10/10/2018 | News release | Distributed by Public on 10/10/2018 06:40
10 October 2018
The Human Rights Committee today concluded its consideration of the fifth periodic report of Sudan on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Introducing the report, Mahmoud Abaker Dugdug, State Minister of Justice of Sudan, said that since the ratification of the Covenant in 1986, the country had adopted a series of laws to bolster the promotion and protection of human rights, including the laws on access to information, trafficking in persons, and persons with disabilities. The law on elections had increased the quota for female candidates, and the State Reform Programme, launched in January 2014, focused on the political life, justice and security. Sudan had adopted 52 recommendations of the national dialogue conference and had set up a mechanism for the drafting of a new constitution. Amendments had been made to the National Security Law, the Criminal Code, and the Code of Civil Procedure, while an independent office of the Public Prosecutor, separate from the Ministry of Justice, had been set up. The Commission for Human Rights had been allocated the necessary financial and human resources so that it could fulfil its constitutional role. Reiterating Sudan's commitment to maintaining the unilateral ceasefire, the State Minister said that the humanitarian situation in the conflict areas had been markedly stabilized and the campaign to collect arms had had a significant impact on increasing the stability and improvement in the human rights situation. Great efforts to implement the latest Universal Periodic Review recommendations had been invested, despite very limited resources, Mr. Dugdug said, and concluded by reaffirming Sudan's resolve to promote and protect human rights, and face all challenges.
In the ensuing dialogue, Committee Experts noted that under the State Reform Programme, the intelligence service had been given law enforcement powers and reported directly to the President, and inquired whether the necessary supervisory mechanism was in place. They raised concern about the excessive use of force by law enforcement officers, and the impunity from prosecution of law enforcement and security officials for acts committed in the fulfilment of official duty, granted under the 2010 National Security Act. In this context, they referred to the indictment of President Omar al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court for charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of genocide against citizens of Darfur, and asked whether the immunity would apply even after the end of the Presidential mandate. Despite the ceasefire in Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, there were reports of human rights violations committed by the rapid reaction forces, including allegations of the use of poisonous chemicals on civilians and the denial of humanitarian access, Experts noted. The Covenant reserved the use of the death penalty for most serious crimes, which did not seem to be the case in several crimes, and the death penalty could be imposed on children under the age of 18 at the time of the crime, in direct violation of the provisions of the Covenant.
In concluding remarks, Mr. Dugdug stressed Sudan's commitment to working together with the Committee on the promotion and protection of human rights, which concerned all States and was a universal issue.
Margo Waterval, Committee Vice-Chair and Rapporteur, thanked the delegation and said that they had 48 hours to submit additional information.
The delegation of Sudan was composed of representatives of the Ministry of Justice, Violence against Women and Children Unit, Advisory Council for Human Rights, and the Permanent Mission of Sudan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
All the documents relating to the Committee's work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session's webpage. The webcast of the Committee's public meetings will be available via the following link: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.
The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. today, 10 October, to consider the third periodic report of Guinea (CCPR/C/GIN/3).
The fifth periodic report of Sudan can be read here: CCPR/C/SDN/5.
Presentation of the Report
MAHMOUD ABAKER DUGDUG, State Minister of Justice of Sudan, reminded that the report covered the period from 2014 to 2018, and that it had been drafted in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders. The authorities had made an effort to be transparent and objective in the report. Since ratifying the Covenant in 1986, Sudan had always striven to implement its provisions both in letter and spirit. The Government had adopted a series of laws to bolster the promotion and protection of human rights, most notably laws on elections, which increased the quota for the election of female candidates and which aimed to increase the participation of women in political life, and laws on access to information, trafficking in persons, and on persons with disabilities. The State Reform Programme, which had been launched in January 2014, focused on the political life, justice and security. The Government had adopted 52 recommendations of the national dialogue conference, and it had set up a mechanism for the drafting of a new national constitution. Amendments had also been made to the National Security Law, the Criminal Code, and the Code of Civil Procedure. In addition, the authorities had set up an independent office of the Public Prosecutor, separate from the Ministry of Justice. The necessary amendments had been introduced in the interim national constitution while awaiting the outcome of the national dialogue. Mr. Dugdug stressed that the Constitutional Court was the guardian and custodian of the national constitution; it rulings were final and binding for all State institutions. The Commission for Human Rights had been allocated the necessary financial and human resources so that it could fulfil its constitutional role.
