnesty International urges the members of the Commission and the AUPSC to build its accountability measures around criminal prosecutions. True accountability, and lasting reconciliation and healing, will only be possible if victims and their relatives are assured that alleged perpetrators of abuses will be subjected to fair, open trials without recourse to the death penalty. For this reason, measures to promote reconciliation and healing must preclude amnesties for perpetrators.

To ensure accountability, reconciliation and healing, the Commission’s work should be as comprehensive and transparent as possible. It should consider the impact of the conflict on all people and groups, including women or other marginalized people. To guarantee transparency, all aspects of its work should be made public, and, so far as possible, the media and public should be given access to proceedings and to the evidence base for its findings. The Commission should also announce timeframes for carrying out its work and presenting its findings and have clear contact points to respond to information requests.

Now that terms of reference have been announced it is crucial that the Commission’s work begins as soon as possible. Across South Sudan, evidence of abuses is at risk of disappearing. In some locations where serious fighting has taken place, such as Bor in Jonglei State, the bodies of those killed in the fighting are being buried and the wreckage is being cleared. In Malakal, Upper Nile State, control of the town has changed multiple times and each new wave of fighting has wrought fresh destruction, killings of civilians including of those who witnessed violations in earlier attacks, and triggered further displacement. The sooner that public investigations and reporting of abuses begins, the more likely they are to deter further abuses.

Amnesty International urges all parties to the conflict to cooperate with the Commission. Consultations with the different parties to the conflict, including armed opposition groups, took place prior to its establishment, and in past months members of the South Sudanese Government and negotiators representing the SPLM/A in Opposition have stated their support for investigations of abuses. They now have the responsibility to ensure that the Commission’s investigators are granted full freedom of movement and freedom to carry out their work without fear of harassment or intimidation, and to preserve evidence of abuses. Investigators should also have the power to request that South Sudanese authorities suspend from duty any officials involved in matters it is investigating, if there is reason to believe that they may interfere with witnesses or otherwise interfere with the inquiry.

Amnesty International also calls on the African Union (AU) and the wider international community to ensure that the Commission receives adequate resources and support so that it can effectively discharge the mandate given to it by the AUPSC.

PUBLIC STATEMENT


15. Februar 2012

Sudanese authorities must halt the execution of a Darfuri activist whose sentence was changed from 10 years‘ imprisonment to death, Amnesty International urged today amid fears he will be hanged this weekend. Bakri Moussa Mohammed, who has been involved in protests against the repression of displaced people by security forces in South Darfur, was jailed in 2010 for his alleged participation in a murder. „We believe Bakri Moussa Mohammed is at imminent risk of being hanged and we implore the Sudanese authorities to act immediately to stop the execution, through whatever means available,“ said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa director. „The vague circumstances of the change in Bakri’s sentence are a clear violation of fair trial standards.“ Bakri Moussa Mohammed’s family believe he was arrested and sentenced for murder in retaliation for his activism. On 31 December 2012, almost three years after his imprisonment, he was told by an officer in Kober prison, Khartoum, that his punishment had been revised to a death sentence. The same day, he was transferred to death row and reportedly brought to the gallows three times, before being told that the execution would be postponed for 35 days. The deadline has now passed, and Amnesty International understands that a further grace period secured by Bakri’s lawyer will expire in about 24 hours. There appears to have been no court hearing about the change of sentence. Bakri’s family believe the decision was taken by the prison administration under the influence of the National Security Service. „The Sudanese authorities have serious questions to answer about the revision of this sentence. Trials for crimes carrying the death penalty must comply with the most rigorous internationally recognized standards for fair trial,“ said Netsnanet Belay. „Those rules appear to have been flouted in the case of Bakri Moussa Mohammed, whom we fear is being persecuted solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression and assembly.“ Bakri Moussa Mohammed, an active government critic, was a community activist in the Kalma camp for displaced people in South Darfur. He was arrested in 2009 and sentenced in 2010 for murder, although he maintains his innocence. International law prohibits any execution after a trial which does not meet international fair trial standards. Any person sentenced to death also has the right to request a pardon or commutation of a death sentence. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception. The death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

PUBLIC STATEMENT


Index: AFR AFR 54/051/2012

17 Dezember 2012

DOCUMENT – SUDAN’S CIVILIANS IN CRISIS: INDISCRIMINATE ATTACKS AND ARBITRARY ARRESTS PERVADE SOUTHERN KORDOFAN

Sudan’s civilians in crisis: Indiscriminate attacks and arbitrary arrests pervade Southern Kordofan
Amnesty International is deeply concerned about ongoing indiscriminate attacks by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan State. This includes indiscriminate aerial bombardments by the SAF and indiscriminate shelling by the SAF and SPLA-N in and around Kadugli, the capital of Southern Kordofan. While thousands of people have fled since fighting intensified in October, many civilians remain effectively trapped in the area. Food sources, including crops, have been destroyed in bombing attacks and the authorities continue to refuse access for humanitarian aid. Recent reports that people attempting to flee have been arrested are deeply troubling, as are reports that people from the Nuba ethnic group are being arbitrarily detained on the basis of their ethnicity and perceived support from the political wing of the SPLA-N, known as the SPLM-N. As a consequence of the ongoing bombardments, arbitrary arrests and denial of humanitarian aid, Amnesty International believes that the situation for the civilian population of Southern Kordofan has deteriorated in recent months. This document details human rights violations and abuses by the SAF and SPLA-N in the context of intensified fighting in Southern Kordofan since October 2012.

