The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights concluded its 77th Ordinary Session held in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania from 20 October to 9 November 2023. During the session, the Commission renewed its Bureau. It received solemn declarations from elected and re-elected members and launched several documents and newsletters, among others.
Read the joint statement below:
The undersigned organisations welcome the establishment of a fact-finding mission (FFM) via the adoption of Resolution 54/2 ‘Responding to the human rights and humanitarian crisis caused by the ongoing armed conflict in the Sudan’ at the 54th session of the UN Human Rights Council on 11 October 2023. The FFM will investigate the various and atrocious war crimes committed since the war erupted on 15 April 2023 between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF), leading to serious violations and abuses of the rights of Sudanese men, women and children. The FFM is mandated to ‘investigate and establish the facts, circumstances and root causes of all alleged human rights violations and abuses and violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) including those committed against refugees’. The FFM is further mandated to collect, analyse and preserve evidence, identify those responsible, and make recommendations in particular on accountability. The undersigned organisations also reiterate the necessity to appoint the three experts of the FFM as soon as possible and as a matter of priority, and take the measures necessary to ensure gender diversity and feminist representation and expertise in its formation. This is a crucial prerequisite to investigate the crimes of gender-based violence since the start of the war, including rape, kidnapping and sexual slavery.
According to the joint OHCHR-UNITAMS (the UN assistance mission) office in Sudan, on 2 November 2023, and in Darfur alone in the recent escalation of fighting between the warring parties, ‘more than 50 incidents of sexual violence have been reported… impacting at least 105 victims – 86 women, one man and 18 children, (where) twenty-three of the incidents involved rape, 26 were of gang rape and three were of attempted rape…(and) at least 70 percent of the confirmed incidents of sexual violence recorded – 37 incidents in total – are attributed to men in RSF uniforms, eight to armed men affiliated with the RSF, two to men in unidentified uniform, and one to the SAF’. Moreover, other crimes committed in this war are also disproportionately affecting women, where the lack of health care services, including sexual and reproductive health, resulted in the death of women while giving birth and the contraction of sexually transmitted diseases after being raped. Additionally, Sudanese women refugees on the borders of neighbouring countries face immense difficulties, including lack of hygiene services such as menstruation pads, and spread of epidemics including cholera and malaria which resulted in the death of women human rights defender R’oya Hassan, a member of WHRDMENA. According to a report released by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), ‘insecurity, displacement, limited access to medicines, medical supplies, electricity, and water continue to pose enormous challenges to delivering health care across the country. Furthermore, on 26 October 2023, Bahja Abduallah, a women human rights defender (WHRD) from south Darfur was killed by a bullet from an unknown source while conducting a visit to a displacement camp in Nyala city. Also, women physicians and volunteers within local groups face increasing violence and are targeted for their documentation of human rights abuses.
The FFM has an enormous and important mission to carry out, to ensure accountability for the international crimes committed in the war in Sudan until now. The undersigned organisations:
- Call on the Human Rights Council President to ensure gender diversity and feminist representation in the appointment of members of the FFM, so as to ensure accountability and provide practical and crucial recommendations to be taken to guarantee the provision of emergency support and services to women and WHRDs in Sudan.
- Call on the FFM to prioritise gender justice and inclusion of women, and WHRDs.
- Call on the FFM to build strong collaboration, and engagement with Sudanese women’s rights groups and WHRDs on a regular basis to closely monitor the situation on the ground on a continual basis.
- Almostagbal for Enlightenment and Development Organisation
- Coalition of Darfur WHRDs
- Governance Programming Overseas
- International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
- Nora Center for Combating Sexual Violence (NORA)
- Sudan Doctors for Human Rights
- Sudanese Women’s Rights Action (SUWRA)
- The Regional Coalition for Women Human Rights Defenders in South West Asia and North Africa (also known as WHRDMENA)
- The Women Guardians Organisation
For many rights holders, victims and human rights defenders, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) provides a vital lever increasing pressure for change at the national level, while for others it provides the last resort or only opportunity to expose violations, seek accountability, and garner support for their vital work towards a fair, equal and sustainable world. We need the HRC to be credible, effective and accessible to everyone. This is only possible if States demonstrate leadership, take action in line with objective human rights criteria, ensure that HRC members live up to their responsibilities, and fully cooperate with the HRC and its mechanisms.
In compliance with Article 62 of the African Charter, States have the obligation to report every two years on the legislative, administrative and political measures taken with a view to give effect to human rights guaranteed by the Charter. The Islamic Republic of Mauritania, which ratified the Charter in 1986, submitted its 15th-16th and 17th Periodic Reports for its review.