Sudan civil society group challenges southern referendum

Sudan civil society group challenges southern referendum

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[JURIST] A Sudanese civil society group filed a lawsuit Sunday challenging the actions of the commission handling the January 9 self-determination referendum in southern Sudan. The challenge, filed with the Sudanese Constitutional Court, alleges that the commission violated the procedures [Reuters report] for the referendum, set out in the 2009 Southern Sudan Referendum Act [text, PDF] and the Sudanese Constitution [text, PDF], in conducting voter registration and in failing to hold to the timetable set out for the vote. The Society Organization Network also accused the commission of placing members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) [party website], a pro-secession party, in senior posts and preventing voters in the north from registering to vote. Members of the SPLM described the lawsuit as sabotage [Xinhua report] by the National Congress Party (NCP), the dominant political party of the north. In September, a human rights expert told the UN that Sudan is not prepared for the referendum [JURIST report]. Mohamed Chande Othman, a Tanzanian judge and independent expert on the Sudan human rights situation, presented a report [text, PDF] to the UN Human Rights Council [official website] warning that Sudan does not have the necessary infrastructure in place for the January referendum. The report cites major setbacks, including the suppression of free speech and of the press, restrictions on other civil and political rights, and inadequate protection of society due to a lack of well-trained police officers, prosecutors and judges.

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. Also 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.