Sudan was committed to the maintenance of the unilateral ceasefire. The humanitarian situation in the conflict areas had been markedly stabilized and the campaign to collect arms had had a significant impact on increasing the stability and improving the human rights situation. The Government was directing all its efforts to establish sustainable peace and stability in the country. It had exerted great efforts to open humanitarian corridors to those in need, and it had agreed to the United Nations initiative to deliver humanitarian assistance to those affected by the conflict who lived under the control of the popular movement in the north of the country. The Government faced an additional burden of receiving refugees from neighbouring countries, and of fighting trafficking in persons by international organized crime groups. As a result, Sudan had had to exert additional efforts to help victims. Sudan distinguished between the perpetrators and victims of trafficking. The National Action Plan on Human Rights had been reviewed to focus on human rights education, enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, civil and political rights, and the rights of women, children and persons with disabilities. Sudan cooperated with various United Nations mandate holders, especially those on children in armed conflict, and sexual violence in the context of conflict. The interest by Sudan to achieve peace and stability had gone beyond its geographical borders, as exemplified by its hosting of the negotiations between the Government of South Sudan and opposition movements. The Government had undertaken great efforts to implement the recommendations of its latest Universal Periodic Review, despite its very limited resources, and it reaffirmed its resolve to promote and protect human rights, and to face challenges in that regard.
Questions by the Committee Experts
Experts inquired about the constitutional and legal framework within which the Covenant was implemented in Sudan. To what extent did courts invoke the Covenant in their decisions? What were examples where the Covenant had been used by courts in practice?
What measures had been taken to implement the Committee's recommendations? There had been no follow-up to the previous concluding observations. What was the State party's position on the Convention against Torture and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which it had signed but not yet ratified?
What resources had been made available to the National Human Rights Commission, which had been established in 2012? To what extent would it operate in line with the Paris Principles? It seemed that members were accountable to the President.
Turning to the State Reform Programme, an Expert noted that the intelligence service had been given law enforcement powers in 2016 and it reported directly to the President. Did it have the necessary supervisory mechanism? What was the position of draft laws with respect to female genital mutilation and apostasy? To what extent did Sudan use technical assistance to conduct those legal reforms?
Despite the ceasefire in Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, there were reports of human rights violations committed by the rapid reaction forces. There were also allegations of the use of poisonous chemicals on civilians. Had the Government investigated those allegations? In addition, there were allegations of the denial of humanitarian access in those areas. To what extent did the Government ensure accountability for human rights violations?
An Expert inquired about the prolonged state of emergency in the provinces of North Kordofan and Kassala, which had been declared on 30 December 2017 for a period of six months. What steps had been taken to investigate and document human rights violations committed during the state of emergency, and to investigate and to prosecute perpetrators? What measures had been taken to comply with the requirement to notify the Secretary-General of the United Nations about any derogated rights? Was there a special tribunal for arrests made during the state of emergency?
Had the State party examined the provisions on the death penalty and their compatibility with the Covenant? Article 27 of the Criminal Code stipulated hanging, stoning and crucifixion as forms of the death sentence, even though some of those constituted acts of torture. It was urgent for Sudan to amend that article of its Criminal Code.
Were perpetrators of torture brought to trial and did victims of torture receive compensation? What had Sudan done to acceded to the Convention against Torture? Torture seemed to be practiced by law enforcement forces. How would the definition of torture change in the proposed Criminal Code Bill?
Moving on to non-discrimination, all persons were entitled to equal protection under the law. However, Experts wondered whether the relevant wording was entirely compatible with the Covenant provisions. The concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights from 2015 observed the absence of a comprehensive anti-discrimination law.
What was the foreseeable timeframe for the adoption of the bill to eliminate discrimination on the basis of religion and race? Allegedly, there had been increased discrimination on those grounds following the separation from South Sudan.
