University of Minnesota

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of
Racial Discrimination, Sudan, U.N. Doc. A/48/18, paras. 100-127 (1993).




Forty-second session


Concluding observations of the Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination


100. The Committee considered the eighth periodic report of the Sudan (CERD/C/222/Add.1) at its 968th, 970th, 971st and 983rd meetings, held on 9, 10 and 18 March 1993 (see CERD/C/SR.968, 970, 971 and 983).

101. The report was introduced by the representative of the State party, who said that the Government of the Sudan attached considerable importance to the work of the Committee, the ultimate objective of which was the welfare of the Sudanese population. The previous Government, however, had not fulfilled its obligations to report under the various human rights treaties to which it was a party. A series of reports had since been prepared as quickly as possible in order to re-establish cooperation with the treaty bodies concerned.

102. Members of the Committee welcomed the willingness demonstrated by the State party to engage in self-criticism and undertake a dialogue with the Committee. Noting, however, that the Sudan had a multiracial and multicultural society, members of the Committee regretted that the report did not contain information on the demographic composition of the Sudan as requested in General Recommendation IV of the Committee, nor did the report mention the most important subgroups of the southern Nile. It would be appreciated if the demographic composition were provided in the next report in tabular form. Members also requested information on the number of refugees and foreign students in the Sudan. In view of the campaign in the 1980s to eliminate certain tribal languages and establish a monocultural Islamic State, members asked how many languages were recognized by the Government and whether English was the principal language of the south.

103. It was noted that the Convention was no longer respected constitutionally, judicially or administratively and that the General Assembly, in its resolution 47/142, had called upon the Government of the Sudan to comply with applicable human rights instruments and to ensure that all individuals in its territory, including members of all religious and ethnic groups, enjoyed the rights recognized in those instruments. There were various reports from United Nations bodies, international non-governmental organizations and the media of ill-treatment of the population by security forces, including arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial executions, disappearances and forced detentions, and ethnic cleansing campaigns in southern Sudan. Further information was requested on how the process of national integration mentioned in paragraph 29 of the report could be accelerated under conditions of armed conflict.

104. Members observed that, since the suspension of the 1989 transitional constitution, the National Salvation Revolutionary Command Council had been ruling by decree, assigning special powers to the President. Since the first decree had abolished existing legislative and political organs, members wished to know how Sudan could implement the requirements of the Convention without enacting special legislation. In that connection, further information was requested on how the legislative, executive and judicial functions were structured.

105. Members recalled that article 4 of the Convention obligated States to introduce legislation to prevent acts of racial discrimination, and wished to know how that obligation was met.

106. Since the conflict appeared to have an ethnic component and religious questions sometimes overlapped with ethnic questions, members expressed concern about possible ethnic discrimination in the exercise of the rights referred to in article 5.

107. They noted reports that hundreds of Nuba and Fur villages had been razed and their inhabitants driven from the land in a vast programme of ethnic cleansing. In that connection, it had been reported that tens of thousands of people were being moved each month from the Nuba mountains and that the women were being used for mixed marriages or sold into slavery in the north. It would thus appear that article 5, paragraphs (d) (i), (iv) and (v) of the Convention were not being respected.

108. Concerning article 5 (b) of the Convention, providing for non-discrimination in the exercise of the rights of security of person and State protection, members of the Committee noted reports alleging mass killings and extrajudicial executions of civilians in the Nuba mountains, where the Government's programme of military action appeared to amount to ethnic cleansing. There had been similar reports of human rights violations by the Sudanese People's Liberation Army. In that regard, members stressed the importance of the right to life and noted that the offenses to which the death penalty applied were not clearly defined in Sudanese legislation. It was hoped that the Government would investigate reports of violations of the human rights of ethnic groups and bring those responsible to justice.

