Khartoum against UN draft on human rights

Dec 6, 2001 (IRIN)

The Sudanese government has expressed its opposition to a draft resolution on human rights adopted by the UN General Assembly's Third Committee last week, saying the text was biased in favour of the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A).

The Sudanese government delegate to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) said the draft resolution - approved by 82 votes in favour to 34 against, with 45 abstentions, on 30 November - condoned the activities of the SPLM/A.

The government envoy said the SPLM/A, which she described as a terrorist movement, had carried out bombings, killed humanitarian workers and taken innocent civilians as human shields in its attempt to prolong Sudan's 18-year civil war.

The United States abstained in the vote, saying the resolution did not go far enough to improve human rights in Sudan. Referring, in particular, to slavery, the US said that although the resolution called for actions to end the abduction of women and children, it did not reflect the true, tragic position of human rights in the country.

An undertaking to end slavery was one of four confidence-building measures proposed by US peace envoy to Sudan, John Danforth, during a visit to the country in November. The Khartoum government has repeatedly stated that there is no slavery practised in Sudan, while admitting that there is a problem of some tribal militias abducting civilians.

"If a proof of slavery is produced, the government will act to stop such a practice, and if there is no evidence, the US should close this case," AFP news agency quoted Sudanese President Umar Hasan al-Bashir as saying late last month.

In Sudan last month, Danforth also proposed a cessation of bombing attacks on civilians; zones of tranquility and times of tranquility to enable safe delivery of humanitarian assistance; and permanent humanitarian access to the war-torn Nubah Mountains in Southern Kordofan.

While the Sudanese government agreed to an initial four-week period of tranquility in the Nubah Mountains to allow urgently needed deliveries of food aid, it has concerns about any longer-term ceasefire in this region alone.

"We have expressed to the American presidential envoy our reservation towards the partial [Nubah] ceasefire he has proposed," AFP quoted Bashir as saying.

A ceasefire should include the oil pipeline which crosses the Nubah Mountains as well as the oil production sites near those mountains, according to Bashir. He also referred to a number of failed attempts since the mid-1990s to implement ceasefires in Bahr al-Ghazal State, southern Sudan.

Khartoum has consistently called for a comprehensive ceasefire to allow for peace talks, while the SPLM/A has long maintained that such a ceasefire arrangement is only possible in the context of a comprehensive political settlement.

According to the draft resolution on human rights in Sudan adopted by the Third Committee last week, the General Assembly would express deep concern at continuing serious violations of human rights by both government and rebel forces.

The draft text highlighted the occurrence of extrajudicial and arbitrary executions, the use of civilian premises for military purposes and the forced displacement of populations living around the oilfields.

The Sudanese delegate claimed that parts of the text regarding the extraction of oil resources compromised the sovereignty of Sudan. Suggestions that development of the oil industry had led to forced displacement were false, and the Sudanese government had every right to utilise the natural resources of its country, she said.

A US delegation is scheduled to spend five days in Sudan from Friday, 7 December, in order to gauge reactions from Khartoum and the SPLM/A to Danforth's four proposals. The group of seven officials is expected to discuss in detail plans for a truce in the Nubah Mountains region, and also elicit opinions from political leaders on the other three initiatives.

"My meetings were primary, but the group that is going will hold detailed discussions," Danforth said at a US State Department briefing on 27 November.