Factfinding Report Confirms Sudan Slavery

New York

Freedom House today welcomed the findings of a major fact finding mission to Sudan that confirmed the issue of slavery, abductions, and forced servitude in the war-ravaged country.

The authoritative investigative report, titled "Slavery, Abduction and Forced Servitude in Sudan," was prepared by the International Eminent Persons Group, acting with the encouragement of the US State Department. The report confirms the existence of slavery in Sudan, a practice used in conjunction with attacks carried out against civilian populations in rebel-held areas by pro-government militias.

The full report is available online.

The report describes a range of human rights abuses, including what under international law is considered slavery that takes place under the authority of the Government of Sudan. It outlines a far-reaching set of steps the Sudanese Government must take to eliminate these abuses and provide remedy to the victims, and actions the international community could take if such steps were forthcoming.

The report also calls upon the opposition Sudanese Peoples' Liberation Army (SPLA) to address abductions and forced servitude that take place under its authority.

"The report's conclusions help focus international attention on the issue of slavery in Sudan, and should bolster recent American efforts to promote a just peace between the Sudanese government and the SPLA," said Freedom House President Adrian Karatnycky. "Freedom House is justifiably proud that Penn Kemble, a senior fellow at Freedom House, serves as chairman of the Eminent Persons Group that issued the report," he added.

The group was dispatched and given unprecedented access to northern and southern Sudan as a result of an understanding negotiated by US envoy, former Senator John Danforth. The group was given access to the zones of conflict in its effort to assess the human rights situation. The mission was composed of humanitarian relief workers, human rights lawyers, academics, and former diplomats from Europe and the US.

Despite recent limited positive movement on humanitarian issues, the group's key finding is that there is "evidence of exploitation and abusive relationships that, in some cases, do meet the definition of slavery as contained in international conventions, which Sudan has signed." The report also acknowledges that all of the warring parties in the conflict have engaged in forced civilian displacement, intentional attacks on civilians, abductions, and the deliberate destruction of food aid, among other practices. The report declares that "bringing about an end to the practices of slavery, abduction and forced servitude will require Sudan's national political and military leaders to speak out forcefully and to act vigorously against these practices. Denials of the existence of slavery and rationalizations for its existence may be interpreted by some as indifference or, worse, license to continue these abuses."

"This report definitively establishes that the Sudanese regime is condoning the practice of slavery," said Nina Shea, director of Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom. "It makes it all the more imperative that the US assume a central role in negotiating a just peace that adequately protects the rights of the beleaguered animist and Christian populations in the south of Sudan," she said.

The Center for Religious Freedom operates a substantial public awareness program on the civil war and issues of religious freedom in Sudan.

For comments from Mr. Kemble please contact Marie-Louise Caravatti at 202-347-2348 or 202-302-2366.

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