UN rights agencies demand return to “immediate” civilian rule in Sudan


The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Friday condemned the military coup in Sudan, appointing an expert to monitor alleged violations of rights in its aftermath, while urging military leaders to immediately “take a step back” and allow the nation to return to civilian rule.

Following an emergency session, the UN Human Rights Council reprimanded the Sudanese military after seizing power on 25 October.

The 47-member Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling for an “immediate restoration” of the civilian-led government.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Sudan’s de facto leader since strongman Omar al-Bashir was ousted in 2019, dissolved the government last week, imprisoned civilian leaders and declared a state of emergency.

Friday’s resolution, presented by Britain, Germany, Norway and the United States, condemned the “arbitrary deprivation of liberty” of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and others, and demanded their immediate release.

In her introductory statement to the Council, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet described the situation as “deeply worrying”, saying that most detainees were being held “incommunicado, without access to lawyers or their relatives”.

On Thursday night, Sudan TV said that Burhan had ordered the release of four government ministers, although it was not immediately clear when they would be released.

The military takeover led to international outcry and mass protests across Sudan that security forces were hit by a deadly strike that left at least 13 civilians dead and more than 300 wounded, Bachelet said.

“This disproportionate and deadly use of force … must stop immediately,” she said.

“Dramatic Deterioration”

The rights chief condemned an internet shutdown and a communications outage in Sudan, where only the media controlled by the military continues to broadcast.

The coup betrayed Sudan’s “brave and inspiring revolution of 2019”, Bachelet said, adding that it was “in a hurry to restore civilian rule”.

A number of countries reiterated her concern, and British Ambassador Simon Manley condemned the “dramatic deterioration of the human rights situation” in Sudan since the coup.

Meanwhile, some countries, including Russia, China and Venezuela, took the floor to say that the special session was an “unacceptable” interference in Sudan’s internal affairs.

The three said they distanced themselves from Friday’s consensus, but did not request a vote on the text.

It would have been customary for Sudan to speak in the Council on Friday, but it was abandoned in the midst of confusion over who represents the country in crisis.

In his speech, Bachelet called on the Council to take “appropriate action” to closely monitor the development of human rights in the country.

But after significant diplomatic dispute, Friday’s resolution was weakened, with the final version releasing a request for the appointment of a “special rapporteur”, or independent rights expert, to monitor developments.

Such an expert had previously kept track of Sudan, but the Council decided last year to suspend the mandate.

Instead of re-establishing a special rapporteur, the council on Friday called for a “designated expert” in Bachelet’s office to be tasked with monitoring the situation.

It also called on the UN Chief of Staff to update the Council on developments during the next regular session in March.

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