Provisions criminalizing persons on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity (i.e. sodomy) were still enforced in Sudan. What steps would the State party take to repeal such provisions? How many court proceedings had been carried out to prosecute indecent behaviour in public?
Turning to gender equality and harmful traditional practices, Experts asked what amendments were planned with respect to child custody and marriage being contracted by male guardians for women and girls. The Personal Status Code of 1991 allowed marriage for girls as young as 10 if her marriage was justified before a court of law. What was the legal age of marriage in Sudan? Did the State party intend to adopt 18 as the legal marriage age? What was the scope of efforts to combat early marriage and to provide support for victims of early marriage? Experts also reminded that polygamy was not criminalized.
What measures were being taken to ensure that courts appropriately took into account the circumstances of domestic violence when dealing with cases of marital rape? What was the relationship between the criminalization of marital rape, and the provision of the Personal Status Code that a wife needed to obey her husband? What had the State party done to educate the public that marital rape was criminalized? How many police officers had been trained on gender-based violence and where were they based? When would the State party ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women?
The Committee was concerned about the allegations of the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl and a woman by a Government-allied militia gang in Neriti in Central Darfur, on 15 December 2017, and about the rape of more than 200 women and girls belonging to the Fur ethnic group by members of the Sudanese Armed Forces in the village of Thabit in North Darfur on 31 October 2014. Arguments had been made about the systematic use of rape against internally displaced persons by the Sudanese Armed Forces. What had been done to ensure effective investigations into those cases and to conduct prosecutions?
Experts further called attention to the criminalization of abortion, unless when necessary to save the life of the mother. What was the rate of maternal mortality resulting from unsafe abortion? What measures had the State party taken to ensure access to post-abortion care?
What sanctions were imposed on the perpetrators of female genital mutilation and what were reparations provided to victims? What public awareness campaigns had been carried out at the community level and among religious leaders about the negative ramifications of female genital mutilation?
Replies by the Delegation
MAHMOUD ABAKER DUGDUG, State Minister of Justice of Sudan, explained that the state of emergency declared in North Kordofan and Kassala had been agreed to be extended in order to collect explosives, arms, ammunition, and vehicles not in line with the law, as well as to fight trafficking in persons and arms. The campaign had had a very positive impact on stability, especially in Darfur.
As for the death penalty, there were cultural differences about its use. Many countries like Sudan had retained the capital punishment, with legal safeguards for its use. In Sudan, amnesty could be granted. The use of the death penalty was linked with the right of retribution of the family of the victims. Death by crucifixion and stoning had never been carried out in the history of modern Sudan.
The Government had established a special office to investigate the crimes committed in Darfur. Members of the National Human Rights Commission were independent, and they had at their disposal an independent budget. The fact that they were appointed by the President did not mean that they were not independent in their work, Mr. Dugdug noted.
Turning to gender equality and violence against women, the delegation acknowledged that the female genital mutilation issue was a very important one. Sudan had started the fight against female genital mutilation in 1989. The relevant amendment to the Penal Code would be soon submitted for adoption to the National Assembly. The authorities had also conducted a public campaign called 'Salima' (safe) in all provinces in the country in order to augment the understanding of the public about the consequences of female genital mutilation. In 2006 the rate of female genital mutilation stood at 43 per cent, and it had decreased to 31.1 per cent in 2014. In some parts of the country the practice had been eliminated through popular initiatives. It was traditional midwives that carried out female genital mutilation.
Marital rape was covered by clear provisions of the Criminal Code, which criminalized the act. It was the right of a woman to include a provision in the marriage contract that she refused polygamy. In case of polygamy, she had the right to divorce. As for sexual violence against women in post-conflict areas, the delegation clarified that the authorities had conducted actions in cooperation with the United Nations. Some of the cases had been dealt with by the special court in Darfur. None of the cases had been substantiated or could be linked with the armed conflict.
