“Sudan Dams” case declared admissible by the African Commission: mass forced evictions, displacement, and forcible suppression of anti-dam demonstrations before the regional body
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has decided to examine a case against the Republic of Sudan involving forced eviction, inadequate compensation and suppression of protesters during the building of two dams in Northern Sudan. The complainants now have two months to send their briefs on the merits of the case.
The construction of the Merowe Dam began in 2003 and was completed in 2009 without prior consultation with the elected leaders of the affected communities, resulting in the alleged displacement and forced eviction of over 50.000 people (mainly the Amri, the Hamadab and the Manasir communities). Protests against the building of the Merowe Dam resulted in the alleged killing of at least three peaceful protesters and the injury of 40 others by armed militia, in the presence of police guards.
The construction of the Kajbar Dam began in 2005, also without prior consultation with the communities that would be affected. In June 2007, heavily armed Sudanese forces fired on a march protesting the construction of the Kajbar Dam, killing four, wounding more than fifteen others and arresting twenty-six individuals for several weeks, including journalists who were covering the protest.The construction of the Kajbar Dam was halted years ago, but if it is to be continued, an estimate of 90 villages would be submerged, 10.000 Mahas (an indigenous Nubian community would be displaced), and 500 archaeological sites would be destroyed.
In both incidents perpetrators of the attacks have not been prosecuted to date, in violation of the state’s duty to investigate, prosecute and punish.
The communication (452/13) was initially filed before the ACHPR in June 2013 by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), and the Center for the Study of Law, Justice and Society (Dejusticia) on behalf of two Sudanese nationals who belong to the communities affected by the building of the dams and the entirety of the populations effected by the dams' construction. The ACHPR decided to be seized of the matter in July 2013 and declared the communication admissible at its 19th Extraordinary Session in February 2016 after reviewing submissions by the applicants and the Sudanese state. A declaration of admissibility means that the communication has been found in compliance with the requirements governing the consideration of cases by the African Commission (found in Article 56 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights). The case will now proceed to consideration of the merits, in which the Commission will review whether or not and to what extent Sudan has failed to comply with its human rights obligations under the African Charter.
The ACHPR is a quasi-judicial body, which promotes and protects human rights in Africa by overseeing and interpreting the African Charter, ratified by 53 African countries including Sudan.