Reflections on the 36th session of the UN Human Rights Council

DefendDefenders has worked to bring attention to the crisis in Burundi since we published a report documenting the warning signs in February 2015. At the UN Human Rights Council (UN HRC), we have supported Burundian human rights defenders (HRDs) to attend each session since the outbreak of the crisis. These efforts contributed to the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi (COI) that presented its findings during the 36th session of the UN HRC, concluding that there are reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed.

Despite being a Member State of the UN HRC, Burundi’s government has been unwilling to engage with mechanisms of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and continues to deny the grave situation on the ground. Because of this stance, it is unlikely that the creation of a mandate for an expert to provide technical assistance to the government at the behest of Burundi and supported by the African Group will translate into tangible results. However we did welcome the Council’s decision to adopt a second resolution on Burundi, renewing the mandate of the COI for one year. However, in light of the damning findings of the COI’s report, it is now essential that the Council acts to maintain its credibility and take steps to suspend Burundi as a Member State.

During a side-event hosted by DefendDefenders after the presentation of the COI’s findings, prominent HRDs explored next steps for Burundi in order to achieve justice for victims. While some panellists focused their presentation on the importance of an International Criminal Court investigation, others explored possible use of regional mechanisms. The panellists also discussed the challenges they face documenting human rights violations on the ground, particularly sexual- and gender-based violence.

During the session, DefendDefenders also highlighted the deteriorating situation in South Sudan, where citizens are confronted with an escalating humanitarian crisis. Since violence resumed in July 2016, at least 4 million people have been displaced from their homes. After numerous attacks against aid workers, humanitarian organisations have been forced to suspend their activities in certain parts of the country. The UN Commission on human rights in South Sudan gave a harrowing update during its interactive dialogue, and highlighted the extremely polarised and sensitive environment HRDs and journalist work in today.

While there have been some steps taken to finalise the draft statute establishing the Hybrid Court on South Sudan, a culture of impunity continues to fuel the conflict. On the margins of the session, a DefendDefenders side-event brought together members of the UN Commission on human rights in South Sudan and a prominent South Sudanese HRD to explore both African and international solutions to the conflict. The discussion focused on the Intergovernmental Development Authority’s (IGAD) decision to launch a High Level Revitalisation Forum to galvanise the peace agreement in South Sudan as well as make progress on transitional justice. At the same time, the audience heard about the real and practical challenges both the Commission and civil society face when attempting to document violations in the war-torn country.

While our focus was on these immediate crises, the delegation also brought forward other situations in the sub-region, where HRDs continue to live under threat. In the last year, HRDs in Sudan have been subjected to repeated judicial harassment, with those detained being at high risk of torture and other forms of ill-treatment. In this context, DefendDefenders and its partners called for the strengthening of the mandate on Sudan to an Item 4 mandate in a joint letter and statement to the Council.

Ahead of Kenya’s historic rerun of the 8 August presidential elections, civil society and HRDs work in an environment of high tension as the uncertain political context fuels ethnic divisions and repression of critical voices. Meanwhile, freedom of expression remains extremely fragile in Somalia, with key legislation largely unimplemented, while there has been a noticeable and worrying increase in arbitrary arrests and detentions in Somaliland. We welcome the Council’s decision to extend the mandate of the Independent Expert for one year to assess, monitor and report on the human rights situation in Somalia.

Oral Statements to the Council
Item 10: Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Sudan

Human Rights Council: 36th Session
Item 10: Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Sudan

27 September 2017

Joint oral statement by DefendDefenders and the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS)
Delivered by Mr Mossad Ali Mohammed


Thank you M President,

Our organisations, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) would like to express concern regarding the Government of Sudan’s continuing crackdown on civil society and in particular on human rights defenders.

The past year has seen the increased repression of human rights defenders who have been subjected to unfounded criminal charges, arbitrary detention, and “show trials”.

Human rights defenders Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam and Hafiz Idris were detained for ten months on spurious criminal charges of “crimes against the state” that carry the death penalty, accused of assisting international organisations to gather evidence of human rights and humanitarian law violations in Darfur. They were detained for five months before charges were issued and credible sources reported that Hafiz was tortured to make a confession.

Three other human rights defenders affiliated with the Khartoum-based training centre, TRACKs, were detained for ten months and issued with fines after being found guilty of trumped-up criminal offences related to their peaceful civil society work. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared their detention arbitrary due to the non-observance of fair trial standards.

We welcome the report of the Independent Expert on Sudan, and emphasise the importance of engaging with independent civil society, both inside and outside the country. However, we continue to call for an Item 4 mandate given the gross and systematic violations of international human rights and humanitarian law taking place across the country and the lack of access for independent monitoring or reporting bodies.