Sudan had produced a protocol on cases of rape in cooperation with the World Health Organization, and women had the right to obtain relevant medical, psychological and legal assistance. Reproductive health was supported for women across the country. Women had the right to abortion during the first 90 days of pregnancy if their life was threatened, in case of rape, and serious damage of the foetus. There were police officers trained on violence against women, in particular in Darfur, and the authorities encouraged women to submit complaints where necessary.
In 2015 Sudan had separated the definition of rape from the definition of adultery during the revision of the Personal Status Code of 1991. Marital rape was illegal under the Criminal Code. Women in Sudan did not have a good understanding of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which was why the authorities had initiated a public awareness campaign about that convention. The delegation underlined the importance of Sudan's police brigade in North Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Moving on to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the delegation noted that regardless of their sexual orientation, persons held the same citizenship rights. However, when it came to family affairs, marriage was defined as a union between a man and a woman.
The rapid response forces of Sudan were answerable to the President of the country. The allegations against them were baseless and cooked up by rebel forces. The allegations of the use of poisonous gases were also spurious allegations fabricated by a specific organization.
Arrest had to be legitimate and not arbitrary. The arrests carried out by the national security forces during the state of emergency were legal. There were mechanisms in place within the domestic legal structure for the special security forces to follow, in addition to self-control and monitoring within those institutions. The length of detention slightly depended on the circumstances. If it lasted one month, the case was automatically passed over to courts.
As for the violations of rights of Christians and the sale of churches, the delegation underlined that none of the non-accredited churches (164 out of 230) in Khartoum had been destroyed. The remaining 66 churches were legally operated. The population of Christians amounted to three per cent. No individual had been accused of proselytizing, but there was a case of espionage and collusion with rebel groups. The majority of cases against religious leaders were criminal cases. There was no discrimination against Christians whatsoever; in fact, there was peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Christians.
Mr. Dugdug clarified that torture was criminalized in Sudan. There were individual cases of torture, but the perpetrators were brought to justice. As for the ratification of the Convention against Torture, all relevant stakeholders needed to be consulted. The ceasefire had been upheld in Darfur and Kordofan, and the collection of weapons had contributed to increased security and better agricultural output. Accordingly, there was need for humanitarian aid.
Equality before the law was enshrined in the Constitution, even though there might be challenges in its implementation, which was why the delegation carefully listened to the Experts' comments and proposals, Mr. Dugdug emphasized.
A technical committee of the Ministry of Justice had been set up to follow up on the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review, and of all United Nations treaty bodies, the delegation added.
Follow-up Questions by the Committee Experts
Experts observed that the National Human Rights Commission could contribute to the promotion of human rights, but it could equally be a smokescreen and a public relations exercise. What could be expected from the body created in Sudan? The appointment of members of the National Human Rights Commission by the President, unfortunately, did not contribute to its independence. Could the Commission conduct its own investigation of complaints? It seemed that the people who could be accused of human rights abuses had immunity (i.e. intelligence and police officers).
Returning to article 27 of the Criminal Code (death by crucifixion and stoning), an Expert observed that there was a discrepancy between the law and reality. Why could that article not be repealed?
How effectively had the new laws, policies and measures comprehensively improved the situation of women in Sudan? How many complaints and successful prosecutions of marital rape had there been since legal changes? Were there laws that allowed women to have more than one husband?
As for discrimination on the grounds of religion, what was the status of the relevant draft bill? Were illegal churches automatically demolished? Was there any due process before the demolition of illegal churches?
Did the State party have any intention to repeal the crime of sodomy?
Replies by the Delegation
MAHMOUD ABAKER DUGDUG, State Minister of Justice of Sudan, explained that the illegal churches had not been demolished, and that there was no intention of demolishing them. The repeal of the crime of sodomy would not be in line with the cultural values in the country. However, there was no systematic targeting of that segment of society. Sudan had asked in various international fora that its cultural values be respected.
The National Human Rights Commission had the authority to receive and investigate individual complaints. It communicated with relevant authorities to that end. As for the immunity for intelligence and police officers, no one who had broken the law could have immunity.
Mr. Dugdug reaffirmed the readiness of the Government of Sudan to cooperate with all international agencies and institutions interested in conducting capacity building for law enforcement forces and State officials. Sudan needed capacity building in general.
