Today, DefendDefenders hosts a gathering of human rights defenders (HRDs), H.E Mohamed Mirghani Yousif, Minister Plenipotentiary of the Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan, and other key stakeholders from the sub-region to announce Sudan as our 2020 focus and renew our commitment to the country’s future. This is an opportunity for key partners to come together, assess the situation, and agree on concrete steps to build a lasting future for the people of Sudan based on democracy, justice, human rights, and rule of law.
From 11-16 October 2019, DefendDefenders conducted an in-country mission to Sudan led by Executive Director Hassan Shire. During this mission, we met with human rights layers, key youth activists, and members of the government to pledge ourselves towards the future of the country. By connecting key Sundanese stakeholders with our efforts at the United Nations Human Rights Council and other international mechanisms, we can build on the new relationships we have built through our recent outreach efforts and help retain international attention on the situation.
“We welcome the progressive reforms and good initiatives in Sudan, including the willingness of the authorities to cooperate with international mechanisms like the International Criminal Court. We should therefore move now to reclaim space in Sudan – in Khartoum, Blue Nile, South Kordofan, Darfur, and the entire country,” says Shire.
Sudan finds itself at a critical juncture. In April 2019, long-time President Omar al-Bashir was overthrown after months of popular protests forced him out of power. These protests were marred with human rights violations and violence against peaceful demonstrators, such as the 3 June massacre in Khartoum. We continue to call for independent and impartial investigations into these violations to ensure justice for the victims.
Women led thousands of protesters through the streets facings threats of harassment, illegal detention, and sexual violence in prisons. In 2019, Sudan Women Protest received the Pan-African Shield Award and the North-Africa Shield Award by AfricanDefenders in recognition of their dedication and progressive work to promote peace and justice throughout the Sudanese Revolution.
“Women human rights defenders were at the frontline of the struggle, risking their lives and wellbeing for a just and democratic Sudan. We must continue to support them,” says Elrudia Abdallah, an exiled woman HRD.
As the Sudanese people turn the page on 30 years of dictatorship and repression, significant challenges remain, notably relating to accountability and the need for peaceful transition to civilian rule in the very near future. Civil society must play a key role in what is to come, and they will not do so alone.
“Let us think together on what needs to be done and how we can go back and support the human rights defenders on the ground,” says Mohamed Badawi, Monitoring Programme Director at the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies.
In light of this, DefendDefenders announces a renewed focus on Sudan with regard to advocacy, research, and capacity-building to help HRDs rebuild their country. This means more trainings, network-building, and the publication of new Sudan-focused research at our annual flagship event Claiming Spaces in December.
Creating and maintaining an open civic space will be key to enabling a new Sudan where civil society can operate freely in an enabling environment where rights are protected, and freedoms are guaranteed by law. A human rights-based approach is needed to address the grievances of all Sudanese, and HRDs will play a critical role in making this a reality. Today, we pledge to honour the lives lost during the Sudanese revolution by committing to the future of this great nation, to its people, and its progress.