Item 10: Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Somalia

Human Rights Council: 36th Session
Item 10: Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Somalia 

27 September 2017

Oral Intervention
Delivered by Mr Mossad Ali Mohammed


Thank you M. President.

On behalf of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, I would like to thank the Independent Expert on Somalia for his report.

Following Somalia’s electoral process last year, we take this opportunity to welcome the new government and encourage it to take steps to strengthen its human rights framework.

We are concerned by reports of serious impediments to the exercise of the right to freedom of expression during and after the electoral process in Somalia, particularly with regards to the 2016 media legislation.

We are equally concerned that a year after the legislation came into force, the Independent Expert reports that the media commission has not yet become operational. This, according to the Independent Expert, has led to the difference between government and media professionals to remain unclear.

Mr President, it is unacceptable that the 26 cases of arbitrary arrest and illegal detention that took place in Somaliland involved 19 journalists, 1 human rights defender, 1 blogger, 2 poets and 3 politicians. Most of the journalists were released without charge before they appeared in court, or the charges were dropped by the courts for lack of evidence, demonstrating the harassing and spurious nature of these arrests.

DefendDefenders echoes the independent expert’s recommendations and urge the government to finalise the ongoing review of the media law to bring it into line with international standards on media rights guaranteeing freedom of expression, and ensure that the practice of arbitrary or spurious arrests of human rights defenders and journalists ceases and that their right to due process is respected.

Item 4: General Debate – Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention

Human Rights Council: 36th Session
Item 4: General Debate – Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention

19 September 2017

Oral Intervention
Delivered by Ludivine Lecat


Thank you Mr. President.

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Kenya bring to your attention the challenging situation of Kenyan human rights defenders, as the country prepares for a new presidential election in October.

Sadly, the aftermath of the 8 August 2017 vote was again marred by violence. Police responded to isolated protests with excessive force, invading and looting private properties, and killing at least 24 people, according to a local rights group.

The Coalition documented 26 cases of violations against human rights monitors and journalists from April to September, including reports of harassment, intimidation, malicious prosecution, arbitrary arrest, assault, confiscation or destruction of equipment, and summary executions.

On 14 August, Kenya’s NGO Coordination board moved to deregister the Kenya Human Rights Commission and the African Centre for Open Governance without any regard for due process, after they had played a key role in demanding a transparent election.

After the historic ruling by the Kenyan Supreme Court to annul the results of the 8 August Presidential elections, it is paramount that human rights defenders are allowed to play a constructive role in ensuring free, fair, and transparent elections without fear of reprisals.

I thank you.

Item 4: Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi

UN Human Rights Council 36th Session
Item 4: Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi

19 September 2017

Oral Intervention
Delivered by Mr. Vital Nshimirimana


Thank you, Mr. President. CIVICUS and DefendDefenders on behalf of 30 African organisations would like to thank the CoI for their report and reiterate their concerns that there are reasons to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed with impunity by state perpetrators including the National Intelligence Service, National Police, the Burundian Army and the Imbonerakure in Burundi since the outset of the crisis in April 2015.

The killings, abductions, mass disappearances, torture and detentions of citizens have created a climate of fear and intimidation firmly entrenched in all sectors of Burundian society. A civil society law passed in January 2017 gives the authorities broad powers to control the activities and resources of civil society organisations. Almost all human rights defenders and journalists are in exile and still live in fear. The government has issued international warrants against some of them.

Most of the private radio stations remain closed, and while most journalists and HRDs are in exile, some of those who remained, such as Jean Bigirimana and Germain Rukuki, are still missing or detained.

Mr. President in a context like Burundi’s where the judiciary is not independent and all voices critical of the government are brutally attacked, there are no avenues present to hold perpetrators of crimes against humanity accountable.

Mr. President, we call on the Council to:

  1. Renew the mandate of the COI
  2. Urge the International Criminal Court to open an official investigation into human rights violations in Burundi
  3. Initiate action for Burundi’s suspension from the UN HRC

Thank you Mr. President

Sincerely,

  1. Action des Chrétiens pour l’Abolition de la Torture – Burundi (ACAT-Burundi)
  2. African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS), The Gambia
  3. Association pour la Protection des Droits Humains et des Personnes Détenues (APRODH), Burundi
  4. Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE), Ethiopia
  5. CIVICUS
  6. Coalition Burundaise pour la Cour Pénale Internationale (CB-CPI)
  7. Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation, South Sudan (CEPO)
  8. DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  9. Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea, Eritrea
  10. ONG Ezaka ho Fampandrosoana any Ambanivohitra (ONG EFA), Madagascar
  11. Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR), Eritrea
  12. Forum pour la Conscience et le Développement (FOCODE), Burundi
  13. Forum pour le Renforcement de la Société Civile au Burundi (FORSC), Burundi
  14. Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)
  15. Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA), South Africa
  16. International Youth For Africa, South Sudan
  17. La Nouvelle Société Civile Congolaise, DRC
  18. Ligue Iteka, Burundi
  19. National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Uganda
  20. Réseau des Citoyens Probes, Burundi
  21. Réseau des Droits de l’Homme d’Afrique Centrale (REDHAC)
  22. SOS-Torture, Burundi
  23. South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network, South Sudan
  24. Union Burundaise des Journalistes, Burundi
  25. Zambia Council for Social Development, Zambia
  26. Mauritius Council of Social Services, Mauritius
  27. Pan Africa Human Rights Defenders Network
  28. Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition
  29. National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Kenya
  30. Mouvement des Femmes et des Filles pour la Paix et la Sécurité