Indiscriminate aerial attacks by the SAF

Since October 2012, with intensified ground fighting between the SAF and SPLA-N, Amnesty International has received reports of aerial bombardments by the SAF, including in and around Southern Kordofan’s capital, Kadugli and its surrounding localities. These aerial attacks have resulted in deaths and injuries of civilians, and the destruction of peoples’ homes, crops, livestock and other civilian objects. In the months of October and November alone, national human rights monitors in Southern Kordofan documented over 200 bombs dropped by the SAF, mostly by Antonov aircrafts in areas of Southern Kordofan controlled by the SPLM-N. Many of the attacks occurred during the harvest season, destroying crops and killing livestock, in addition to preventing civilians from farming due to fear of being bombed. Coupled with the Sudanese government’s obstruction of humanitarian access to conflict-affected areas since June 2011, this has meant that the civilian population in Southern Kordofan continues to face serious food shortages. Some areas, including parts of northern Heiban locality, were unable to harvest at all, resulting in acute food insecurity and further displacement, both internally and to refugee camps in South Sudan’s Unity State. In the last week of November alone over 2,800 refugees arrived in Yida refugee camp due to the fighting and lack of food. Amnesty International has received reports that markets, health clinics and churches have also been destroyed in the aerial bombardments. For example, on 20 November, national human rights monitors reported 14 bombs dropped in the town of Heiban and the nearby village of Um Dalu, three of which landed in Heiban marketplace, during the day. As a result of the bombings two men, aged 23 and 25 years respectively, were reportedly injured and the Catholic Church building in Heiban was destroyed. Three days earlier, four bombs were reportedly dropped in Buram County by the SAF, killing a 42-year-old woman, and injuring a six-year-old girl, in addition to destroying three civilian dwellings. These aerial attacks use unguided munitions dropped from aircraft at high altitudes. Even if such attacks are aimed at a military objective, when the areas around military targets are populated by civilians the use of these unguided weapons means it is not feasible to ensure compliance with the principle of distinction between civilian and military objects, and between civilians and combatants. Launching an attack with such weapons in these circumstances amounts to an indiscriminate attack which violates international humanitarian law and can constitute a war crime.

Indiscriminate attacks by the SPLA-N in and around Kadulgi

On 8 October, the SPLA-N began shelling Kadugli, the capital of Southern Kordofan. According to the UN, at least three civilians were killed on 13 November when mortar shells hit Kadugli town and landed close to Kadugli’s bus station. National human rights monitors stated that the three people killed were a family – a mother, father and daughter. According to the UN 18 people, many of whom were civilians, have been killed and 32 injured in Kadugli town since the shelling started. The SPLM-N have made several appeals, which have been relayed through informal channels including through community leaders, for civilians to move away from SAF military installations in Kadugli town. Reports from national NGOs and human rights monitors indicate that more than half the population has fled the town, and that shops and markets have been closed. However, even where a warning has been issued, parties to a conflict must comply with the principle of distinguishing between civilians and military objectives. Amnesty International takes the view that the 120mm mortars and other battlefield weapons used by the SPLA-N are inappropriate for an urban environment when civilians are present. They are not capable of precise targeting and their persistent use in these circumstances constitutes indiscriminate attacks. Civilians prevented from leaving conflict-affected areas Tens of thousands of people have fled the conflict-affected areas since October. However, Amnesty International has received disturbing reports of attempts to prevent people leaving the area. Government authorities, including the Kadugli Commissioner and elements of the security forces, have blocked exit routes out of Kadugli in an attempt to prevent civilians leaving the town. There have also been reports of people arrested while attempting to leave the area. Such actions by government authorities violate the right to freedom of movement. They also violate international humanitarian law which requires parties to a conflict do everything feasible to evacuate the civilian population from the vicinity of military objectives.

Arbitrary Arrests of Civilians

In the past month alone, Sudanese security forces and military intelligence have carried out a campaign of arrests targeting people from the Nuba ethnic group in Southern Kordofan, apparently on the basis that the Nuba support the SPLM-N. Information obtained by Amnesty International from national human rights monitors, NGOs and family members indicates that over 90 people were arrested in Kadugli and Dilling. This included 32 women who were arrested in Kadugli on 10 and 11 November. While two of the women were released, the other 30 reportedly remain in incommunicado detention in Kadugli, without access to a lawyer or their families. On 18 November, 60 civilians, including men and women, were reportedly arbitrarily arrested in Dilling, Southern Kordofan’s second biggest town, and taken to the military barracks in Dilling before being transferred to Kadugli, where they have no legal representation or access to their families. The majority of those arrested are from the Oncho tribe which is part of the Nuba ethnic group. On 5 December, eight of the 60 civilians from Dilling were reportedly released after their families paid security officers. The payments were outside of any legal procedures as the detainees have not been brought before a court of law or charged. Security officers have reportedly threatened the other families that if they do not pay, their relatives will continue to be detained. Arbitrary arrest of individuals on the basis of their ethnicity violates international law, as does arbitrary detention without bringing detainees before a court and without allowing them access to legal representation or to their families, placing them at risk of torture and other ill-treatment. Furthermore, there is concern that the arrests coincide with statements made by Ahmed Mohammed Haroun, Governor of Southern Kordofan. The Governor is reported as having said that the “insurgents” have “opened the doors of hell” and adding that “we will not defend anymore, we will kill in order to purify this state and free those who are detained by the insurgency forces – Wipe them all: bring them alive and eat them raw.” In April 2012, in footage obtained by Al Jazeera, of Ahmed Mohammed Haroun is seen on camera addressing the SAF and stating that „You must hand over the place clean. Swept, rubbed, crushed. Don’t bring them back alive. We have no space for them.“ Ordering or threatening that there will be no survivors, whether the individuals concerned are civilians or fighters, is a violation of international law and a war crime. Ahmed Mohammed Haroun is the subject of an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court, issued in 2007, for 22 counts of war crimes and 20 counts of crimes against humanity committed in the course of the conflict in Darfur from 2003.

