Sudan: Protect Rights Ahead of Referendum

States convening at the United Nations for a high-level meeting on Sudan on September 24, 2010, should press Sudanese authorities to ensure that the forthcoming referendum on southern independence is free of the human rights violations that marred the April elections, Human Rights Watch said today.

More than 30 nations and international organizations are expected to attend the meeting, convened by the UN secretary-general to coincide with the annual General Assembly meetings. Delegates are expected to express their support for the January 2011 referendum, which will determine whether Southern Sudan remains part of Sudan or secedes and becomes an independent nation.

“The delegates at the Sudan meeting should do more than confirm that the referendum will happen on time,” said Rona Peligal, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “This is also a prime opportunity for them to insist on better human rights conditions in Sudan.”

The April elections and the upcoming referendum for southern independence are milestones in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended 22 years of civil war in which an estimated 2 million people lost their lives.

Human Rights Watch remains concerned about impunity for human rights violations by security forces across Sudan, restrictions on civil and political rights, and the treatment of minority groups throughout Sudan. The two parties to the peace agreement – the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the southern ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) – should state publicly that they will not expel each other’s minorities in the event of secession, Human Rights Watch said.

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