Conseil des droits de l’homme, 36ème session
Item 4: Dialogue interactif avec la Commission d’enquête au Burundi

Intervention orale
Lue par Vital Nshimiriman


Merci, Monsieur le Président. CIVICUS et DefendDefenders au nom de 30 organisations africaines souhaitent remercier la Commission d’enquête pour leur rapport et réitérer leurs inquiétudes quant à l’existence de raisons de penser que des crimes contre l’humanité ont été commis en toute impunité par les acteurs étatiques, y compris le Service national du renseignement, la Police nationale, l’armée burundaise et les Imbonerakure depuis le début de la crise en avril 2015.

Les meurtres, les enlèvements, les disparitions en masse, la torture et les détentions de citoyens ont créé un climat de peur et d’intimidation solidement ancré dans tous les secteurs de la société burundaise. Une loi sur la société civile adoptée en janvier 2017 donne aux autorités de vastes pouvoirs pour contrôler les activités et les ressources des organisations de la société civile. Presque tous les défenseurs des droits de l’homme et journalistes sont en exil, et vivent encore dans la peur. Le gouvernement a délivré des mandats d’arrêt internationaux contre certains d’entre eux.

La plupart des stations de radio privées restent fermées et, bien que la plupart des journalistes et DDH soient en exil, certains de ceux qui sont restés, comme Jean Bigirimana ou Germain Rukuki, restent disparus ou détenus.

Monsieur le Président, dans un contexte comme le Burundi où le pouvoir judiciaire n’est pas indépendant et toutes les voix critiques du gouvernement sont brutalement attaquées, il n’y a pas d’avenues présentes pour rendre responsables les auteurs de crimes contre l’humanité.

Monsieur le Président, nous appelons le Conseil à:

  • Renouveler le mandat de la Commission d’enquête
  • Exhorter la Cour pénale internationale à ouvrir une enquête officielle sur les violations des droits de l’homme au Burundi
  • Initier une action pour la suspension du Burundi du Conseil des droits de l’homme des Nations Unies

Merci, Monsieur le Président

Cordialement,

  1. Action des Chrétiens pour l’Abolition de la Torture – Burundi (ACAT-Burundi)
  2. African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS), The Gambia
  3. Association pour la Protection des Droits Humains et des Personnes Détenues (APRODH), Burundi
  4. Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE), Ethiopia
  5. CIVICUS
  6. Coalition Burundaise pour la Cour Pénale Internationale (CB-CPI)
  7. Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation, South Sudan (CEPO)
  8. DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  9. Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea, Eritrea
  10. ONG Ezaka ho Fampandrosoana any Ambanivohitra (ONG EFA), Madagascar
  11. Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR), Eritrea
  12. Forum pour la Conscience et le Développement (FOCODE), Burundi
  13. Forum pour le Renforcement de la Société Civile au Burundi (FORSC), Burundi
  14. Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)
  15. Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA), South Africa
  16. International Youth For Africa, South Sudan
  17. La Nouvelle Société Civile Congolaise, DRC
  18. Ligue Iteka, Burundi
  19. National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Uganda
  20. Réseau des Citoyens Probes, Burundi
  21. Réseau des Droits de l’Homme d’Afrique Centrale (REDHAC)
  22. SOS-Torture, Burundi
  23. South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network, South Sudan
  24. Union Burundaise des Journalistes, Burundi
  25. Zambia Council for Social Development, Zambia
  26. Mauritius Council of Social Services, Mauritius
  27. Pan Africa Human Rights Defenders Network
  28. Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition
  29. National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Kenya
  30. Mouvement des Femmes et des Filles pour la Paix et la Sécurité
Item 4: Enhanced Interactive Dialogue with the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan

Human Rights Council: 36th Session
Item 4: Enhanced ID with the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan

18 September 2017

Oral Intervention
Delivered by Ms. Clementine de Montjoye


Thank you Mr. President.

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and CIVICUS, on behalf of 20 African civil society organisations, thank the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan for their worrying update.

Mr. President, we welcome this opportunity to raise concerns about the devastating situation in South Sudan with national and regional interlocutors. While we welcome some of the steps made towards establishing the Hybrid Court on South Sudan, we urge all regional and international actors to work together to ensure that justice is secured for the victims of grave violations of human rights and humanitarian law in South Sudan.