Background

Conflict broke out between the SAF and SPLA-N in Southern Kordofan State and subsequently, Blue Nile State in June and September 2011. On 2 September 2011, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir declared a state of emergency in Blue Nile and the SPLM-N governor Malik Agar was dismissed and replaced by a military commander. On 29 April 2012, a state of emergency was declared in a number of localities in states bordering Sudan including seven localities in Southern Kordofan. The state of emergency provides the president with greater powers to suspend the bill of rights, with the exception of a limited number of rights including the right to a fair trial, the right to life, and prohibition of torture which cannot be suspended; dissolve or suspend any of the state organs or powers and prescribe the manner in which the affairs in the state will be managed; and take any measures which are deemed necessary which will have the force of law. Humanitarian access to the conflict-affected areas of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile has been denied since the conflict broke out. Hundreds of thousands of people have been internally displaced as a result of the conflict, and over 200,000 have fled to refugee camps in Ethiopia and South Sudan. Negotiations with the aim of implementing the tripartite agreement to allow for impartial and independent humanitarian assistance to the two areas, as proposed by the UN, African Union and Arab League remain stalled. This is despite the Government of Sudan and SPLM-N signing of two separate Memoranda of Understanding with the AU High Level Implementation Panel in August 2012. In August 2011, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), in a report detailing allegations of unlawful killings, mass destruction and looting of civilian property, and other violations that could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, called for an independent, thorough and objective inquiry into the alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Southern Kordofan, with a view to holding perpetrators to account. It called for the lifting of immunities of members of the military and security forces who are alleged to have been involved in violations of international law, to allow for prosecutions and trials in compliance with due process and fair trial standards. Amnesty International reiterates the call for an independent and impartial inquiry, which should look into the allegations of violations which have taken place in Southern Kordofan since the OHCHR report was published, as well as allegations of violations committed in Blue Nile, where conflict erupted on 1 September 2011.

PUBLIC STATEMENT


Index: AFR 54/039/2012

15 August 2012

Sudan must end forced returns of asylum seekers to Eritrea

Sudan must comply with its international legal obligations and stop all forced returns of refugees and asylum seekers to Eritrea – where they are at risk of persecution or other serious human rights violations. The forced return of asylum seekers, who have not had their claims for asylum properly reviewed, constitutes a serious violation of international law. On 24 July the government of Sudan forcibly returned nine asylum seekers and one refugee to Eritrea. The ten – six Eritrean nationals and four Ethiopian nationals – were convicted earlier in July by a court in Dongola of unlawfully entering Sudan and sentenced to a two-month term in prison and deportation. They were not allowed to appeal against their convictions and sentences. At least one was a recognised refugee, while the others are believed to be asylum seekers.

Seeking asylum abroad is considered by the Eritrean government to be an act of treason. Asylum seekers should not be returned to Eritrea, because they will be at grave risk of serious human rights violations.

Eritreans forcibly returned to Eritrea face a real risk of being subjected to violations, including incommunicado detention, torture and other forms of serious ill-treatment. In addition, detention conditions in Eritrea are appalling, and in themselves amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The government of Sudan also violated international law by deporting to Eritrea, citizens of Ethiopia who had claimed asylum in Sudan. The ten people deported to Eritrea, following their conviction for unlawful entry to Sudan, had been tried alongside 41 other asylum seekers and refugees, also accused of entering Sudan illegally. During their trial, all 51 were denied access to lawyers and to translators. Only one person understood Arabic. The judge allegedly refused to consider evidence of the individuals’ status as refugees and asylum seekers.

All 51 were sentenced to serve two months in prison before deportation. However, the deportation of the ten took place only two weeks after this ruling. During this two week period, the group of 51 reportedly requested access to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, and associated international protection. Amnesty International is concerned that the group’s request for access to UNHCR may have prompted the decision to forcibly return some of them to Eritrea earlier than expected.

The government of Sudan must ensure that its asylum policies and practices are fully consistent with its international legal obligations, including by ensuring that judicial and immigration personnel do not violate the rights of refugees and asylum seekers. In addition, the government of Sudan must allow the UNHCR unrestricted access to asylum seekers and refugees to enable them to assess the claims of those seeking international protection from persecution. All asylum seekers currently in prison should have immediate access to asylum procedures.

Governments that return individuals to countries where they face a real risk of human rights violations breach the fundamental principle of non-refoulement, enshrined in major international human rights treaties, including the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

Notes

Sudan is a State-party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol, and the Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. These international legal instruments require the government of Sudan to ensure that it does not remove any person from its territory to a country where they face a real risk of persecution. Sudan’s own laws bar the government from removing from Sudan any person with a genuine fear of persecution in their country of origin. The law regulating the grant of refugee status in Sudan is Regulation of Asylum Act 1974 [Sudan], 21 May 1974.

