He also drew attention to traditional practices, local dispute-resolution mechanisms and peace initiatives, upholding that the “energetic, vibrant” Sudanese have a vision to build, for the benefit of the whole country. Noting that the median age of the population is just 18.9 years, Mr. Turk attested to their potential, saying the young generation “live and breathe human rights”. “People have the right to peaceful assembly, and the State has an obligation to ensure this right can be exercised without fear of being shot at”, he said.
Much at stake
State institutions need to be representative of, accessible by and work for the people, including women and the most vulnerable. “Impunity breeds further violence. It must be addressed head on”, he underscored. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk with members of civil society in Khartoum during his recent official visit to Sudan. During his visit, the human right chief met with high-level officials, acting ministers of foreign affairs, justice, and the interior; and civil society representatives and human rights victims – whose “tireless work across a variety of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights issues was palpable”. Along with international support, he assured that OHCHR will work to strengthen the State’s capacity, including the promotion and protection of human rights. Mr. Türk called on all sides to go the extra mile towards restoring civilian rule and ending “the uncertainty that has left much of the population in peril”.
Solutions within reach
Following decades of repression, and a few tumultuous years, building trust between the authorities and people is a huge challenge. Volker Türk While acknowledging that “the situation is grim”, he flagged that “the tools to chisel away” and overcome some challenges, are within reach. © UNICEF/Ahmed Ammar
Lapse of trust
An aerial view of a UNICEF-supported water facility in Gorora village, Red Sea state, Sudan.. “There is a hunger…and a need for good governance and a new social contract between State institutions and the population, grounded in human rights,” said the rights chief. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk told journalists at a press conference in Khartoum that the military takeover of October 2021, which put an end to civilian power-sharing following the ouster of former dictator Omar Al-Bashir, had left Sudan “at a decisive fork in the road”.
Right to assemble
Victims must be acknowledged, and survivors properly recognized, honoured, and compensated while perpetrators be brought to justice. He called on the relevant authorities to instruct security forces to respond to demonstrations in line with human rights laws and standards. And deadly incidents in the Blue Nile and Kordofan States have resulted in hundreds of killings. And Sudan is likely to be heavily affected by climate change, threatening to inflame tensions over land and resources. A key thread during the High Commissioner’s visit was the need for accountability.
Thread of justice
He noted that OHCHR has documented the excessive use of force against protesters in Khartoum, including the use of live ammunition, pointing out that since the military takeover “at least 119 people have been killed and more than 8,050 sustained injuries – many life-changing”. Also deeply worrying are reports of sexual and gender-based violence against women, girls, men and boys, continuing with impunity and serious human rights violations in the Darfur region among civilians and internally displaced. The High Commissioner advocated for the urgent implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement to restore civilian authority, as “a step” towards peace and a National Plan for the Protection of Civilians to provide security throughout the most volatile parts of the country.
“As political negotiations continue towards a framework for a new transition, I urge all those involved to set aside entrenched positions, power games, and their personal interests, and to focus on the common interests of the Sudanese people”, he said. In outlining what’s at stake, he said that half the population only earns only about a day; electricity costs have soared 25-fold in the past year; the prices of bread and fuel have doubled; and the economy is in freefall, “with serious consequences for the most vulnerable”. Meanwhile, he continued, young people are protesting, demanding that authority be handed over to civilians.