The UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday voted to establish a controversial investigations team into atrocities reported in Sudan, opening a new door for Khartoum’s diplomatic battle to save its image.
The decision came after a narrow vote in which the Council passed a resolution despite the entire African membership in the Council refusing to endorse it. It passed by 19 votes against 16 Nos and 12 abstentions, allowing the Council to set up a Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) to Sudan.
The Draft Resolution A/HRC/54/L.18 was meant to help the UN respond to the human rights and humanitarian crisis caused by the ongoing armed conflict in Sudan.
Proposed by the United Kingdom, the US and Norway, it suggested to investigate abuses committed in the six-month war that as seen the Sudan Armed Forces fight the Rapid Support Forces.
A number of rights groups, as well as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk had warned that war crimes and other crimes against humanity have happened in Sudan, by both sides, including rape, starvation, mass murders and forced displacements.
But Sudan rejected the FFM from the beginning, arguing the Sudan Armed Forces were a legitimate authority capable of punishing wrongdoers. Sudan, a member of the Council, rallied its allies to either rejected the proposal or abstain.
Eritrea, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Cote d’Ivoire, Morocco and Algeria all joined Sudan to vote No. South Africa, The Gambia, Malawi, Cameroon and Benin abstained. Khartoum was also backed by Middle Eastern countries Qatar and the United Arab Emirates who rejected the resolution.
The team may be announced later but could yet face hostility from within Sudan and its neighbourhood where it has been rejected. Yet the team will be supposed to investigate atrocities and name perpetrators for a possible prosecution at the International Criminal Court, should they be referred there by the UN Security Council.
The matter went to a vote after members failed to reach consensus.
Last week, 17 rights groups across Africa wrote to the UN Human Rights Council, asking that such a team be established to place warlords at the crime scene and save the country from collapsing.
“We urge the (UN Human Rights) Council members to support the establishment of this mission to increase Sudanese people’s access to justice and accountability and enhance the chances of creating a transitional justice process that will support the efforts of peace-making in Sudan,” they wrote in an open letter on Wednesday last week.
These include Sudanese Doctors for Human Rights, Governance Programming Overseas, Sudanese Women Rights Action, International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, International Federation for Human Rights, Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network (Southern Defenders), Centre for Democracy and Human Rights – CDD Mozambique and Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.