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Sudan court dismisses challenge to independence vote, refuses to dismiss 2 others

Sudan's Constitutional Court on Monday rejected a suit that could have postponed next month's scheduled referendum on independence for southern Sudan but chose not to dismiss two similar suits. According to a spokesperson for the South Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC), the court ordered the group to respond to one of the suits [Sudan Tribune report] by December 26. Some claim the lawsuits are frivolous [Reuters report] and that groups are filing them to delay the vote in which the south is expected to choose to break off from the north. One suit filed earlier this month [JURIST report] accused the SSRC of failing to adhere to proper procedures in voter registration and of improperly appointing pro-secession advocates to important posts in the SSRC. The referendum is scheduled to begin January 9, but it may be delayed if the pending lawsuits are not resolved by then.

The referendum is meant to be the culmination of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) [UN press release] that ended two decades of civil war. In September, the UN Security Council issued a statement [text] calling on the CPA parties to take "urgent action to facilitate peaceful and on-time referenda that reflect the will of the Sudanese people, to respect their results, and to resolve key remaining post-referenda issues." In April, Sudan attempted to have its first democratic multi-party election in almost a quarter of a century, but it was fraught with controversy. Two political parties in eastern Sudan accused the ruling NCP [JURIST report] of using voter fraud and intimidation in gaining electoral victories in their region of the country during the national elections.

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