Today, civilians, journalists and humanitarian workers continue to be deliberately and targeted through horrific and violent attacks by both state and non-state actors. International civil society groups have documented ethnically charged sexual violence of unimaginable brutality on a massive scale, which shows no signs of abating.

Today, many South Sudanese civil society organisations and media workers are forced to work from exile, making the documentation and reporting of violations in the country particularly challenging. Given the situation, the Commission’s mandate to collect evidence, document violations and advise on accountability mechanisms is of the utmost importance and should be given full support by members of this Council.

Under the new High Level Revitalisation Forum, it is critical for the Government of South Sudan to take significant steps to show its commitment to the implementation of the Peace Agreement, including Chapter V, and to cooperate in a meaningful way with the African Union for the speedy establishment of the Court.

We urge Member States of the Council to support the Commission’s work and to urge the Government of South Sudan to respect its responsibility to protect its citizens and to put an end to the senseless violence the country has been experiencing for the past four years.

We thank you,

  • African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, The Gambia
  • Assistance Mission for Africa, South Sudan
  • Association for human rights in Ethiopia
  • Central Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (REDHAC), Cameroon
  • Center for Peace and Justice, South Sudan
  • CIVICUS, South Africa
  • Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation, South Sudan
  • Concertation Nationale de la Société Civile du Togo, Togo
  • DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project), Uganda
  • Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR), Eritrea
  • EVE Organisation, South Sudan
  • Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)
  • International Youth for Africa, South Sudan
  • La Nouvelle Société Civile Congolaise, DRC
  • Mauritius Council of Social Services, Mauritius
  • ONG Ezaka ho Fampandrosoana any Ambanivohitra (ONG EFA), Madagascar
  • Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains/ West Africa Human Rights Defenders Network,
  • South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network, South Sudan
  • Women Monthly Forum
  • Zambia Council for Social Development, Zambia
  • Pan Africa Human Rights Defenders Network

Open letters to the Council
Re: Current human rights and humanitarian situation in Sudan

To Permanent Representatives of Members and Observer States of the UN Human Rights Council
Geneva, Switzerland

21 September 2017

Re: Current human rights and humanitarian situation in Sudan

Excellencies,

We write to you regarding the 36th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council to share serious concerns over the human rights and humanitarian situation in Sudan. Many of these concerns are detailed in the attached annex of violations documented by the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS).

We would like to draw your attention to the Sudanese government’s continuing violations against civilians, including internally displaced persons (IDPs), in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur. Despite the Government’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire, indiscriminate attacks have continued against civilians in violation of international humanitarian law.

In Darfur, between 28 May and 15 June 2017, a number of attacks were perpetrated against civilians and civilian property by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) among others, leaving 17 dead, 30 seriously injured and 17 abducted.[1] The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that 8,000 individuals were displaced in Darfur in the first half of 2017.[2] We remain deeply concerned by evidence reported by Amnesty International in September 2016 of the repeated use, by the government of Sudan, of chemical weapons against civilians in the Jebel Marra area of Darfur.[3]

In 2017, aerial bombardment, which has marked much of the conflicts in Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile state and the Darfur region, appears to have been paused, or at least greatly reduced. These attacks killed at least 292 civilians and injured 749 between June 2011 and November 2016 in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states.[4] The ongoing aid blockade to rebel held areas in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, now in its 6th year, has deprived civilians of basic goods necessary for their survival, including access to life-saving medical assistance. There is an urgent need for agreement on modalities for impartial humanitarian aid to be delivered into rebel-held parts of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, both cross-line and cross-border, as well as a full, independent humanitarian needs assessment once access to rebel-held Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile is possible.

Sudan continues to repress civil and political rights, with crackdowns on protesters, human rights defenders, journalists, opposition party members, and religious minorities.[5] Restrictions on freedom of expression and the media continue, and the national security agency continues to arbitrarily detain, ill-treat and torture civilians. A member of a political opposition party was arrested and detained during the October and November 2016 civil disobedience campaign and was held for 50 days before being released without charge. Injuries sustained by beatings were so severe that he required surgery.[6] From 7 – 10 June 2017, security officials detained and tortured an internally displaced person in North Darfur who was working in a displaced persons camp. Following his release, officials dropped him in front of his home unconscious. The man was refused medical treatment in a government hospital because he had not reported the torture to police and obtained a “form 8”.