The delegation informed that one of the most important accomplishments in the field of gender equality was that women's groups in even the most remote areas of the country participated in public life, including in peace negotiations, peace keeping and peace building. The authorities were currently studying the minimum age of marriage, noting the study which had revealed that early marriage had led to school dropout among girls.
In response to questions raised on the National Human Rights Commission, the delegation explained that it received individual complaints, carried out investigations and inquiries, and took measures pursuant to the law, and could also address competent authorities and demand the immediate cessation of human rights violations.
The allegations concerning the persecution of Christians were unfounded, said the delegation, explaining that the case against Petr Jasek, Czeck humanitarian worker, was about the illegal infiltration of the Sudanese borders, and illegal contacts with rebel groups and providing them with weapons. He had later met with rebel leaders in Khartoum in order to obtain false information on genocide and the demolition of churches in the country. Mr. Jasek had been convicted by a Sudanese court, and having received a Presidential amnesty, had left the country.
With regard to female genital mutilation, another delegate stressed that this was a crime and that all medical doctors were prohibited from performing the practice. The Medical Professional Board held the health professionals accountable, and had revoked a diploma of one medical doctor, and sanctioned one midwife by removing her medical kit. A centre for aesthetic surgeries, supported by the Embassy of the United States, had been set up, which was accessible to women.
Amendments had been proposed to the Personal Status Code to strengthen women's rights in marriage and divorce, including though the registration of all marriages. An official had to be present during the contracting of a marriage, and a marriage contract must be issued.
The appointment of judges, including to the Supreme Court, was done by the President of the State, and in a manner that maintained their full independence. Members of the National Human Rights Commission were appointed in a manner that ensured equal gender representation and reflected the composition of the country; its Vice-President was a Christian, for example.
Questions from the Experts
In the next round of questions, a Committee Expert raised concern about the sentence of amputation for crimes of theft and asked whether there was a clear moratorium on this sentence which had been inscribed in the Criminal Code since 1991. Would this sanction, as well as the sentence of flogging, be removed from the draft Criminal Code? The Expert also asked about steps to ensure that women and men were treated equally under the law in matters of adultery and whether the crime of apostasy would be removed from the books.
On conditions of detention, the delegation was asked about measures taken to improve access to food, health, and water and sanitation, to reduce in-prison violence, and to inform of the Modo Al-Houda correctional facility, which was claimed to be based on modern incarceration principles and standards. As for internal displacement, the Expert asked about steps taken to prevent displacement of the population, the content of the policy for internally displaced persons adopted by the Humanitarian Aid Commission, and the measures in place to hold the military accountable for abuses against civilians?
The Committee was concerned that seven of the nine crimes of trafficking which carried the death penalty under the Anti-Trafficking Act 2014 did not meet the criteria of most severe crimes, and there were concerns about due process and fair trials.
The Covenant reserved the use of the death penalty for most serious crimes, Experts said and asked about the crimes where the death penalty was mandatory, noting that a number of those did not meet the threshold criteria under the Covenant. Further, the death penalty could be imposed on children under the age of 18 at the time of the crime, which was in violation with the provisions of the Covenant.
If stoning was not being used as a sentence for adultery, why was it not removed from the books, the Expert asked, noting that maintaining this sentence sent a wrong message to the communities.
The National Security Act of 2010 and other laws granted immunity from prosecution to law enforcement and security officials for acts committed in fulfilment of their official duty. The immunity of State agents could be lifted by the relevant authority, Experts remarked and asked who and how this was triggered, particularly, could it be done by the victims or their families. Immunity was not granted for human rights violations, which must be investigated and prosecuted; what was considered as a 'human rights violation' in this context, did it include for example acts of torture and ill treatment?
Turning to the Presidential immunity, the Experts noted that President Omar al-Bashir had been indicted as indirect co-perpetrator by the International Criminal Court for charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of genocide against citizens of Darfur. What was Sudan's position on this indictment? Was the immunity granted also for human rights violations and would it apply after his Presidential mandate had come to an end?
