Peace talks on the Sudan offer hope for an improvement in the country's human rights situation, a United Nations expert said today.
Gerhart Baum, the Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Sudan, told journalists in New York that national reconciliation could only hope to succeed if "human rights become part of the peace process - not part of the post-war scenario, but part of the peace process."
Suppression of civil society, harassment against political parties and activists, and threats posed by the police persist in the Sudan, Mr. Baum said. While there had been no significant improvement in the country's human rights picture, "there is no alternative to rule by civil society which is founded on respect for minorities, which is strengthening tolerance, which is able to build up trust and confidence and to build up a process of reconciliation," he added.
The international community should help the Sudan "to strengthen education, to build up local authorities, to train the police, to train the judiciary," the Special Rapporteur said.
Voicing hope that the talks would continue, he called on outside mediators - including the United States, United Kingdom, Norway and Kenya - to help both sides to come to substantial agreement in the near future. He also called for greater UN involvement in the Sudan "in the political field as well as in the field of human rights."
Ongoing fighting is exacerbating suffering in the Sudan, where some 4 million people had been displaced and 2 million killed over the course of two decades of civil war. "It's a forgotten conflict, unfortunately, but now I hope that common efforts from all sides - from inside and outside - can really help the country to build up a future," he said.