October 1, 2010 (KHARTOUM) – The UN-appointed expert on human rights Mohamed Chande Othman will maintain his mandate in monitoring Sudan for another year despite intense lobbying by Arab and African countries at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
The UNHRC approved the extension by a margin of 7 votes owing in part to several African countries including Uganda, Zambia, and Gabon which dissented from the position taken by the their peers in the continent.
Speaking before the Council, Uganda’s representative stated, “At this critical time in Sudan… This Council cannot disengage… if ever there were an appropriate time to stay engaged now is the time… we will vote for the extension of the mandate as a matter of principle.”
Overall, twenty-five countries including Western nations voted for the resolution that was amended to “renew for a period of one year” the mandate of rights investigator. On the other hand nineteen countries, including China, Cuba, Nigeria and Russia, voted against while Kyrgyzstan, Thailand and Mauritius abstained.
The original resolution pushed by African nations had not mentioned the expert’s role and would have effectively ended his oversight after a one year term. However, Japan, Norway, Switzerland and the United States successfully brought an amendment to prolong the expert’s mandate for another year.
US human rights ambassador Eileen Donahoe welcomed the Council’s vote as “a demonstration of its resolve to remain constructively engaged in one of the burning political and human rights issues of the day.”
Othman, a justice on Tanzania’s court of appeals, expressed concern last September over the human rights situation in Sudan particularly with regards to crackdown on opposition leaders, journalists and students.
“These developments represent a serious setback and are of particular concern as the country prepares for the referendum,” Othman told the UNHRC.
“It is essential that authorities uphold human rights principles as a way of ensuring a peaceful and credible referendum,” he said.
He also urged Khartoum to uphold human rights to ensure a credible ballot when the South Sudan referendum takes place next year.
In response to the vote today, Sudan said that its human rights record is good compared to other countries around the world and accused the European countries of double standards. Its ambassador at the U.N. in Geneva, John Ukec regretted the extension describing it as an insult to his country.
The Arab league envoy Sa’ad Al-Farrargy said the decision does not reflect the positive developments in Sudan and said the Western pressure showed that it was done for political reasons.