39th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council
Agenda Item 10: Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in the Sudan
Organisation: Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Speaker: Claire Denman
Thank you, Mr President.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) continues to be seriously concerned by the egregious human rights violations reported by the Independent Expert in his report, including continuing violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief and restrictions faced by human rights defenders.
We urge the Council to take heed of the report, and to ensure such violations are not met with impunity.
During the reporting period one of the 25 churches earmarked for demolition in 2017 was demolished. This took place in February 2018, despite assurances given by the government to the international community.
As in previous years, religious leaders have also faced judicial harassment. In August, the criminal case against eight senior Sudan Church of Christ leaders was dismissed with the ruling judge stating that the case had no foundation in criminal law and was essentially an administrative issue. Whilst we welcomed this ruling it is clear that interference by government agencies, including officials from the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments, in the private affairs of religious communities continues. The eight leaders continue their fight against the imposition of an unelected leadership to govern church affairs.
Restrictions on economic, social, and cultural rights have also been reported. Economic measures introduced by the government in January caused a sharp rise of basic commodities, making basic necessities unaffordable for the average citizen. These measures disproportionately affect the poorest and most vulnerable. Protestors took to the capital and other major cities to demonstrate against the measures; the government responded with a sever crackdown arresting and beating protestors and detaining lawyers, opposition politicians, journalists and human rights activists.
Human rights defenders working on FoRB have also raised concerns for their safety reporting regular and unexplained vandalism or burglaries at their places of work or their homes in addition to arrests and restrictions on their freedom of movement.
Ethnic and religious minorities regularly report incidences of discrimination and harassment at the hands of the state, and experience restrictions to education, employment and access to housing, health care and basic amenities.
One area of key concern is the issuance of birth certificates: the default religion is set to Islam and Christian families, upon registering the birth of their child, must vigilantly check the religion has been attributed correctly. Many incidents have been recorded where the parents have assumed their religion has been recorded correctly on the birth certificate, only to discover later that this is not the case. Due to legislation on apostasy, amending incorrect information on the birth certificates presents significant legal challenges which are insurmountable for the average citizen. Those that manage to amend birth certificates do so at great financial and personal cost.
The establishment of the National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) whist laudable, has not shown to have had any real impact for religious minorities. Cases of concern include the detention of two Sudan Church of Christ (SCOC) religious leaders by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) and the confiscation of title deeds and other legal documents proving ownership of the church’s land have yet to be returned. The SCOC has raised these concerns with the NHRI but to date have yet to receive a response detailing any action taken on the case, raising real concerns over the ability for domestic mechanisms to hold the government to account.
Mr President, CSW remains gravely concerned by these issues, and the wider context of human rights violations in Sudan. It is our position that the situation in Sudan deserves greater attention. The current technical assistance mandate does not address the severity of the violations reported to the Council, which are often perpetrated by the state or officials representing the state; the nature of which should be considered under agenda item 4.