PUBLIC STATEMENT


Index: AFR 54/035/2012

30 July 2012

Sudan –End stoning, reform the criminal law

Amnesty International condemns the sentencing of Layla Ibrahim Issa Jumul to death by stoning and calls on the Sudanese government to halt the execution and to reform its criminal law without delay, with the aim to abolish corporal punishment. Layla Ibrahim Issa Jumul, a 23-year old Sudanese woman, was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery on 10 July 2012 by the Criminal Court of Mayo, in Khartoum, under Article 146 of Sudan’s 1991 Criminal Code.

The stoning sentence was imposed on Layla Ibrahim Issa Jumul after an unfair trial in which she was convicted solely on the basis of her confession and did not have access to a lawyer. During the trial, the judge failed to appoint her a legal counsel, in contradiction of Article 135 of the 1991 Criminal Procedure Act. Sudanese lawyers have filed an appeal She is now held in shackles with her six-month old baby in Omdurman’s women prison, near Sudan’s capital Khartoum. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method of execution used by the state.

Amnesty International also opposes the criminalization of sexual relations between consenting adults and considers people who are held in detention solely for consensual sexual relations, to be prisoners of conscience. Non-violent acts such as sexual relations between consenting adults would never fall under the category of “most serious crimes”, to which the death penalty is limited under international law. Layla Ibrahim is the second case involving a death sentence against a woman by stoning for adultery in Sudan in recent months. On 13 May 2012, 20-year old Intisar Sharif Abdallah was sentenced to death, after an unfair trial, based solely on her confession, which was obtained under duress. On appeal Intisar Sharif Abdallah was retried and the charges against her were eventually dropped on 3 July. She was released on the same day.

In both cases, the women, who are young mothers and come from marginalized backgrounds, were unaware of their rights and of the severity of the charges against them; they were also deprived of legal representation, a clear violation of the right to a fair trial. Amnesty International considers Layla Ibrahim to be a prisoner of conscience and calls on the Sudanese government to halt her execution by all available means, overturn her stoning sentence for “adultery while married“ and release her immediately and unconditionally.

Background

International law and Sudanese laws prohibit the execution of nursing mothers. Resolution 2005/59 of the UN Commission on Human Rights urges states that retain the death penalty to exclude mothers with dependent infants from capital punishment. The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women of 2003, to which Sudan is a signatory, also prohibits the carrying out of death sentences on nursing women. Article 36(3) of the 2005 Interim Constitution of Sudan states: “No death penalty shall be executed upon pregnant or lactating women, save after two years of lactation.”

Stoning is a punishment designed to cause the victim grievous pain before leading to death. This method of execution is a violation of the prohibition of torture as contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the Convention again Torture (CAT), to which Sudan is party.

The cases highlight the need to reform the 1991 Criminal Code, which includes corporal punishment for crimes that are described in insufficiently clear and precise terms, such as gross indecency (Article 151), indecent and immoral acts (Article 152), possessing, handling or manufacturing materials and displays contrary to public morality (Article 153), and adultery (Articles 145-147), among others. Corporal punishment, of which stoning is an extreme form, represents cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and is a clear violation of the ICCPR and the CAT. In November 2008 the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights adopted a resolution calling on state parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to observe a moratorium on the death penalty. Many states have complied with the resolution and adopted an abolitionist stance in practice, creating a trend toward abolition in much of Africa. However Sudan has not taken any steps to implement the resolution.

PUBLIC STATEMENT


Index: AFR 54/036/2011

11 November 2011

SUDAN: GOVERNMENT CRACKDOWN ON ACTIVISTS AND POLITICAL OPPONENTS

Amnesty Internationalis alarmed by the recent wave of arbitrary arrests of activists, trade unionists and perceived or known members of opposition parties and peaceful demonstrators in Sudan. In October alone, over 100 people were arrested in and around Khartoum, the capital. Many of those arrested have stated that they were subjected to torture or other ill-treatment in detention.

Arrests of peaceful protestors

Throughout early October hundreds of people took to the streets to demonstrate against the rising cost of living in Sudan. The Sudanese authorities responded by using tear gas and batons to disperse the peaceful protestors, and arbitrarily arrested activists.

On 3 October, three members from the activist group Youth for Changewere arrested by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) for peacefully protesting about high food prices in the Al Thora area of Khartoum. The three were released after three days of interrogation, during which they stated that they were tortured by the NISS. Following this on 11 October, the NISS raided the home of Majdi Akashas, the Youth for Changespokesperson, and detained both Majdi Akasha and his wife Sara Mohamed Alhassan for one day. Sara Mohamed Alhassan’s computer was also confiscated and she was ordered to report back to the NISS for the two following days.

The 2010 National Security Act provides the NISS powers to search and seize assets and arrest and detain people without judicial oversight. On 6 October, residents of Masudiya town, south of Khartoum, began demonstrating against high electricity and water prices. The authorities responded by imposing a curfew on 8 October and reportedly closing down shops in the town centre. Over 22 people were arrested on 10 October, including a mentally disabled man who was detained for three days and beaten while in custody. A13 year old boy was also arrested and subjected to 20 lashes, as ordered by the court. He was released on the condition that he obtained a written statement from his older brother, who had participated in the demonstrations, stating that his older brother would not participate in future demonstrations.

Corporal punishment is cruel, inhuman and degrading and prohibited by the Convention against Torture, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) as well as the ICCPR. In addition, children should not be subjected to the regular criminal process, but treated in line with the provisions of the CRC, which has been ratified by Sudan.