109. In relation to the effective implementation of article 5 (c) of the Convention, providing for non-discrimination in the right to take part in the Government as well as in the conduct of public affairs, members requested further information on the National Dialogue Conference of 1989. In that connection, members wished to know how the Government intended to allow groups to coexist within the federal system established by Decree No. 4 in response to demands from the south. Attempts to Islamicize the country by introducing Shariah appeared to go back on earlier agreements. Members also wished to know how it could be asserted that almost all shades of political opinion were represented in the Assembly when political parties had been banned and the legislature dismantled.

110. With respect to article 5 (d) (iv) of the Convention, members drew attention to the reference in paragraph 50 of the report to a non-Muslim wishing to marry the daughter of a Muslim being required to convert to Islam. It was also noted with concern that the rights to non-discrimination in exercise of the freedoms of thought, conscience and religion, and opinion, provided for under article 5 (d) (vii) and (viii) of the Convention, might have been flouted and that the offence of apostasy carried the death penalty. The right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association had been denied since the declaration of the state of emergency. Similarly, trade unions had been banned and their leaders imprisoned, which would be contrary to article 5 (e) (ii) of the Convention if there was an ethnic bias. With respect to article 5 (e) (iii), members wished to know what the Government had done to rehabilitate the homeless, particularly homeless children.

111. Concerning the right to non-discrimination in education (article 5 (e) (v) of the Convention), members asked what the minimum and maximum ages for compulsory education were; whether the educational system was the same in the north as in the south; whether children in school could be taught in local languages; and what problems were created for children as a result of forced migration from the south to the north.

112. In regard to the comments of the representative of the International Labour Organisation on the implementation of the ILO Convention concerning the Abolition of Forced Labour (No. 105) by Sudan and taking into account the allegations of slavery made before the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, members requested further information on action being taken by the Government in that regard, in particular with respect to the problem of the illicit transfer of children.

113. With respect to article 6 of the Convention, members of the Committee wished to know how the Penal Code was applied in practice in cases of racial discrimination; whether it contained penalties for acts of racial discrimination; whether the Convention could be invoked in a court; how legal proceedings alleging racial discrimination could be brought; and what remedy was available to victims of racial discrimination. In regard to the independence of the judicial system, members of the Committee expressed concern over reports that judges not considered sympathetic to the regime had been replaced. With respect to the special criminal courts, members of the Committee wished to know under what circumstances those courts were established; what were the laws governing them; and whether they were empowered to apply special rules.

114. In relation to article 7 of the Convention, it was noted that the replies provided in the report were not in conformity with the provisions of the Convention and the Government was requested to provide a proper reply in its next report.

115. In his reply, the representative of the State party welcomed the questions and observations of the members of the Committee. They would help the Government, which was resolutely determined to give the highest importance to human rights and to improve its implementation of the Convention.

116. Responding to the questions, the representative stated that the National Dialogue Conference had formally recognized the legitimate rights of the population of the south. The Government had acknowledged that the south was economically backward in comparison with the north and an agency had been established to promote the development of the south. In the political sphere, the Government had set up a federal system of government under which resources and positions of responsibility were to be equally distributed. The Government had given considerable weight to the recommendations of the Conference, particularly those concerning linguistic and religious minorities. In that connection, the Government had decided that Shariah would not be applied in the south, where the inhabitants were of a different culture. Additionally, the Government was willing to accept some kind of power-sharing arrangement with the three rival factions representing the rebel movement in Sudan, possibly taking the form of a federal structure.

117. As far as relations between the executive, legislative and judicial branches were concerned, the judiciary was independent and still governed by a 1986 law. The legislative and executive powers had initially both been exercised by the Council of the Revolution. In order to terminate the monopoly of both branches of authority, it had been decided to entrust legislative authority to the Supreme Transition Council, composed of over 300 individuals representing the country's different provinces and population groups. In recently held local elections, 1,600 municipal councillors had been elected by some 5.3 million voters. Those developments testified to the Government's determination to proceed towards democracy.

