Sudan defends its abhorent human rights record

Before a UN committee, Sudan tried to whitewash its human rights record and deny well-documented abuses in the country.

On Wednesday, July 9th, the Human Rights Committee reviewed the human rights situation in Sudan. Sudan, among the 168 States party to the ICCPR, is required to submit regular reports to the Committee of 18 international independent experts in order to analyze its implementation of the ICCPR’s provisions.

The issues that were highlighted by the experts as being particularly worrying in Sudan were the death penalty, torture, female genital mutilation, Sharia law and child soldiers. One specific recent case mentioned was that of Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian sentenced to death for apostasy. Overall, the main concern was the State’s laws’incompatibility with international human rights.

Isameldin Abdelgadir, Sudan’s Deputy Justice Minister, presented the report and sang praise of his government’s commitment to improving compliance with international human rights law. The defensive response to the experts’ observations consisted mostly of absurd statements that denied the existence of such glaring issues in the countries. The Sudanese delegate said that “there is no discrimination against women”and that “all rights are enjoyed on an equal footing regardless of sex, ethnicity or religious beliefs.” Another delegate from Sudan responded that “we invite the woman who asked the question to come to Sudan and see the good situation of the status and safety of women in Darfur.”

The responses and ‘explanations’on the subject of torture, execution and forms of extreme corporal punishment were equally unsettling. One expert said that “in Sudan there is not a single definition of torture, so it is impossible to assess the level of proportionality on a single scale,” whereas another confirmed that the basis of this problem was that “Sudanese criminal law does not define torture in a clear way.”A government speaker went on to even deny the existence of human rights abuses in this context, saying simply that “a number of these reports are unfounded,” that they were “fabricated cases”and that the “accusation of killing innocent people…is entirely unfounded.”A weak justification was also provided for the execution of minors — “it is because there have been errors in knowing the date of birth of the person, and regrettably these errors are frequent in our country.”

The topic of Sharia law received the most attention, with questions ranging from whether Sharia was applied to non-Muslims (as in the case of Ibhrahim) and whether Sharia contradicted the Covenant, to the issue of the severity of punishment under Sharia. “There is no discrimination on the basis of religion,” one speaker said, despite much evidence to the contrary, and “Christians will never have Sharia applied to them.”

When approaching the subject of Ibrahim, one Sudanese delegate said that her detention “was something not directly linked to apostasy…there was no infraction, and the law was upheld,” although a very different story has been reported surrounding this recent case. Another interesting contradiction was the comment that one “can’t put Sharia and religion in the same basket,” which was later followed by “the Covenant cannot prevail over religion.”

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