Clampdown on members of opposition parties

On 18 October, Abbas Al-Awad, aged 85, who is a trade unionist and senior member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), was arrested from his home in Alkalakla, Khartoum at 10am. He said that he was arrested and detained for one day for making a speech in a private meeting on the“Juba Alliance,” comprised of the SPLM-N and other opposition parties. The alliance was formed in April 2010, ahead of the referendum to determine the independence of South Sudan. On 1 November, activist and SPLM-N member Izdihar Jumma was arrested for the eighth time this year due to her affiliation with the political party. She was detained for two days.

On 21 October, the NISS raided the home of Dafallah Musa, during a regular meeting of a number of political parties in the Alkalakla district of Khartoum. Over 10 people were detained and many reported they had been tortured for 15 days, after which some were made to sign a document stating they would not be involved in political activities, or else face further detention, and they were ordered to report to the NISS on a regular basis from then on.

Amongst those arrested and detained on 21 October was Awad Abbas Al-Awad, aged 49 who is an English teacher and member of the Communist Party. He stated that the security forces surrounded the house and four vehicles filled with men carrying guns raided the house and terrorized the whole area. He said that they took them to an isolated building near the Republic Castle and kept them in the building for three days without food or sleep. They were forced to stand with their hands up to their faces next to a wall while the NISS continued verbally abusing them. After three days the NISS took those detained to the main NISS building in Bahri and continued interrogating them for several hours a day, until they were released. Alameen Bilal Mukhtar, aged 32 and a member of the Umma Party said that one of the security forces kicked him on his right eye and then two men held him by his hands and feet while a third flogged his back. He was also subjected to verbal abuse.

Amnesty International calls on the Sudanese authorities to immediately stop the arbitrary arrests, harassment and intimidation of activists and to respect their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. All individuals must be able to exercise these rights and carry out their legitimate political activities without fear of intimidation and harassment.

Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is strictly prohibited under international law. Amnesty International calls on the Sudanese authorities to ensure that no one is subjected to torture or other ill-treatment by security forces or other agents of the state; to undertake prompt, impartial and effective investigations into all allegations of torture or other ill-treatment, to ensure that the victims receive reparations and that those responsible are prosecuted in trials which comply with international standards without recourse to the death penalty.

Background

The protests in October follow demonstrations from January to April 2011in Sudan, when thousands of people gathered throughout the country to demonstrate in favour of democracy and against deteriorating socio-economic conditions.

On 30 January over 70 people were arrestedin Khartoum, including a large number of people in the streets before they reached the demonstrations. The NISS and riot police reportedly started searching for demonstration organizers the night before. Many of those arrested were reportedly tortured or ill-treated and at least one student demonstrator, Mohamed Abdelrahman, died in hospital on 31 January after being injured by the police. Amnesty International is not aware of any measures taken by the Sudanese government following these demonstrations to investigate reports of torture or ill-treatment, or excessive use of force by the police.

Since June, over 200 perceived and known members from the SPLM-N have reportedly been arrested after conflict broke out between the Sudanese forces and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Southern Kordofan and spread to Blue Nile on 1 September. On 16 September, the Sudanese government banned 17 political parties affiliated with South Sudan, including the SPLM-N. The SPLM-N is the successor of the SPLM that shared power with the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), prior to South Sudan’s independence on 9 July.

The 2010 National Security Actprovides the NISS powers to search and seize assets and to arrest and detain people for up to four and a half months without judicial oversight. Article 50 of the Act allows for NISS agents to arrest and detain people for up to 30 days without judicial review. That detention period can be extended for a further 15 days by the Director of the NISS. Under Article 50, the case can further be referred to the National Security Council which can extend the detention period for three more months.

The total period of detention without judicial review can therefore be up to four and a half months, in violation of Article 9(3) of the ICCPR which calls for anyone arrested or detained to be promptly brought before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power.

PUBLIC STATEMENT


STATE OF HOUSING RIGHTS AND FORCED EVICTIONS IN AFRICA
AFRICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES’ RIGHTS
During its 50th ordinary session, to be held in Banjul, The Gambia
24 October – 7 November 2011

Amnesty International is concerned that across Africa hundreds of thousands of people are forcibly evicted from their homes by the authorities each year. The evictions are conducted without due process safeguards, prior consultation, or provision of adequate alternative housing and compensation. Most of those who are evicted are left homeless. There are frequent reports of excessive use of force by officials carrying out the evictions.

Forced evictions not only violate the right to adequate housing but also lead to violations of other economic, social and cultural rights, as people may no longer be able to access clean water, food, sanitation, work, health and education. They have catastrophic consequences on people’s lives, and drive people deeper into poverty. Over the years Amnesty International has documented cases of mass forced evictions in Angola, Chad, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Sudan, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. Governments across Africa have acted in violation of regional and international human rights standards, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. In many countries, people who have been forcibly evicted are denied access to justice and effective remedies. The consequences of forced evictions continue to manifest years after they were carried out as communities struggle to access essential health services, water, sanitation and education. Those who are responsible for these human rights violations have still not been brought to account.

26 September 2011
AI Index: AFR 54/032/2011

Sudan: Support for human rights protection must not be based on falsehoods


The UN Human Rights Council must demand an end to the ongoing human rights violations.

Amnesty International welcomes the decision of the African Group, working with the USA and other interested delegations, to seek the renewal of the mandate of the Independent Expert on Sudan at the current (18th) session of the UN Human Rights Council (the Council). The Independent Expert serves a crucial role in providing a comprehensive overview of the human rights situation in Sudan and in encouraging improvement in respecting human rights in Sudan.

