1. Acting under its early warning and urgent action procedures, the Committee, at its 1303rd meeting, on 21 August 1998 (see CERD/C/SR.1303), decided to review the situation in the Sudan at its fifty-fourth session. Specifically, the Committee expressed concern over persistent reports that human rights conditions had continued to deteriorate in the Sudan. The Committee appreciates the dialogue with the State party at its 1329th meeting (see CERD/C/SR.1329).
2. The Committee notes that in the Sudan questions of ethnicity, religion and culture are deeply intertwined and that, in many respects, the ongoing civil conflict is fuelled by this complex interrelationship.
3. As the now 16-year-old civil war in the territory of the State party has claimed as many as 1.9 million lives since 1983, the Committee expresses its concern over the ethnic dimensions of the conflict.
4. The Committee is gravely concerned at the numerous reports that all parties to the armed conflict have engaged in attacks on civilian populations of other ethnic origins, including summary executions, malicious and militarily unjustified destruction of civilian property, the diversion of relief supplies and the forcible recruitment of child soldiers. In addition, the Committee is concerned at reports that the State party has regularly bombed non-military targets.
5. The Committee continues to express deep concern over reports of grave abuses directed at ethnic minorities in the Nuba Mountains in central Sudan, a situation that the Committee, when it previously considered the Sudan, referred to as “a vast programme of ethnic cleansing” (A/48/18, para. 107). Concern was also expressed about the State party’s role in the conflict that has erupted in the Darfur.
6. The Committee notes that the State party declared a ceasefire in July 1998 for some famine stricken regions in the war zone. The Committee welcomes reports that this ceasefire was extended for an additional three months in January 1999.
7. The Committee also expresses deep concern over reports from UNICEF that thousands of Sudanese of different ethnic origins have been enslaved, most of them women and children abducted by armed militia based in Government-controlled parts of the country. The Committee welcomes the State party’s recently announced intention to prosecute those involved in the slave trade and looks forward to the State party taking immediate effective measures to achieve the freedom of all those enslaved.
8. While the Committee welcomes the adoption in 1998 of a new constitution through a national referendum, the Committee expresses concern over the non participation of Sudanese in the south of the country in the referendum process and reports indicating that lawyers, trade unionists and other activists who questioned the constitutional adoption process were arrested. Moreover, the Committee regrets that the fundamental rights enshrined in both the Constitution and in earlier human rights decrees of 1993 have not been implemented in practice.
9. As a result, therefore, of the continuing human rights crisis, the Committee urges the State party to take the following steps to implement its treaty obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination:
(a) To implement immediately effective measures to guarantee to all Sudanese, without distinction, freedom of religion, opinion, expression and association; the right to security of person and protection by the State against violence or bodily harm; the right to study and communicate in a chosen language; and the right to enjoy their own culture without interference;
(b) To respect its obligations under humanitarian law, particularly article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and customary international law applicable to internal armed conflicts;
(c) To ensure that its police and security forces, and any paramilitary or civil defence forces acting with the support of the Government or under Sudanese military command, respect human rights and humanitarian law, including the provisions of the Convention, and that all those responsible for violations of any of the obligations contained therein are brought to justice;
(d) To take effective steps to protect internally displaced communities within the territory of the State party and to address the problems associated with the displacement of significant segments of the country’s population due to war. The State party should consider giving effect to the provisions of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (E/CN.4/1998/53/Add.2) of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on internally displaced persons. In particular, the State party must recognize that all displaced persons have the right freely to return to their homes of origin under conditions of safety and that once returned all displaced persons have a right to have any property that was seized in the course of the conflict restored to them and to participate equally in public affairs upon their return;
(e) To implement a public education campaign urging tolerance with respect to ethnic, cultural and religious diversity.
10. The Committee welcomes the statement of the representative of the State party recognizing the right of the people of the south of the country to self-determination.