April 26, 2023

Joint letter to UNHRC requesting convening special session and establishing an investigative mechanism

Filed under Public Statements

Full PDF of this letter, including footnotes and annex, is available here.

To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (Geneva, Switzerland)

26 April 2023

Sudan: Urgently convene a special session and establish an investigative mechanism


In light of the unfolding human rights crisis in Sudan, and notwithstanding efforts to stop the fighting by the African Union (AU), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and other regional and international actors, we, the undersigned non-governmental organisations, are writing to urge your delegation to address the human rights dimensions of the crisis by supporting the convening of a special session of the UN Human Rights Council.

In line with the Council’s mandate to prevent violations and to respond promptly to human rights emergencies, States have a responsibility to act by convening a special session and establishing an investigative and accountability mechanism addressing all alleged human rights violations and abuses in Sudan.

We urge your delegation to support the adoption of a resolution that requests the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to urgently organize an independent mechanism to investigate human rights violations and advance accountability in Sudan, whose work would complement the work of the designated Expert on Sudan.
* * *
On 15 April 2023, explosions and gunfire were heard as violence erupted in Khartoum and other Sudanese cities between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) led by Sudan’s current head of state as Chairperson of the Sovereign Council (SC), General Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan, and a paramilitary group, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (also known as “Hemedti”).

As of 25 April 2023, at midnight, a 72-hour ceasefire has been announced. The death toll, however, is estimated at over 400 civilians, with thousands injured. Actual figures are likely to be much higher as most of Khartoum’s hospitals have been forced to close and civilians injured during the crossfire cannot be rescued. Millions of residents are trapped in their homes, running out of water, food and medical supplies as electricity is cut and violence is raging in the streets of Khartoum. Banks have been closed and mobile money services severely restricted, which limits access to cash, including salary and remittances. Diplomats and humanitarians have been attacked. The fighting has spread to other cities and regions, including Darfur, threatening to escalate into full-blown conflict.

In a Communiqué, the AU Peace and Security Council noted “with grave concern and alarm the deadly clashes […], which have reached a dangerous level and could escalate into a full-blown conflict,” “strongly condemned the ongoing armed confrontation” and called for “an immediate ceasefire by the two parties without conditions, in the supreme interest of Sudan and its people in order to avoid further bloodshed and harm to […] civilians.”
* * *
In light of these developments, we urge your delegation to support the adoption, during a special session on the unfolding human rights crisis in Sudan, of a resolution that, among other actions:

– Requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to urgently organize on the most expeditious basis possible an independent investigative mechanism, comprising three existing international and regional human rights experts, for a period of one year, renewable as necessary, and complementing, consolidating and building upon the work of the designated Expert on Human Rights in the Sudan and the country office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, with the following mandate:

(a) To undertake a thorough investigation into alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law and related crimes committed by all parties in Sudan since 25 October 2021, including on their possible gender dimensions, their extent, and whether they may constitute international crimes, with a view to preventing a further deterioration of the human rights situation;

(b) To establish the facts, circumstances and root causes of any such violations and abuses, to collect, consolidate, analyze and preserve documentation and evidence, and to
identify, where possible, those individuals and entities responsible;

(c) To make such information accessible and usable in support of ongoing and future accountability efforts, and to formulate recommendations on steps to be taken to guarantee that the authors of these violations and abuses are held accountable for their acts and to end the cycle of impunity in Sudan;

(d) To provide guidance on justice, including criminal accountability, reparations, and guarantees of non-recurrence;

(e) To integrate a gender perspective and a survivor-centred approach throughout its work;

(f) To engage with Sudanese parties and all other stakeholders, in particular United Nations agencies, civil society, refugees, the designated Expert on Human Rights in the Sudan, the field presence of the Office of the High Commissioner in Sudan, African Union bodies and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, in order to provide the support and expertise for the immediate improvement of the situation of human rights and the fight against impunity; and

(g) To ensure the complementarity and coordination of this effort with other efforts of the United Nations, the African Union and other appropriate regional and international entities, drawing on the expertise of, inter alia, the African Union and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to the extent practicable;

– Decides to enhance the interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, called for by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 50/1, at its 53rd session so as to include the participation of other stakeholders, in particular representatives of the African Union, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and civil society;

– Requests the independent investigative mechanism to present an oral briefing to the Human Rights Council at its 54th and 55th sessions, and a comprehensive written report at its 56th session, and to present its report to the General Assembly and other relevant international bodies; and

– Requests the Secretary-General to provide all the resources and expertise necessary to enable the Office of the High Commissioner to provide such administrative, technical and logistical support as is required to implement the provisions of the present resolution, in particular in the areas of fact-finding, legal analysis and evidence-collection, including regarding sexual and gender-based violence and specialized ballistic and forensic expertise.