Sudan has targeted human rights defenders with trumped up criminal charges, arbitrary detention, and “show trials”. Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, a prominent rights defender, along with nine other defenders, was detained for more than eight months. He was charged with two other Darfuri human rights defenders with ‘undermining the constitutional system’ and ‘waging war against the state’, both of which carry either the death penalty or life imprisonment. The charges, finally dropped in August, are believed linked to allegations that the men helped in the production of Amnesty International’s 2016 report on the use of chemical weapons in Jebel Marra.[7] At least two of the detained men were severely beaten, and one was forced to confess under torture.[8]

Three human rights defenders, associated with the civil society organization Tracks for Training and Development (TRACKs) spent ten months in detention. On 5 March they were sentenced to one-year in prison and a fine amounting to over 7,000 Euros each.[9] Detained since May 2016, the three men were released the following day from Al-Huda prison in Omdurman after their fines were fully paid. The three men were convicted of “dissemination of false information” and “possession of immoral material” and one was convicted of espionage.[10] The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had declared their detention arbitrary in August 2016 due to the non-observance of international norms related to the right to a fair trial.

The government continues to restrict freedom of religion and belief.[11] In early 2017, officials in Khartoum announced they would demolish at least 27 churches within Khartoum. In May the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC) building in Soba Aradi was demolished without notice by security officials. Two church members were also arrested and witnesses were instructed not to photograph or record the demolition. The church was the sole remaining Christian place of worship in the Soda Aradi district. Officials have also prohibited construction of new churches under the rationale that no new churches are needed due to the secession of South Sudan and the presumed exodus of ethnic Southerners, who were predominantly Christian.

Sudanese authorities also routinely repress the basic rights of women, including through public order provisions that criminalize “indecent” dress such as wearing trousers. Citizenship rights, movement, and autonomy are all circumscribed by laws in place which prevent women from obtaining state identification and travelling without the permission of a male guardian. Authorities have used these and other repressive laws to target female activists and human rights defenders for arrest, detention, and various forms of harassment, including sexual violence.[12] In September 2017 journalist Hanadi Alsiddig, editor in chief of Akhbar Alwatan newspaper, reported that she was briefly arrested and beaten by national security authorities.

The UN Human Rights Council needs to take stronger action in response to the dire human rights situation in Sudan. It should adopt, at its 36th session, a resolution under agenda item 4 to:

  • Strengthen the special procedure mandate on Sudan by extending it as a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan under item 4, with a mandate to monitor and publicly and periodically report on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in all parts of Sudan;
  • Publically urge the Government of Sudan to implement the recommendations made to Sudan by the UN Human Rights Council during its 2016 Universal Periodic Review[13] and to provide an update to the Council on concrete measures taken to implement the recommendations made to it during its UPR that enjoy its support, and the recommendations made by the Independent Expert following his visit in April 2016;
  • Request the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to urgently dispatch investigation teams, with expertise in sexual and gender-based violence, to investigate crimes under international law and serious violations and abuses of human rights in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, identify those suspected of criminal responsibility, provide recommendations for accountability, and to report to the Council on its findings at the 38th session;
  • Six years into the conflicts in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, condemn in the strongest terms the grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, including the continued indiscriminate aerial bombing of civilian populated areas the use of cluster bombs, and other indiscriminate attacks on civilians by Government forces and allied militia, as well as the continued blockade of humanitarian aid;
  • Condemn attacks targeting the civilian population and civilian objects in Darfur, in particular looting, destruction of civilian facilities, killings and sexual violence committed by paramilitary forces and other Sudanese government forces, which has led to forced displacement of civilian populations;
  • Urge the government of Sudan to allow unfettered access by UNAMID, humanitarian agencies and NGOs to all parts of Darfur and humanitarian agencies, and NGOs to all parts of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile;
  • Urge the Government to ensure accountability for the killings of more than 170 protestors in Khartoum in September and October 
2013[14], as well as more recent killings such as the student protestors killed in April 2016;
  • Condemn the continued restrictions on the media, on human rights defenders and political opponents, freedoms of association and of peaceful assembly, and the use of arbitrary detention
and torture, as detailed;
  • Condemn the ongoing violations of freedom of religion and repression of individuals based on their faith;
  • Urgently call for the release of individuals arbitrarily detained by the NISS and urge the Government of Sudan to repeal the repressive National Security Act of 2010, and all other legislation which grants immunities to Government of Sudan agents.

We thank you for your attention to these pressing issues.

Sincerely,

Organisations:

  1. Act for Sudan
  2. African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies
  3. Christian Solidarity Worldwide
  4. Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre
  5. DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  6. Human Rights Watch
  7. International Federation for Human Rights
  8. International Justice Project
  9. Investors Against Genocide
  10. Journalists for Human Rights – Sudan
  11. MagkaSama Project
  12. Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur
  13. National Human Rights Monitoring Organisation
  14. PAX
  15. REDRESS Trust
  16. Sudan Democracy First Group
  17. Sudan Unlimited
  18. Sudanese Human Rights Initiative
  19. Sudanese Rights Group (Huqooq)
  20. The Al Khatim Adlan Centre for Enlightenment and Human Development (KACE)
  21. The Horn of Africa Civil Society Forum
  22. Waging Peace

[1] ACJPS, “Joint attacks by the Rapid Support Forces and militias on civilian targets in Darfur”, 22 June 2017.

[2] Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “Sudan: 2017 New Displacements and Affected People in Darfur as of 30 June 2017”, 30 June 2017.

[3] Amnesty International, Sudan: Scorched earth, poisoned air: Sudanese Government forces ravage Jebel Marra, Darfur, September 2016; ACJPS, “Call for an independent international investigation into the use of chemical weapons and other serious violations of international humanitarian law in Darfur”, 23 October 2016.

[4] Human Rights Watch, ““No Control, No Choice”: Lack of Access to Reproductive Healthcare in Sudan’s Rebel-Held Southern Kordofan”, May 2017.

[5] ACJPS, “17 members of political opposition Sudanese Congress Party (SCP) currently detained incommunicado”, 1 December 2016; ACJPS, “Urgent concern for detainees held incommunicado amidst Sudan’s growing civil disobedience campaign”, 15 December 2016; ACJPS, “In one week across Sudan, criminal charges levelled against journalist, NGO’s registration suspended and newspaper subjected to censorship”, 6 July 2017.

[6] Human Rights Watch, “Sudan’s New Image Can’t Disguise Harsh Reality”, 14 March 2017.

[7] Amnesty International, Sudan: Scorched earth, poisoned air: Sudanese Government forces ravage Jebel Marra, Darfur, September 2016.

[8] Joint Statement from 26 human rights groups, Sudan: Human rights defenders detained, face death penalty: Authorities should release all in arbitrary detention, drop charges, 7 July 2017.

[9] On 25 August 2016, the detention of Mr. Mukhtar, Mr. Hamdan, and Mr. Adam was found to be arbitrary by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), due to the non-observance of international norms related to the right to a fair trial.

[10] FIDH-OMCT-ACJPS joint press release, “TRACKs-affiliated rights defenders sentenced, fined and finally released after ten months of arbitrary detention”, 3 March 2017.

[11] ACJPS, “Update: Freedom of religion and belief continues to come under fire in Sudan”, 31 March 2017.

[12] Human Rights Watch, “Good Girls Don’t Protest”: Repression and Abuse of Women Human Rights Defenders, Activists, and Protesters in Sudan”, March 2016.

[13] UN Human Rights Council Working Group on the UPR, “Draft report of the Working Group on the Sudan Universal Periodic Review”, May 2016.

[14] See Amnesty International/ACJPS, “ Excessive and deadly: The use of force, detention and torture against protesters in Sudan”, 3 September 2014, and Human Rights Watch, “We Stood, They Opened Fire”: Killings and Arrests by Sudan’s Security Forces During the September Protests”, 2014.

RE: Renewing the Mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi and Ensuring Accountability for Serious Crimes

To Permanent Representatives of
Members and Observer States of the
UN Human Rights Council

Geneva, 19 September 2017

 

RE: Renewing the Mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi and Ensuring Accountability for Serious Crimes

Your Excellencies,

We, the undersigned civil society organizations, write to urge you to support a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Burundi and to call on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC) at its forthcoming 36th session to explore all options to ensure accountability for the crimes documented by the COI, including as recommended by the COI, the opening of an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) whose Office of the Prosecutor announced the opening of a preliminary examination on 25 April 2016,.In addition, we urge the UN HRC to call for Burundi’s suspension from the Council, or at a minimum to explicitly request the General Assembly to take up the matter in accordance with OP8 of GA resolution 60/251.

The COI has confirmed the continuation of serious human rights violations from April 2015 to date, including extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, enforced disappearances and sexual violence perpetrated mainly by the National Intelligence Service (SNR), members of the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the ruling party, the police and the army. The COI confirmed that they have reasonable grounds to believe that several of the violations documented constitute crimes against humanity.

Since the beginning of the crisis, Burundi’s once vocal and vibrant human rights organizations and independent media have been decimated and forced into exile. The COI has expressed its concerns about hate speech by the Burundian authorities and members of the ruling party aimed at intimidating and at times dehumanizing their opponents. While not constituting direct and public incitation to commit genocide, they contribute to “creating a dangerous climate of hate and terrorizing the population, and could reignite ethnic tensions.” Violations have continued unabated and with impunity.

The UN HRC adopted resolution 33/24 on 30th September 2016 establishing an independent international Commission of Inquiry to investigate human rights abuses in Burundi since April 2015, to identify alleged perpetrators and to provide recommendations to guarantee that perpetrators are held accountable. The government of Burundi has refused to cooperate with the COI, and suspended its cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the country. Given Burundi’s persistent refusal to cooperate with the UN HRC and the gross and systematic violations of human rights occurring in the country, we urge Council members to initiate action towards suspending Burundi’s membership of the UN HRC.

