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In Memoriam: Osman Hummaida

It is with great sadness that the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) mourns the passage of Osman Hummaida, Sudanese human rights activist and Executive Director of the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies. Osman died of natural causes on April 17, 2014.

Osman was a passionate and committed human rights advocate who dedicated his life to the promotion and protection of human rights in Sudan. His commitment can be traced over decades, from his days as a student activist in Khartoum, to the founding of the Sudan Organisation Against Torture, to his most recent role as founder and Executive Director of the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies. Having been a refugee in the UK, he was a vibrant example of how those in exile can both become professionally successful, serving as the head of a human rights organisation, and also give back to the countries from which they come.

Activism came at a huge personal and professional cost to Osman. In 1990, shortly after the accession to power of the current regime in Sudan, he was arrested and held for 18 months alongside a large number of other activists. In 2008, Osman and several colleagues were again arrested and suffered mistreatment and torture in detention. They were only released following the mobilization of significant international pressure.

Osman personally, and the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies institutionally, have been important partners and allies in much of IRRI’s work.  In that context, Osman worked closely with IRRI and other member organisations to set up the Darfur Consortium (now renamed the Sudan Consortium). Not only did Osman lend his deep understanding of the political situation in Sudan and the context of the conflict to the discussions of policy and refining of areas of focus, he also helped to make contacts between Sudanese activists and their counterparts from all over Africa in the Consortium.

Osman was also an early and vocal supporter of international justice, generally, but also specifically regarding Darfur where he was one of the first to call for accountability for international crimes committed there. His support for accountability reinforced those of other human rights organisations in this area. He was an eloquent spokesperson of the views of Sudanese on the need for justice in their country.

As a leader in the community and an eloquent defender of human rights, Osman cannot be replaced. However, it is our hope that we can continue to support the activists and activitism that he inspired and supported and ensure that the fight for a just and peaceful Sudan, to which Osman dedicated his life, is not in vain.

May Allah receive his soul!

Just Justice: Civil society, international justice and the search for accountability in Africa

A paper series developed by the International Refugee Rights Initiative in collaboration with local partners in Africa reflecting local perspectives on experiences with international justice. The series is designed to more fully explore perceptions of international justice and the social, political and legal impact of its mechanisms at the local level. It is aimed at opening up a dialogue about the successes and failures of the international justice experiment in Africa and the development of recommendations for a more productive and effective engagement going forward.

The papers in the series are:

Steps Towards Justice, Frustrated Hopes: Reflecting on the Impact of the ICC in Ituri, paper no. 2, March 2012. Lisez la version francaise.

A Poisoned Chalice? Local civil society and the International Criminal Court's engagement in Uganda, paper no. 1, January 2012. Lisez la version francaise.

Just Justice: Civil society, international justice and the search for accountability in Africa, Introductory note to the paper series, January 2012. Lisez la version francaise.


 

Conflict in South Sudan: Refugees seek protection in Uganda and a way home

"We could not wait for our dead bodies to be found first"

(Kampala, 2 April 2014) Nearly a quarter of a million South Sudanese have fled to neighbouring countries, with Uganda taking the largest number – around 87,000. The International Refugee Rights Initiative's report, Conflict in South Sudan: Refugees seek protection in Uganda and a way home explores the immediate predicament facing these recently arrived refugees, and the longer-term implications for peace and security in South Sudan.

The report draws on interviews with Ugandan officials and refugees reflecting on the cause of their displacement. Those interviewed were adamant that the current crisis was a result of a major failure of governance in the country: “[t]his conflict is about politics. It is about greed for power.” They also talked about ethnicity being instrumentalised and manipulated by those in positions of power in order to create “sides” in a fight for control: “...this conflict is not ethnic. The problem is leadership and democracy.”

These refugees, most of whom had been displaced during the previous war in Sudan, are again living in camps in exile in precarious circumstances. They are afraid for their own security and are lacking adequate healthcare, with the humanitarian crisis growing by the day:  “[w]e had to look for safety as soon as possible and Uganda was the place because we had been here before.” said one refugee woman. The fact that many are not strangers to displacement reinforces the tragedy that is unfolding, creating a terrible sense of déjà vu for those who had returned to South Sudan, full of optimism, leading up to and after independence. 

Read the full report here.


In Ituri, Katanga Verdict Viewed as a Limited Success

On Friday, March 7, 2014, Trial Chamber II at the International Criminal Court (ICC) convicted, by a majority, Germain Katanga as an accessory to four war crimes (murder, attacking a civilian population, destruction of property, and pillaging) and one crime against humanity (murder). While some welcomed the verdict, reactions to the decision focused as much on what had not been done, as what had. In particular, questions were raised about the failure of the prosecution to prove charges of recruitment and use of child soldiers, rape, and sexual slavery. Questions were also raised about the fact that Katanga was found guilty when his former co-accused, Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, was acquitted, especially in the context of the judges’ last minute re-characterization of the mode of liability. Furthermore, Iturians are concerned about what the decision will mean in terms of the further search for accountability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and with regard to reparations.

Welcoming the Verdict

Some applauded the verdict. For example, Eloi Urwodhi Uciba, national coordinator of the DRC League for Peace, Human Rights and Justice said, “We welcome this second guilty verdict issued by the ICC as it brings hope of reparations to victims. The decision comes at the right time for the people of Ituri, as well as for all the affected communities in Irumu, Bunia, and the surrounding area, which unfortunately are still plagued by violence.” The Réseau National des ONGs des Droits de l’Homme de la République Démocratique du Congo (RENADHOC) “welcomed with satisfaction the conviction of 7 March.”

Likewise Justice Plus, a local NGO in Bunia, was quoted by Radio Okapi as welcoming the verdict and saying that they “wished that the sentence would be as heavy as possible.” On behalf of a network of human rights activists, Maitre Uzele declared on a local station, Merveille, that “what is important is that justice was done for the victims.” He went on to say that this was an important step against impunity, even though many other perpetrators remain at large.

Read more.