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Urgent Interventions

Sudan: ongoing violence against communities resisting dam construction in the Northern Nile Valley

The construction of the Merowe and Kajbar Dams in Northern Sudan must be suspended to prevent further killings and violence The construction of two large-scale hydropower dams at Merowe/Hamadab and Kajbar in the Northern Nile Valley in Sudan has led to repeated violent clashes between local communities and security forces and resulted in a number of civilian deaths. The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), on the basis of information received from the Sudan Organisation Against Torture (SOAT), a member of the SOS-Torture Network, condemns these events and expresses its concern that violent episodes will continue or, indeed, intensify, so long as government policy concerning these infrastructure projects disregards their impact on the economic, social and cultural rights of the communities affected. In the light of events highlighted by SOAT, OMCT also expresses grave concerns at the efforts of the Sudanese authorities to suppress community protest and at their ongoing intimidation and harassment of community members opposed to the projects. The fact that fundamental issues of concern for communities have not been adequately addressed creates a real risk of radicalisation of some community members and of their taking up arms. At the heart of the disputes between local groups and government authorities lie community concerns around the right to an adequate standard of living, to adequate housing and to fair compensation for the houses and fertile agricultural lands they must leave to make way for the reservoirs. Local communities are further concerned about the lack of transparency in the planning process. Construction of the dams is coordinated by the Dam Implementation Unit (DIU) which, it is reported, often takes key decisions unilaterally, neither consulting nor informing the communities affected. Offices of the DIU have been repeatedly targeted for violence by local communities. To prevent further violence and killings, OMCT calls upon the Government of Sudan to suspend the Merowe and Kajbar hydro-electric projects until their impact upon the human rights of the communities affected have been independently assessed. It also calls upon the Government to fully respect the human rights of protesters and ensure that force is not employed to suppress legitimate protest, and to cease forthwith the harassment and intimidation of community activist and others opposed to the projects. Further, OMCT calls upon States involved in the projects to ensure that the work of their national companies does not negatively impact the human rights of the people affected by the dam developments.
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