However, Amnesty International regrets that the draft resolution on Technical assistance to the Sudan in the field of human rights1, fails to acknowledge the severity of persistent and ongoing human rights violations in Sudan and in that regard is wholly inadequate. While acknowledging the significant political developments, including the successful holding of the referendum and subsequent independence of South Sudan on 9 July 2011, the Council must also condemn the human rights violations and abuses that continue to characterize the situation in Sudan and do everything it can to end them and prevent their recurrence. The draft resolution fails to adequately reflect the gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law taking place in Southern Kordofan, where conflict has been ongoing since June 2011. Indiscriminate aerial bombardments, destruction and looting of civilian property and allegations of extra-judicial killings, and arbitrary arrests have resulted in over 200,000 people displaced. Since 1 September, conflict has also broken out in neighbouring Blue Nile state.

Contrary to Sudan’s assertions that “there are no restrictions for humanitarian access there [in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile],”2 Amnesty International has documented numerous instances since June 2011, of humanitarian access repeatedly being denied or severely restricted in the region.

The Council must demand that the government of Sudan provide unfettered access to humanitarian organizations in all affected areas, in order to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to the population. It must remain seized of the situation throughout Sudan while giving particular attention to these regions, including by requesting the Independent Expert to present a report on the human rights and humanitarian situation in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile to the Council’s next session in March 2012.

Amnesty International further regrets that the draft resolution does not address most of the key concerns raised by the Independent Expert in his latest report (A/HRC/18/40 and Add. 1), including the need for the Government of Sudan to implement the large number of outstanding recommendations, including those compiled by the Group of Experts on Darfur. The Council needs to better reflect the Independent Expert’s findings and recommendations in its resolution. The draft resolution should also address Sudan’s rejection of recommendations made in the Universal Period Review on Sudan including the need to review the 2010 National Security Act and to reform the National Intelligence and Security Service, in line with Sudan’s international human rights obligations.3 The 2010 National Security Act allows the National Intelligence and Security Services extensive powers of arrest and detention without charge, and perpetuates a culture of impunity. Amnesty International has documented numerous cases of arbitrary arrests, torture and other ill-treatment of individuals in the custody of the National Intelligence and Security Service in Sudan.

Background:

The Independent Expert, Mohamed Chande Othman (Tanzania) was appointed by the Human Rights Council on 1 November 2009. In October 2010, his mandate was renewed by the Council for one year. Mr Othman submitted his most recent report on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, on 22 August 2011, covering the period of September 2010 to June 2011 (A/HRC/18/40). Prior reports include a report covering the period of May to August 20104, and his first report covering the period of June 2009 to April 20105.

Following the termination of the mandate of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) in July 2011, the UN no longer has a human rights presence in Khartoum or the transitional areas; the Independent Expert’s mandate is the only human rights monitoring mechanism for the situation in Sudan. The Khartoum and Darfur human rights forums, which served as a medium of engagement with the UN on human rights concerns, have also been suspended by the Government of Sudan. The Independent Expert is also mandated to monitor the implementation of recommendations made by the Group of Experts on Darfur6. In his latest reports, the Independent Expert has, among other things, reported that “the human rights situation in Darfur remains precarious”; expressed deep concern about the situation in Southern Kordofan and Abyei; and concluded that the government of Sudan has not taken any significant steps towards the implementation of most of the recommendations of the Group of Experts on Darfur since the Independent Expert’s previous report to the Council.

24 June 2011
AI Index: 54/020/2011

Sudan: Insecurity persists for the displaced in Southern Kordofan


Amnesty International is alarmed by reports that people displaced by the ongoing conflict in Southern Kordofan are being coerced to return by the Sudanese authorities to places where their lives and safety could be at risk and that humanitarian agencies are being prevented from accessing many areas. Fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and elements of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in Southern Kordofan, began on 5 June. A number of villages south of the state capital Kadugli, in addition to Dilling, Talodi, Heiban, and Kauda, have experienced ongoing fighting. The SAF have engaged in indiscriminate attacks, bombing from high altitudes with imprecise bombs on areas which include civilians, whereby it is effectively impossible to ensure compliance with the principle of distinction between military objectives and civilians. As a result, many of the main towns and villages are reportedly deserted. The UN estimates more than 73,000 people have fled as a result of the fighting. Amnesty International has received reports of government attempts to coerce or force displaced persons to return to areas where their lives and safety could be at risk. For example, aerial bombardments by SAF and artillery attacks by both SAF and SPLA aroundKadugli and the surrounding areas continue. Despite this, government authorities including the Governor of Southern Kordofan and the Minister of Health made public statements on national television and radio in recent days that Kadugli town was now secure and citizens who fled should return to their homes. On 20 June, local authorities entered a camp around the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) compound on the outskirts of Kadugli town, and ordered the displaced seeking refuge there to return to their homes in Kadugli town or congregate either in schools or at Kadugli Stadium. Vehicles were provided by the government to transport them back.

The UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement underline that Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have the right to seek safety in any part of the country and in particular the right not to be forcibly returned to or resettled in any place where life, safety, liberty and/or health would be at risk. Amnesty International calls on the Government of Sudan to respect and protect these rights of all IDPs. Kadugli town has been closed off to international humanitarian organizations since the beginning of the conflict. There are reports of freshly laid landmines around the town, which pose a further threat to civilians returning to the area. To date, no mine action team has been able to assess the situation due to restricted access to the town. Anti-personnel landmines are inherently indiscriminate weapons which do not distinguish between civilians and combatants, and are prohibited under the1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction. Sudan is a party to that treaty. Amnesty International is further concerned about an estimated 138 southern Sudanese who were also seeking refuge at the UNMIS compound in Kadugli, and were ordered to vacate the area. They were caught in the fighting, whilst seeking to migrate from north Sudan to south Sudan, prior to 9 July, when the south will gain independence. The southern Sudanese were provided with UN transportation and travelled north, due to lack of access to south Sudan. However, they were stopped on 23 June at a government checkpoint outside El Obeid, the state capital of Northern Kordofan, and prevented from travelling further. People attempting to flee the fighting have also sought refuge in other places including Er Rahad and El Obeid in Northern Kordofan. Government authorities in Northern Kordofan also stated that displaced persons in the area should return to their homes, or seek accommodation with family members in other areas, outside of Northern Kordofan.

Local residents assisting the displaced in the El Obeid area were instructed by authorities to stop donating food to the displaced on 20 June. Furthermore, residents in El Obeid reported that the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) have been closely monitoring host families, and the displaced. Pervasive NISS checkpoints have resulted in abuses against Nuba people or suspected SPLM supporters and have hampered the provision of much needed humanitarian aid.

Checkpoints have been reported on the main roads between Kadugli, Dilling, El Obeid and Khartoum. Amnesty International received eye-witness accounts of security officials with lists of people’s names at each checkpoint. People on the lists are believed to be members of the SPLM, or of Nuba descent. Further reports have been received that even those not on lists but who are believed to be Nuba are interrogated and harassed or ill-treated by security forces. Humanitarian agencies are also impeded from reaching the affected population. On 14 June, Kauda airstrip was bombed, preventing humanitarian supplies from reaching the area. The airstrip has since been re-opened; however severe constraints remain to accessing the displaced and other civilians affected by the conflict. Humanitarian agencies are also subject to scrutiny by Sudanese authorities at checkpoints. Amnesty International calls on the Sudanese authorities to guarantee unfettered access for impartial humanitarian assistance in Sudan.

10 June 2011
AI Index: PRE01/294/2011

Sudan: Risks to civilians increasing in Southern Kordofan


A humanitarian emergency is unfolding in the Sudanese state of Southern Kordofan, as forces from the North and South continue to launch attacks in civilian areas, Amnesty International warned today. Tens of thousands of people are fleeing their homes as fighting continues between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and elements of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) of South Sudan, which broke out on 5 June across the state.

Amnesty International has received reports from residents of the besieged towns of Kadugli and Dilling that the SAF, as well as Sudanese security forces in plain clothes, have been searching streets and houses, arresting and killing people suspected of supporting the SPLA. Amnesty International condemns these reported unlawful killings.

“[Soldiers] were rushing out of everywhere onto the main road, asking ‘are you SPLA?’ They checked our things to see if they could find any documents which they consider link us to the SPLA. [If they do] they will capture you,” said a Kadugli resident. One person who fled Kadugli to Khartoum told Amnesty International, “On the way [out of Kadugli] I saw thousands of people walking towards the UN compound. They don’t have food or water.”

A number of the attacks are indiscriminate, including aerial bombardments and artillery fire by the SAF. Bombings have been reported in five villages south of the state capital Kadugli, and in Talodi, Heiban, Kaudo, and other towns. “The Sudanese government must urgently put a stop to these indiscriminate attacks, and in particular must stop the bombing of areas populated by civilians and allow humanitarian agencies access to deliver assistance to the civilian population,” said Erwin van der Borght, Africa Programme Director for Amnesty International, Access to the population by humanitarian agencies is severely restricted in the region. The majority of international NGO staff have been evacuated, and there are severe shortages of food, water, and medical supplies.

The UN has estimated that between 30,000 and 40,000 people have fled Kadugli out of an original population of 60,000. Dilling town and a number of villages surrounding Kadugli are also reportedly deserted. Looting and destruction of property have been widespread. Civilian homes and NGO offices have been raided. “Fierce fighting has been impeding international agencies from delivering humanitarian assistance to the civilian population,” said Erwin van der Borght. “Both parties need to take necessary precautions to avoid civilian casualties. The UN peacekeepers of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) must take action to protect civilians and ensure the security and freedom of movement of UN personnel and of humanitarian workers.”

9 May 2011
AI Index: AFR 23/003/2011

Djibouti refuses to arrest Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir


Amnesty International deeply regrets that the Djiboutian authorities failed to arrest Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir during his visit to the country to attend the inauguration ceremony of DjiboutianPresident Ismail Omar Guellehto a third term in office.

Amnesty International recalls that the President of Sudan is the subject of an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur. Djibouti has hereby followed the example of Kenya and Chad in 2010 ofviolatingits obligations under international law by providing safe haven to President Al-Bashir during his visit to the country.

As Djibouti has been a state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court since 2003, the national authorities are obliged to cooperate with the Court, including arresting persons it has charged. It is also troubling that senior government members from both France and the United States of America reportedly attended the inauguration alongside President Al-Bashir, as the Security Council, in its referral of the situation in Sudan to the International Criminal Court in 2005, explicitly urged all states to cooperate fully with the Court. Amnesty International is also calling on the International Criminal Court to make a finding of non-cooperation by Djibouti and to transmit that finding to the Security Council, as provided by article 87(7) of the Rome Statute.

