AU Children’s Committee Approves Settlement to Benefit Sudanese Children

KHARTOUM, Sudan – The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, an African Union body, has approved a settlement agreement between the Sudanese government and several human rights organizations. The agreement resolves a communication filed on behalf of children from the Blue Nile and South Kordofan States (also known as the Two Areas), who were harmed by government bombing campaigns in the region between 2011 and 2016. In recognition of the human rights violations in the Two Areas, the transitional Sudanese government will acknowledge its responsibility and offer condolences to the victims. The Sudanese government has also committed to reconstructing schools and hospitals that were destroyed and allowing unfettered humanitarian access into the Two Areas, as well as to engage in legal reforms.

“This case represents a win for the children of South Kordofan and Blue Nile States. This next generation will be critical in building a future for Sudan. On behalf of the children of the Two Areas, we are pleased with the outcome and hopeful that the voices of these war-affected children are heard,” said Cynthia Tai, Executive Director of Project Expedite Justice (PEJ). “Moreover, this agreement is a testament to the Committee’s ability to oversee a complex negotiation, and a step forward for the transitional government of Sudan.”

In 2018, PEJ and partner organizations, including the Al Khatim Adlan Centre for Enlightenment and Human Development, the International Refugee Rights Initiative, the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, the Horn of Africa Civil Society Forum, and others, submitted a communication to the Committee alleging human rights violations against the children in the Two Areas. They asserted that the government—then led by former President Omar al-Bashir—engaged in systematic bombing campaigns against the civilian population. The attacks had an acute effect on children, who were not only maimed and killed but also faced educational and health crises as a result of the destruction of schools and hospitals. The communication argued that a number of human rights, including the rights to life, health and education, were violated in contravention of several articles of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, and that the victims are therefore entitled to reparations.

The Committee deemed the Communication admissible in September 2019, and the following year in September 2020, decided the parties could pursue a settlement agreement. PEJ and partner organizations, along with the director of the People’s Legal Aid Centre (PLACE) acting as co-counsel, commenced settlement negotiations with the Sudanese government in September 2020 under the guidance of two Committee members. After several weeks of negotiations, an amicable settlement agreement was reached in December 2020, ahead of the 36th Ordinary Session of the Committee. Pursuant to its terms, the government will apologize for the attacks; remedy conflict-induced gaps in health and educational services by reconstructing schools and hospitals, offering equipment and personnel training, and providing cash assistance; ensure that humanitarian aid workers have unfettered access to the region; reform laws related to atrocity crimes and sexual and gender-based violence; and ratify certain human rights instruments, such as the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

NEXT STEPS
The Committee will monitor the government’s compliance with the terms of the agreement by assigning a rapporteur and requiring regular reporting from the government on its progress.

Furthermore, Committee members will undertake a factfinding mission to the Two Areas to determine which communities were most severely affected by the bombing campaign. Then, the government will present a plan to the Committee outlining how it will restore schools and hospitals destroyed by the bombings, after which reconstruction will commence.

We commend the transitional Sudanese government for the efforts they have already taken towards the full implementation of the agreement. For instance, the government has initiated the process of withdrawing its reservations to the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

BACKGROUND
The Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child is a treaty body established by the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. Its membership consists of eleven experts elected by African Union members to advise on and promote the rights of children under the Charter. As part of its mandate, the Committee considers whether member States violated the terms of the treaty and issues recommendations on how to remedy the harm.

The communication filed by PEJ and its partners is only the eleventh to be considered by the Committee in its nearly twenty-year history. It is the second time a communication has been resolved through an amicable settlement process.

Learn more about PEJ: https://www.projectexpeditejustice.org/
Learn more about Al Khatim Adlan Centre for Enlightenment and Human Development: kacesudan.org/en/
Learn more about International Refugee Rights Initiative: http://refugee-rights.org/
Learn more about African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies: https://www.acjps.org/
Learn more about Horn of Africa Civil Society Forum: kacesudan.org/en/

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