118. In response to questions raised by members, the representative stated that, although flogging was indeed a form of punishment, it had not been instituted by the 1991 Muslim Personal Law but by the Penal Code promulgated by the British in 1898. It was considered to be one of the best forms of punishment, not from a religious perspective but from that of modern criminology. Apostasy was not itself punishable and any Muslim could convert to Christianity. What was punishable under the Penal Code was incitement to apostasy, which could constitute a threat to peace and public order.

119. With regard to the allegations of torture and arbitrary trials and arrests, reference was made to the conclusions of an independent expert appointed by the United Nations whom the representative of the State party, in his capacity as Secretary-General of the Sudanese Commission on Human Rights, had accompanied during his visit to Sudan. On that occasion, the expert had been able to ascertain that those allegations had never been reliably attested to. He had been able to meet with someone who, according to Amnesty International and Africa Watch, had allegedly been tortured and had died. Other persons who had allegedly been arbitrarily arrested or tried had either been acquitted or convicted of written charges of which they had been informed. Moreover, the expert had ascertained that conditions under which prisoners were incarcerated were normal.

120. In reply to another question, the representative said that racial and religious discrimination was an offence under Sudanese statutory and case law. Furthermore, well before independence the international instruments to which the Sudan had acceded had been part of domestic law, over which they took precedence. International standards condemning racial discrimination and torture were fully respected in the Sudan. Convictions for racial discrimination could be punished by imprisonment for up to two years, a fine or both.

121. With regard to the percentage of non-Arabs in the armed forces and the proportion of southern and northern Sudanese in them, the representative assured the Committee that there were far more non-Arabs than Arabs in the armed forces. Membership in the popular defence forces did not depend on religious considerations.

122. On the question of language, Arabic was undoubtedly the language of most Sudanese. However, it was the official language not for that reason, but because it was the language employed by all 500 tribes in the Sudan. English, which was the language of the elite, had preserved its important position within Sudanese society. Allegations of forced Arabization of the country were proved untrue by the fact that for the 1974 Interpretation of Laws and General Clauses the English version was the authentic version before Sudanese courts.

123. There had been a question about the Government's alleged refusal to allow international organizations to visit the Nuba mountains in the province of Kordofan. In fact, a representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had visited that area. The Government had not yet set up a commission to investigate alleged human rights violations in the area, partly because it was waiting to see whether the Commission on Human Rights would appoint a Special Rapporteur on the Sudan, with whom the Government wished to cooperate fully. In that connection, the representative cordially invited any members of the Committee who were interested to visit the Sudan to observe the situation on the spot.

Concluding observations

124. The Committee expressed appreciation for the willingness of the Government of the Sudan to continue its dialogue with the Committee. The Committee expressed its deep concern at the serious human rights violations in the Sudan. It noted the statement of the representative that violations of human rights had been occurring and, in view of the Committee's anxieties, attached particular significance to the statement that the Government was taking every step to prevent further occurrences.

125. The Committee regretted the lack of information on the ethnic dimension to the current conflict in the country and the insufficiency of demographic data requested in the Committee's reporting guidelines and General Recommendation IV. The Committee requested the Government to ensure the harmonization of the national legislation, regulations and practices of the Sudan with the provisions of the Convention, and their effective implementation.

126. The Committee took note of the information supplied concerning Sudanese legislation, but observed that there often appeared to be a disjunction between those provisions and the manner of their implementation. It expressed its concern about the situation in the Nuba mountains and that of the Fur and wished to learn about the findings of the Commission of Inquiry appointed on 25 November 1992.

127. In accordance with article 9, paragraph 1, of the Convention, the Committee requested further information as soon as possible but not later than 31 January 1994 from the Government of the Sudan concerning the implementation of the Convention. The Committee drew the attention of the State party to the availability of technical assistance from the advisory services programme of the Centre for Human Rights with regard to the preparation of its next report.



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