The ICC has been analyzing acts of killing, imprisonment, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, as well as cases of enforced disappearances that have been allegedly committed since April 2015 in Burundi. Shortly after the creation of the COI, Burundi’s National Assembly and Senate swiftly approved a bill on October 12, 2016, to withdraw from the ICC and on October 27, 2016, the UN Secretary-General received official notification of Burundi’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute. The withdrawal will come into effect on October 27, 2017. Burundi’s withdrawal does not affect its obligation to cooperate fully with the ICC on any criminal investigations and proceedings that are initiated before the withdrawal comes into force.

The government of Burundi has failed to hold accountable the individuals responsible for brutal crimes and by withdrawing from the ICC, it is attempting to deny justice for the victims. Given the gravity of the human rights violations in Burundi, we urge you to support a resolution during the 36th Session that renews the mandate of the COI, calls for further action to ensure justice for the victims and initiates action for Burundi’s suspension from the UN HRC.

Yours sincerely,

  • Action des Chrétiens pour l’Abolition de la Torture – Burundi (ACAT-Burundi)
  • Assistance Mission for Africa
  • Association Burundaise pour la Protection des Droits Humains et des Personnes Détenues (APRODH)
  • Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)
  • Centre for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR)
  • CIVICUS
  • Coalition Burundaise pour la Cour Pénale Internationale (CB-CPI)
  • Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation South Sudan (CEPO)
  • DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  • Eritrean Law Society (ELS)
  • Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR)
  • Forum pour la Conscience et le Développement (FOCODE)
  • Forum pour le Renforcement de la Société Civile au Burundi (FORSC)
  • Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P)
  • Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)
  • Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA)
  • Human Rights Watch (HRW)
  • Information Forum for Eritrea (IFE)
  • International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
  • International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  • International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (FIACAT)
  • International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  • International Youth for Africa
  • La Coalition Nationale des Défenseur des Droits Humains au Burundi
  • Ligue Iteka
  • Mouvement des Femmes et des Filles pour la Paix et la Sécurité (MFFPS)
  • National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Kenya
  • National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Uganda
  • Pan Africa Human Rights Defenders Network
  • Reporters Sans Frontières
  • Réseau des Citoyens Probes (RCP)
  • SOS-Torture
  • Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC)
  • The Ecumenical Network for Central Africa (ÖNZ)
  • TRIAL International
  • Union Burundaise des Journalistes (UBJ)
  • World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

 

Aux représentants permanents des États
membres et des Observateurs permanents du
Conseil des droits de l’homme de l’ONU

À Genève, le 19 septembre 2017

RE: Renouveler le mandat de la Commission d’enquête sur le Burundi et établir la responsabilité des crimes graves commis

Excellences,

Nous, les organisations de la société civile soussignées, vous écrivons pour vous demander de soutenir une résolution renouvelant le mandat de la Commission d’enquête des Nations Unies sur le Burundi (la Commission), et d’appeler le Conseil des droits de l’homme des Nations Unies (le Conseil) à explorer pendant sa 36ème session toutes les options pour assurer la responsabilité des crimes documentés par la Commission y compris, conformément à sa recommandation, l’ouverture d’une enquête par la Cour pénale internationale (CPI), dont le Bureau du Procureur a annoncé l’ouverture d’un examen préliminaire le 25 avril 2016. En outre, nous sollicitons le Conseil de demander la suspension du Burundi du Conseil ou, au minimum, de demander explicitement à l’Assemblée générale d’examiner la question conformément à l’OP8 de la résolution 60/251 de l’Assemblée générale.

La Commission a confirmé la persistance des violations graves des droits de l’homme depuis avril 2015, y compris les exécutions extrajudiciaires, les arrestations et détentions arbitraires, la torture et les traitements cruels, inhumains et dégradants, les disparitions forcées et les violences sexuelles perpétrés principalement par le Service national des renseignements (SNR), les membres des Imbonerakure, la ligue de jeunes affiliée au parti au pouvoir, la police et l’armée. La Commission a confirmé qu’elle avait des motifs raisonnables de croire que plusieurs des violations documentées constituent des crimes contre l’humanité.

Depuis le début de la crise, les organisations de défense des droits de l’homme et les médias indépendants du Burundi, autrefois dynamiques et s’exprimant haut et fort, ont été décimés et forcés à l’exil. La Commission a exprimé ses préoccupations au sujet des discours de haine prononcés par les autorités burundaises et les membres du parti au pouvoir visant à intimider et parfois déshumaniser leurs adversaires. Bien qu’ils ne constituent pas une incitation directe et publique à commettre un génocide, ils contribuent à «instaurer un climat de haine dangereux et à terroriser la population, et pourraient raviver des tensions ethniques». Les violations ont continué sans relâche et en toute impunité.