We thank you for your attention to these pressing issues and stand ready to provide your delegation with further information as required.


First signatories (as of 26 April 2023):
1. Act for Sudan
2. Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture in the Central African Republic (ACAT-RCA)
3. African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
4. African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS)
5. AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network)
6. Algerian Human Rights Network (Réseau Algérien des Droits de l’Homme)
7. Amnesty International
8. Angolan Human Rights Defenders Coalition
9. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
10. Atrocities Watch Africa (AWA)
11. Beam Reports – Sudan
12. Belarusian Helsinki Committee
13. Burkinabè Human Rights Defenders Coalition (CBDDH)
14. Burundian Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (CBDDH)
15. Cabo Verdean Network of Human Rights Defenders (RECADDH)
16. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
17. Cameroon Women’s Peace Movement (CAWOPEM)
18. Central African Network of Human Rights Defenders (REDHAC)
19. Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) – Mozambique
20. Centre de Formation et de Documentation sur les Droits de l’Homme (CDFDH) – Togo
22. Coalition of Human Rights Defenders-Benin (CDDH-Bénin)
23. Collectif Urgence Darfour
24. CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide)
25. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
26. EEPA – Europe External Programme with Africa
27. Ethiopian Human Rights Defenders Center (EHRDC)
28. FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights)
29. Forum pour le Renforcement de la Société Civile (FORSC) – Burundi
30. Gender Centre for Empowering Development (GenCED) – Ghana
31. Gisa Group – Sudan
32. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
33. Horn of Africa Civil Society Forum (HoA Forum)
34. Human Rights Defenders Coalition Malawi
35. Human Rights Defenders Network – Sierra Leone
36. Human Rights House Foundation
37. Institut des Médias pour la Démocratie et les Droits de l’Homme (IM2DH) – Togo
38. International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)
39. International Commission of Jurists
40. International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI)
41. International Service for Human Rights
42. Ivorian Human Rights Defenders Coalition (CIDDH)
43. Jews Against Genocide
44. Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) – Sudan
45. Justice Africa Sudan
46. Justice Center for Advocacy and Legal Consultations – Sudan
47. Libyan Human Rights Clinic (LHRC)
48. Malian Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (COMADDH)
49. MENA Rights Group
50. Mozambique Human Rights Defenders Network (MozambiqueDefenders – RMDDH)
51. NANHRI – Network of African National Human Rights Institutions
52. National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Kenya
53. National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Somalia
54. National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders-Uganda (NCHRD-U)
55. Network of Human Rights Journalists (NHRJ) – The Gambia
56. Network of the Independent Commission for Human Rights in North Africa (CIDH Africa)
57. Never Again Coalition
58. Nigerien Human Rights Defenders Network (RNDDH)
59. Pathways for Women’s Empowerment and Development (PaWED) – Cameroon
60. PAX Netherlands
61. PEN Belarus
62. Physicians for Human Rights
63. POS Foundation – Ghana
64. Project Expedite Justice
65. Protection International Africa
67. Regional Centre for Training and Development of Civil Society (RCDCS) – Sudan
68. Réseau des Citoyens Probes (RCP) – Burundi
69. Rights Georgia
70. Rights for Peace
71. Rights Realization Centre (RRC) – United Kingdom
72. Salam for Democracy and Human Rights
73. Society for Threatened Peoples
74. Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (Southern Defenders)
75. South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network (SSHRDN)
76. Sudanese American Medical Association (SAMA)
77. Sudanese American Public Affairs Association (SAPAA)
78. Sudanese Women Rights Action
79. Sudan Human Rights Hub
80. Sudan NextGen Organization (SNG)
81. Sudan Social Development Organisation
82. Sudan Unlimited
84. Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC)
85. The Institute for Social Accountability (TISA)
86. Togolese Human Rights Defenders Coalition (CTDDH)
87. Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH)
88. Waging Peace
89. World Council of Churches
90. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
91. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights