Gerhart Baum, the Special Rapporteur for human rights in Sudan, faced serious questions when he was appointed to this extremely difficult and important job. Would he be as honest and outspoken in characterizing the Khartoum regime as his distinguished predecessors, Gaspar Biro and Leonardo Franco? Would he be willing to speak as frankly about the role of oil development in fueling Sudan’s catastrophically destructive civil war? On Wednesday of this week, Mr. Baum put those questions to rest, declaring unambiguously that, “There is a bad climate in Sudan as far as human rights are concerned. The situation now is worse than one year before.” And on the issue of oil development he was equally emphatic: “It is a fact that oil is fueling the war.”
Eric Reeves [June 28, 2001]
Northampton, MA 01063
The UN’s Special Rapporteur for human rights in Sudan works in a highly demanding capacity, though the world has been fortunate that both Dr. Gaspar Biro of Hungary and Dr. Leonardo Franco of Argentina have previously served in the role with great distinction. Dr. Biro was among those who first pointed unequivocally to the role of oil development in exacerbating conflict and generating massive destruction and displacement of civilian populations in the areas where Talisman Energy and its Greater Nile partners now operate.
On Wednesday (June 26) Gerhart Baum, who has been serving as Special Rapporteur in Sudan for half a year, held a London press conference in which he made clear that his own observations have brought him to the same conclusions as his predecessors. The entire Associated Press report is attached; significantly, it carries the title “Human rights violations in Sudan are increasing, official says.”
Baum appropriately catalogs the long list of egregious human rights violations by the Khartoum regime: slavery (“abductions followed by forced labor” in the euphemized language now so common), arbitrary detention, denial of religious freedom, security forces operating “without oversight or restraint,” forcible military impressment, and more.
But he also makes clear the role of oil development in Sudan’s agony:
“But war is not the only cause of the human rights violations, Baum said; oil exploitation also has ‘serious consequences on the civilians.’ Baum said that whole villages are being razed and villagers forcibly evicted to allow for oil operations to proceed unimpeded.”
Let’s note again this finding: “whole villages are being razed and villagers forcibly evicted to allow for oil operations to proceed unimpeded.” The actions described by the UN Special Rapporteur are guaranteed to produce massive human suffering and destruction, especially since Khartoum denies humanitarian aid to many of those displaced. In the intensely food insecure regions of western Upper Nile and Bahr el-Ghazal that are affected by this destruction of villages and forcible human displacement, we cannot know how many thousands of people will die, but we can be sure it will be an unforgivably great number.
These are, of course, precisely the allegations that Talisman and Talisman apologists routinely reject. Unpersuaded by the reports from the previous two UN Special Rapporteurs for Sudan, the Harker Report commissioned by the Canadian Foreign Ministry, Amnesty International, Christian Aid, Human Rights Watch, and numerous other reports, Talisman is unlikely to care that one more authoritative source has tied them directly to the human devastation in southern Sudan.
Those who do care about such human devastation will need to respond to Talisman accordingly.
“Human rights violations in Sudan are increasing, official says”
By MARA D. BELLABY Associated Press Writer
LONDON, Jun 27, 2001 (AP) — Human rights violations are increasing in Sudan, with abductions, arbitrary arrests and the forced displacement of people a daily reality in Africa’s largest nation, a United Nations official said Wednesday.
“There is a bad climate in Sudan as far as human rights are concerned,” said Gerhart Baum, the special rapporteur on human rights in the Sudan. “The situation now is worse than one year before,” he said at a press briefing.
Baum, who has held his post for six months, came to Britain to press the case for greater European Union involvement in ending the 18-year-old civil war in Sudan’s south.
He did not meet with political leaders, however, instead he held talks with human rights groups and Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, who has visited the country three times to try to encourage greater religious freedom for Sudan’s Christian communities.
Since 1983, the country has been embroiled in a conflict between the Arab-dominated, Muslim central government in the north, and black African, predominantly Christian or animist southerners.
Already, the war has left an estimated 2 million people dead, primarily through war-induced famine, and 3 million more uprooted. It has also been blamed for a host of human rights violations.
Last month, U.S. President George W. Bush called Sudan a “disaster area for all human rights.”
Humanitarian groups believe that oil revenue controlled by the Islamic government of northern Sudan is funding the war. This month,
the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that forbids foreign oil companies doing business in Sudan from selling stock or other securities in the United States.
“It is a fact that oil is fueling the war,” said Baum, adding that the war is often falsely portrayed as a religious war.
“It is not a religious war. Religion is misused,” he said. “It is a power struggle.”
Baum said the United States and Europe have a responsibility to press for an end to the fighting.
“We must help the country come to peace,” said Baum, criticizing the approach of some nations which believe that Sudan should be
isolated until the human rights situation improves. “They will not be able to establish peace from the inside.”
The government in Khartoum contends it wants peace and says it is making strides toward ending human rights abuses and moving
away from fundamentalist Islamic policy. No one was available at the Sudanese Embassy in London to comment.
Baum said many of the human rights violations in Sudan are being done under the cover of war; the government, when pressed to explain the violations, answers ‘we are at war.’ For example, a state of emergency has been declared, allowing the government to rule through provisional acts. Also the security forces operate without any oversight or restraint, he said.
Baum also said women and children are abducted by militias and forced to work, while young men are seized off the streets of the capital Khartoum for military service. In the rebel-controlled south, there has been no effort to establish a civil society, Baum said.
But war is not the only cause of the human rights violations, Baum said, oil exploitation also has “serious consequences on the civilians.” Baum said that whole villages are being razed and villagers forcibly evicted to allow for oil operations to proceed unimpeded.
“It is an extremely dangerous situation for many, many people,” Baum said.