By Janet Sankale
The United Nations Human Rights Council will hold a special session on Friday, November 5, 2021, to discuss Sudan.
A statement posted on the council’s website said the session, scheduled to start at 12.30 pm CET, will address the “implications of the ongoing situation in the Republic of the Sudan” and will be webcast live in the six UN languages. It will be in a hybrid virtual format at the Palais des Nations in Room 20.
“Due to Covid-19 measures, most interventions will be delivered online; therefore, the media is encouraged to follow the meeting on the webcast,” the Human Rights Council (HRC) statement said.
This decision came just days after 48 nations asked the council to convene a special session to discuss the country in the wake of the military’s takeover on October 25 and the subsequent crackdown on mass protests.
According to the HRC, the special session is prompted by an official request submitted jointly by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United States of America, Norway, and Germany.
“For a special session to be convened, the support of one-third of the 47 members of the council – 16 or more – is required. The request was supported by the following States Members of the Council: Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Libya, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Republic of Korea, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and Uruguay,” it further stated.
The observer states that supported the session were Albania, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, New Zealand, Norway, Romania, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and United States of America.
The Secretariat announced that Malawi and Portugal had also joined, adding that the list of signatories will remain open up to the holding of the special session.
The HRC held an organisational meeting on Wednesday, November 3, to discuss specific details concerning the special session.
During the council’s 48th regular session, which took place between September 13 and October 11, 2021, some 38 civil society organisations asked the council to adopt a resolution to extend its support for human rights reform and monitoring in Sudan.
In a joint letter dated September 10, 2021, they described Sudan’s political transition as “incomplete” and added that it was the responsibility of the council to support national authorities and actors, including civil society organisations, and to maintain the monitoring and public reporting capacity of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
However, their call went unanswered as the council failed to adopt the resolution.
Two weeks after the end of the session, Sudan’s military seized power, dissolved the ruling Sovereign Council, arrested its civilian leaders, including Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, and declared a state of emergency.
Several leaders remain held in incommunicado or under house arrest. Hamdok was later released after a worldwide condemnation of the coup and calls for his release. However, he remains under military guard in his home.
The top military leader, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, suspended several provisions of the constitutional declaration that set the framework of the interim period following the overthrow of former Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir, who had ruled the country for 30 years. This effectively paved the way for military rule.
Several people have been killed and others injured when thousands of people marched across cities in Sudan, demanding the return of civilian rule. Reports indicate that three people were shot dead by the authorities during demonstration at the weekend, but the military denied that it had used live bullets or shot at the protesters.
General Burhan has defended the military’s seizure of power, claiming that it was aimed at averting civil war. He promised to hold elections in July 2023 and hand power to elected civilians.
This is the second successful military coup in Sudan in less than three years.