Amnesty International is calling on all members of the international community to ensure full accountability for international crimes committed in Sudan.

3 March 2011
AI Index: AFR 54/008/2011

Djibouti refuses to arrest Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir

Amnesty International deeply regrets that the Djiboutian authorities failed to arrest Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir during his visit to the country to attend the inauguration ceremony of DjiboutianPresident Ismail Omar Guellehto a third term in office.

Amnesty International recalls that the President of Sudan is the subject of an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur. Djibouti has hereby followed the example of Kenya and Chad in 2010 ofviolatingits obligations under international law by providing safe haven to President Al-Bashir during his visit to the country.

As Djibouti has been a state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court since 2003, the national authorities are obliged to cooperate with the Court, including arresting persons it has charged. It is also troubling that senior government members from both France and the United States of America reportedly attended the inauguration alongside President Al-Bashir, as the Security Council, in its referral of the situation in Sudan to the International Criminal Court in 2005, explicitly urged all states to cooperate fully with the Court. Amnesty International is also calling on the International Criminal Court to make a finding of non-cooperation by Djibouti and to transmit that finding to the Security Council, as provided by article 87(7) of the Rome Statute.

Amnesty International is calling on all members of the international community to ensure full accountability for international crimes committed in Sudan.

3 March 2011
AI Index: AFR 54/008/2011

Sudan: No end to impunity for human rights violations in Darfur

On 4 March 2009, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Two years later, he and countless others accused of crimes under international law in Darfur continue to evade justice. Unsurprisingly, the human rights situation in Darfur remains appalling.

For over two years the African Union has been calling unsuccessfully for the United Nations Security Council to suspend the proceedings against President Bashir. The African Union has twice adopted a decision that its members will refuse to arrest him. The daily reality of the situation in Darfur demonstrates the devastating impact of impunity that must not be allowed to continue.

The Security Council’s renewed commitment to international justice demonstrated by the referral of the situation in Libya to the ICC Prosecutor in resolution 1970 (2011) must be mirrored by an equally strong commitment to implement outstanding ICC arrest warrants in the situation in Darfur, which it referred to the ICC in 2005. It should also seek to address the widespread impunity that exists for the thousands of crimes the ICC is not able to prosecute.

President al-Bashir was charged with committing crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur. Genocide was later added to the list of charges against him. Despite the severity of the charges a number of countries, including Chad and Kenya which are party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, have obstructed justice by refusing to arrest President al-Bashir during official visits to their countries.

Amnesty International has repeatedly called on all members of the international community to ensure full accountability for crimes under international law committed in Sudan.

Ahmad Harun, governor of South Kordofan and “Janjaweed” militia leader Ali Kushayb who are also being sought by the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity, are protected by the state and enjoy impunity.

In contrast, three leaders of armed opposition groups accused of crimes in Darfur have appeared voluntarily before the ICC. In one case, the judges decided that there was insufficient evidence to confirm charges against Bahar Idriss Abu Garda. Confirmation of charges proceedings are continuing in the two other cases.

Impunity extends far beyond the highest level of government and militia leaders. Victims have no hope of accessing justice, truth or reparations nationally. For example, on 2 September 2010, armed groups attacked Tabra village, in north Darfur reportedly killing more than 37 people. In response to the attack, on 17 September, north Darfur Governor Osman Mohamed Yousef Kibir stated there would be a commission of inquiry to investigate. Six months later, no information has been made public on the progress of the investigation and no one has been charged in relation to the attack.

The impunity re-enforces the cycle of violence in Darfur. Without justice, serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law continue to be committed on an almost daily basis against the civilian population.

In the last three months, Sudanese government forces and armed opposition groups intensified attacks on civilians in north and south Darfur. Fighting began on 8 December 2010, after the Sudanese government severed ties with the Sudan Liberation Army/Minni Minawi faction (SLA/MM), who signed the Darfur Peace Agreement in 2006. Attacks were carried out by government forces in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps and in towns including Dar el Salam, Shangil Tobaya and Khor Abeche. According to the United Nations, the violence in December alone, led to over 40,000 people displaced. The fighting caused civilian deaths and injuries, and looting and destruction of civilian property.

On 23 January, government forces raided Zamzam IDP camp in north Darfur. The government forces arrested 37 people, entered civilian homes and looted property. No prior notice was given to the African Union-UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), in violation of the Status of Forces Agreement that requires consultation between the government and UNAMID on actions regarding IDP camps.

Two weeks ago, Sudanese government air and ground forces and armed opposition groups fought in and around Shangil Tobaya, north Darfur. Ten villages were reportedly destroyed and over 4,000 people fled from the region as a result.

Disturbingly, the government continues to restrict humanitarian aid in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law. Most recently, on 26 February 2011, the government suspended humanitarian relief organization Catholic Relief Services (CRS) from operating in west Darfur. The Humanitarian Aid Commission accused CRS of distributing bibles. Three weeks ago, on 14 February, a French humanitarian organization, Médecins du Monde, was expelled from south Darfur, reportedly accused of “spying”.

Darfuris also continue to face arbitrary arrest and detention, often resulting in torture and ill-treatment. Following a UN Security Council delegates visit to Darfur on 7 October 2010, the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) arrested two Darfuri displaced who were speaking to the delegates in Abu Shouk IDP camp. The NISS reportedly searched for 16 people shortly after the delegates left Abu Shouk, Al Salaam and Abashed IDP camps in north Darfur.

01 October 2010
AI Index: AFR 54/033/2010