La Commission d’enquête sur le Burundi a été créée par la résolution 33/24 du Conseil, adoptée le 30 septembre 2016, afin de mener une enquête approfondie sur les violations des droits de l’homme commises depuis avril 2015 au Burundi, d’identifier les auteurs présumés et de fournir des recommandations pour garantir que les auteurs soient tenus responsables. Le gouvernement du Burundi a refusé de coopérer avec la Commission et a suspendu sa coopération avec le bureau du Haut-Commissariat des Nations Unies aux droits de l’homme dans le pays. Compte tenu du refus persistant du Burundi de coopérer avec le Conseil et des violations flagrantes et systématiques des droits de l’homme qui se produisent dans le pays, nous invitons les membres du Conseil à prendre des mesures visant à suspendre le Burundi du Conseil.

La CPI a analysé les actes de tuerie, d’emprisonnement, de torture, de viol et autres formes de violence sexuelle, ainsi que les cas de disparitions forcées qui auraient été commis depuis avril 2015 au Burundi. Peu de temps après la création de la Commission, l’Assemblée nationale et le Sénat du Burundi ont rapidement approuvé un projet de loi le 12 octobre 2016 pour se retirer de la CPI et le 27 octobre 2016, le Secrétaire général de l’ONU a reçu notification officielle du retrait du Burundi du Statut de Rome. Le retrait prendra effet le 27 octobre 2017, mais n’affecte pas son obligation de coopérer pleinement avec la CPI sur les enquêtes et procédures pénales engagées avant la date à laquelle le retrait prendra effet.

Le gouvernement du Burundi a failli à sa responsabilité de garantir que les auteurs de crimes brutaux soient tenus responsables et en se retirant de la CPI, il tente de priver de justice les victimes. Compte tenu de la gravité des violations des droits de l’homme au Burundi, nous vous exhortons à soutenir une résolution au cours de la 36ème session qui renouvelle le mandat de la Commission d’enquête, appelle à de nouvelles mesures pour assurer la justice pour les victimes et engage une action visant à la suspension du Burundi en tant que membre du Conseil.

Cordialement,

  • Action des Chrétiens pour l’Abolition de la Torture – Burundi (ACAT-Burundi)
  • Assistance Mission for Africa
  • Association Burundaise pour la Protection des Droits Humains et des Personnes Détenues (APRODH)
  • Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)
  • Centre for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR)
  • CIVICUS
  • Coalition Burundaise pour la Cour Pénale Internationale (CB-CPI)
  • Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation South Sudan (CEPO)
  • DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  • Eritrean Law Society (ELS)
  • Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR)
  • Forum pour la Conscience et le Développement (FOCODE)
  • Forum pour le Renforcement de la Société Civile au Burundi (FORSC)
  • Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P)
  • Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)
  • Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA)
  • Human Rights Watch (HRW)
  • Information Forum for Eritrea (IFE)
  • International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
  • International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  • International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (FIACAT)
  • International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  • International Youth for Africa
  • La Coalition Nationale des Défenseur des Droits Humains au Burundi
  • Ligue Iteka
  • Mouvement des Femmes et des Filles pour la Paix et la Sécurité (MFFPS)
  • National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Kenya
  • National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Uganda
  • Pan Africa Human Rights Defenders Network
  • Reporters Sans Frontières
  • Réseau des Citoyens Probes (RCP)
  • SOS-Torture
  • Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC)
  • The Ecumenical Network for Central Africa (ÖNZ)
  • TRIAL International
  • Union Burundaise des Journalistes (UBJ)
  • World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

Side-events at the Council
Ensuring accountability for human rights violations and abuses in Burundi: Next steps
Can there be both African and international solutions to the South Sudanese Problem?

Resolutions and outcomes
Technical assistance and capacity-building to improve the situation of human rights in Burundi

A/HRC/36/L.33 (Item 2) creates the mandate an expert to strengthen the work done by OHCHR in Burundi in order to provide the government with the necessary technical assistance to improve the situation of human rights and combat impunity.

Enforced or involuntary disappearances

A/HRC/36/L.10 calls upon all States to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and for signatories to provide substantive replies concerning claims in their countries.

Renewal of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi

A/HRC/36/L.9/Rev.1 (Item 4) renews the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry, and requests the Commission to present a report, including any necessary follow up action to the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly.

Technical assistance and capacity-building to improve human rights in the Sudan

A/HRC/36/L.19 expresses concern about alleged violations or abuses of human rights and renews the mandate of the Independent Expert for a period of one year.

Assistance to Somalia in the field of human rights

A/HRC/36/L.23 urges the Government of Somalia to end the prevailing culture of impunity and to implement the commitments in the New Partnership for Somalia and London Conference communiqué on constitutional reform.

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