7 January 2011

Sudan: Amnesty Calls On Govt to Tackle Human Rights Abuses Ahead of Referendum

Nairobi — Sudan must refrain from ramping up military attacks in Darfur and guard against human rights violations during and after the referendum on south Sudan's independence, which is due to begin on Sunday, Amnesty International has demanded.

The vote on south Sudan independence is the final stipulation of the 2005's peace deal that ended nearly two decades of civil war between north and south Sudan. South Sudan is largely expected to opt for secession.

The global human rights watchdog on Friday accused the Sudanese government of taking advantage of the fact that the world's attention has shifted to south Sudan referendum to step up military operations in Darfur region.

According to Amnesty, more than 20,000 people were displaced in December last year by a spate of largely unreported attacks by government forces in several areas in Darfur region, including Dar Al Salam, Shangil Tobaya and Khor Abeche camps in north and south Darfur.

The conflict in Sudan's western region of Darfur rumbles on despite numerous international efforts to broker a peace agreement between the Sudanese government and increasingly factionalized rebel groups.

In a media briefing received by Sudan Tribune on Friday, Amnesty said that the International Community had turned a blind eye on these attacks as its attention shifts towards south Sudan referendum.

Separately, Amnesty said that members of Sudan's National Security and Intelligence Services are still abusing their massive powers, noting the arrest last November of 11 Darfuri activists who are still held in detention without charges or trial.

Amnesty further warned that the persecution of ethnic monitories in the north may increase during and after the referendum. It also noted that women in north Sudan still face "cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment" under the Public Order Law which sanctions flogging and arrest of women on the basis of their clothing and public behavior.

On the north-south issue, Amnesty warned against the implosive nature of the citizenship issue, saying that failure to reach an agreement on the issue of citizenship could lead to "mass displacements, various human rights violations and the separation of families in both the north and south."

North and south Sudan remain deadlocked over a host of post referendum arrangements, most notably is the issue of citizenship and the status of the contested oil-producing area of Abyei.

Amnesty called on the north and the south to allow people to choose which citizenship they wish to obtain, noting that the conditions for obtaining citizenship must not discriminate on the basis of birth, ethnic origin, religion, gender, marital status or similar other factors.

The organization also called on the authorities in the north and the south to tackle human rights violations effectively during the referendum and to instruct law-enforcement bodies to protect people from intimidation and harassment as a result of their choices in the referendum.

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