In 2014, the Committee had expressed its concern about the excessive and disproportionate use of force by law enforcement officers in the context of demonstrations, an Expert recalled, and noted that the continued use of rubber bullets, live ammunitions and tear gas against demonstrators continued, in which a number of people had been killed, including children. Those incidents concerned student demonstrations, protests of villagers because of insecurity, and demonstrations against austerity measures. The delegation was asked to explain what was being done to hold law enforcement officers accountable and promote the use of non-violent measures and the correct use of force in line with international standards; which provisions of the domestic law provided a recourse to firearms to the law enforcement forces during protests and demonstrations? What was being done to investigate violations and to make the findings publicly available?
There were numerous allegations of administrative detention, perpetuated particularly against the political opposition and human rights activists, another Expert noted with concern, and asked about the application of fundamental legal safeguards in such cases. Also of concern was the excessive duration of detention, in violation with the provisions of the Covenant. Noting that persons detained by national security agents must be brought before a judge within 48 hours, the Expert asked whether the 2014 National Security Act would be amended to bring it in line with the Covenant.
How many persons had been convicted for apostasy, and how many women had been sanctioned on charges of inappropriate attire? The delegation was asked to explain how criminalization of proselytizing or openly declaring conversion from Islam was upheld in violation of the right to freedom of religion or belief.
There were about one million refugees and asylum seekers in Sudan, of which only 22 per cent had been registered by the Civil Registry Authorities to date, Experts remarked, noting that many were subject to arrests and harassment due to lack of registration documents. The Asylum Act of 2014 had incorporated the prohibition of refoulement, but it maintained excessive restrictions on the freedom of movement of refugees and asylum seekers and did not provide an adequate legal recourse for complaints against deportation decisions. The Committee was concerned about refoulement of 'illegal migrants', forced deportation of Eritreans, and the impact of the 2016 migration agreement signed with Italy on the human rights of refugees and asylum-seekers, which allowed for collective expulsions and violated the right to effective remedy. What concrete measures were being taken to ensure the protection of the right to apply for asylum, ensure individualized assessment, including identification, to trafficking victims, and protect minors in the asylum procedure?
The National Council for Press and Publication, under direct supervision of the President, routinely violated the right to freedom of expression and of association through censorship and closure of news outlets, Experts noted with concern, asking what was being done to ensure that its activities were consistent with article 19 of the Covenant; how many news agencies had been shut down without court order; and how many journalists had been charged for 'spreading fake news'? It appeared that in January 2018, Parliament had debated a bill to allow national security agents to shut down any news outlet, including television and radio stations, for a period of 15 days without a cause - what was the status of this legislation?
Could the delegation comment on reports of intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders and journalists, including preventing them from traveling to Geneva for Sudan's Universal Periodic Review?
The visit to Sudan by the Working Group on enforced disappearance scheduled in March 2018 had been cancelled - when would it take place? What remedies were being provided to victims of enforced disappearance and their families?
Responses by the Delegation
On the compatibility of sentences such as the death penalty and stoning with the Covenant, the delegation said that laws were like human beings, they changed and adapted to circumstances. The Ministry of Justice had presented a written memorandum to the Cabinet, and this was an ongoing effort. Such penalties had not been applied in the past, reassured the delegate.
Judges had the right to enter any and all detention facilities, including temporary places of detention, and inspect the conditions of detention, while the prosecution was present throughout the country, in proximity of the population. There were 25,000 lawyers in Sudan, who also supervised the conditions in detention and prisons indirectly, and could submit a complaint to courts or prosecutors. Al-Houda was a model prison, built according to international standards; it was spacious and prisoners were segregated according to the severity of the crime, and lived there with dignity. In a number of prisons, there was a coordination with the International Committee of the Red Cross on a number of issues.
The death penalty was not a mandatory sentence, and was applied in accordance with the severity of the crime, for crimes of murder or rape. So far, no death sentences had been issued to perpetrators of the crime of trafficking.
Sudan was a country of transit for migrants and there were instances of people smuggling and human trafficking. The anti-trafficking act had been recently strengthened to provide more stringent sentences for the crime, and it also distinguished between people smuggling and trafficking in persons. The delegate stressed the importance of international cooperation and international judicial cooperation in curbing the crime of trafficking in persons in the region. There was no immunity for the crime of trafficking in persons, regardless of who the perpetrator was.
