Sudan military committed to ‘ensuring stability’ and ‘peaceful transition’ says senior diplomat

Sudan (HRNW): Sudan’s military has an “overarching duty” to refrain from using violence against protesters and ensure that their human rights are protected amid concerns of a further escalation, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said on Friday. Her comments followed the ousting of President Omar al-Bashir, announced on State television on Thursday, accompanied by the declaration from the defence minister, that a military council would govern the country for up to two years. Those developments come amid protests that erupted nearly four months ago when the Government attempted to raise the prices of bread and basic commodities, and which are also believed to have claimed dozens of lives.

Speaking in the Security Council on Friday morning, Sudan’s Deputy Ambassador, Yasir Abdullah Abdelsalam, said that the military council’s imposition of a State of Emergency for three months, a suspension of the constitution and nightly curfew, had been done in response to “the demands of the crowds…who have expressed their aspirations and their demands” He said the military council was committed to respecting all international agreements, and “a peaceful transition”, in which it would be the “guarantor” of a return to “civilian government”. “No party will be excluded” from the future electoral process, he added, including armed groups. He told Council member the suspension of the constitution “could be lifted at any point” and the transitional period back to civilian rule “could be shortened, depending on developments on the ground and agreements reached between stakeholders”.

But he noted firmly that Sudan’s political crisis was “a domestic matter” and a “delicate situation” that posed a “threat to its immediate and future stability” “Any democratic process requires time and that should not be threatened. We do not wish to see the nascent gradual democratic process unravel in the name of democracy”, he said. “We therefore call on our partners in the international community to support peaceful transition in the country in a way that will help to build on gains, and open up the path to stability development and prosperity, and allow us to move away from the scourge of violence which will positively impact the regional and international situation.”

“This is a very critical, volatile moment for Sudan and there is deep uncertainty and unease about the future,” High Commissioner Bachelet said in a statement, delivered in Geneva by Ravina Shamdasani, from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). In an update to journalists, Ms. Shamdasani said that it was “encouraging that there was no violence overnight” in the capital Khartoum – “even though the curfew that had been imposed was not respected by peaceful protesters”. The OHCHR official also noted unconfirmed reports that some political detainees had been released, before urging the authorities to release all political prisoners.

However, amid uncertainty about how the crisis might play out, Ms. Shamdasani noted that the demonstrators might be unwilling to accept the military council’s declaration. “I wouldn’t want to get into details on who our sources are, but there are clear indications from them that they are not happy with what happened yesterday and that the protests will continue,” Ms. Shamdasani said. “Which, again, is why we are calling on the authorities to address the people’s demands.” Reiterating the High Commissioner’s comments, Ms. Shadasani noted that the protests against President Bashir stemmed from widespread human rights grievances: economic, social, civil and political.

“We also understand that the announcement that was made yesterday didn’t indicate any possibility for people to participate in this transition,” she said. “Which is why we are, again, calling on the authorities to ensure that there’s a concerted effort with the meaningful participation of civil society, of dissenting voices, in charting a way forward.” Asked whether former president Bashir should stand trial on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity including genocide linked to violence in Darfur – issued by the International Criminal Court in 2009 and 2010 – Ms. Shamdasani said: “We would encourage the Government of Sudan to fully cooperate with the International Criminal Court”. “We are also calling for full accountability, including for the use of excessive force that has taken place since December this year”.

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