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“With this milestone agreement, we are poised to accompany Sudan through an important moment in its history” – the words of UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Wednesday, as she signed a deal between the UN and the newly-constituted Government of Sudan to open a Human Rights Office in the capital, Khartoum.
The signing ceremony took place in New York at UN Headquarters, during the High-Level week of the General Assembly, between Ms. Bachelet, and Sudan’s new Minister of Foreign Affairs Asma Mohamed Abdalla. Apart from the capital, field offices to safeguard citizens’ rights will also be opened in Darfur, Blue Nile, Southern Kordofan and East Sudan.
Following a series of strikes and protests, long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir was overthrown by his top generals in April. In July, a power-sharing deal between the country’s ruling military council and opposition groups, to share power for three years, then hold elections for a return to full civilian government, led to optimism that a peaceful transition of power can take place.
Ms. Bachelet declared that the UN Human Rights Office will support this transition, for the human rights of all the people of Sudan: “We have witnessed with admiration the persistence of the women, men and youth in Sudan in asserting their human rights. The road ahead promises to be full of challenges, but we are ready to assist to ensure human rights permeate the transition”.
The Office will seek to support the transition in four main areas: combatting inequality and empowering women: legal and institutional reforms, to bring Sudan in line with international human rights obligations, justice to support accountability and reconciliation, with the meaningful participation of women and minorities; and strengthening the opening of democratic and civic space.
The establishment of an independent national investigation committee to investigate the repression of peaceful protestors in June (which reportedly led to the death of dozens of people), was welcomed by Ms. Bachelet, who noted that the power-sharing deal contains many positive commitments to human rights, including the bill of rights and a commitment to work with her Office.