UN rights expert says crimes against humanity may have occurred in Sudan

8 October 2004 –

The United Nations human rights expert on executions says she saw "strong indications" during an official visit this summer to the strife-torn Sudanese region of Darfur that human rights violations there "could constitute crimes against humanity."

In her final report to the General Assembly as Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Asma Jahangir says she gathered "a great number of testimonies" from internally displaced persons (IDPs) in camps and settlements across Darfur giving details of killings by Government-backed militias and the armed forces.

"There is a compelling need to carry out a comprehensive documentation of the incidents of extrajudicial and summary executions in Darfur in order to bring the perpetrators of these grave human rights violations to justice," she states.

Ms. Jahangir writes that the locations of some mass graves could not be verified by her because of security concerns and time constraints. But she suspected crimes against humanity may have occurred given the gravity and scale of the reports she received.

Turning to the global nature of executions, Ms. Jahangir says "there is no indication that the number of violations of the right to life has decreased during the period under review."

Ms. Jahangir urges the abolition of all executions of children who are below the age of 18 when they commit the crime, welcoming the "virtual consensus" on this issue.

She also expresses particular concern that the force is being used disproportionately and arbitrarily as a means of countering the threat of terrorism.

Ms. Jahangir recommends that countries where the death penalty is practised impose a moratorium on the punishment until they set up national commissions to determine whether they are observing all relevant safeguards and international standards.

"Governments should also keep up-to-date records relating to the death penalty and should make them available to the public. Members of civil society should be able to visit prisons where inmates sentenced to death are detained," she stressed.

In July, Australian lawyer Philip Alston was appointed by the UN Commission on Human Rights to succeed Ms. Jahangir in the post.

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