Political parties could only be established under the 2007 law on political parties and they operated with all freedoms, which, however, had limits. Currently, over 100 political parties were registered and were active, and there had been no cases of abolition of a political party.
Various capacity-building and training activities had been organized on the use of force by law enforcement forces; this was an ongoing process. The incidents involving the excessive use of force in September 2018 were being investigated, and reparation committees had been set up in Khartoum and elsewhere. The President and Vice-President of Sudan enjoyed immunity under the law. They could, however, be accused of high treason, great violations of the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, or gross misconduct in discharge of their duties. The charges could be brought only by a three-quarter majority of the higher authority.
In addition to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Sudan had ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Optional Protocol of 1967. There were currently about six million refugees in the county, and notwithstanding the socio-economic situation in the country, Sudan remained committed to fulfilling its international obligations in this regard. This was a rather complex matter, the delegate continued, given the significant population movement from neighbouring countries. Caring for refugees was a massive challenge, therefore the United Nations World Food Programme and the United Nations Refugee Agency carried out their activities unhindered. The main challenge was to identify and register the refugees.
The centre for aesthetic surgery cared for women victims of female genital mutilation, and such medical interventions were lawful. The delegation reiterated that in line with the Law on the Right of the Child 2010, the death penalty was never imposed on a child. Abortion was lawful to preserve the life and health of the mother, in case of rape, or if the foetus had already died in the womb. All cases of legal abortion were reported through the health census. Illegal abortions were usually not reported, unless a woman died; in this case, the reporting was done through the relevant criminal reporting channels. In 2018, three women had died in illegal abortion processes, and judicial proceedings had been opened.
Immodest or indecent attire was not the one that did not comply with the Islam, but was mentioned in an article of the Criminal Code. This article was under review to define what 'immodest' or 'indecent' meant. The Violence against Women and Children Unit was working with the European Union with regard to the declaration on the protection of women in emergency situations, including in conflict.
In response to the questions raised on the human rights situation in areas under the control of rebel groups, the delegation stressed that the rebels were recruiting children to participate in hostilities. They were also preventing the villagers from protesting. The rapid response forces were effective in dealing with rebel groups, and were able to disarm them and collect their arms. They were also fighting human traffickers on the national borders. There were several mechanisms through which complaints could be filed by victims of misconduct by public agents.
Under the 2010 National Security Act, the duration of administrative detention was one month; the detainee was under the responsibility of the public prosecutor. In special circumstances, the National Security Council could extend the initial police custody to three months for charges of armed holdup, incitement to racial and religious violence, political violence, and espionage.
It was not possible for security agents to interfere with the work of newspapers, any suspension could only be done upon judicial orders. The non-issuing of the sentence of stoning was indeed an official judicial policy on which there was an unofficial moratorium. The sentence of flogging could only be declared in three hudud crimes, and could not be applied on children, according to the Law on the Right of the Child, which superseded the Criminal Code.
An appeal to lift the immunity of a public agent could be filed by the office of the prosecutors, and as long as there was prima facie evidence that a crime had been committed. The President enjoyed both personal and official immunity, the delegate said and stressed that Sudan was not a party to the International Criminal Court. The Rome Statute was not a part of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, therefore Sudan maintained that the issue was outside of the competence of the Human Rights Committee. Sudan would uphold its commitment to the visit by the Working Group on enforced disappearance and this visit would take place.
MAHMOUD ABAKER DUGDUG, State Minister of Justice of Sudan, in his concluding remarks, stressed that Sudan aimed to work together with the Committee to promote and protect human rights, which concerned all States and was a universal issue. The Committee's remarks and observations would be very helpful in upholding Sudan's international human rights commitments. Sudan was very much open to a dialogue between the Sudanese and an international dialogue and cooperation in the field of human rights.
MARGO WATERVAL, Committee Vice-Chair and Rapporteur, thanked the delegation in her closing remarks, and reminded of the 48-hour rule for the submission of additional information.
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