UN Expert Urges Sudan to Respect Human Rights of Communities Affected by Hydro-Electric Dam Projects

Geneva, 27 August 2007: “I am deeply concerned by the situation of the communities affected by the hydro-electric projects in the Merowe and Kajbar areas in the northern Nile valley in Sudan which has continued to worsen during the past two years.

I continue to receive disturbing reports that large-scale forced evictions may be imminent in the Merowe area. The reports indicate that rising water levels of the Merowe reservoir have destroyed dozens of houses in the past weeks and may destroy many more, forcing residents out of their homes. The affected people have claimed that they received no warning that water levels would be raised and that no assistance from Government authorities has been forthcoming since their houses were destroyed. Last year, thousands of people in the Merowe area were relocated in similar circumstances which temporarily left them without food or shelter, and some remain homeless.

While I am still in the process of assessing the development motives behind the projects, these cannot, according to international human rights instruments, under any circumstances, be planned and implemented without effective involvement of the affected populations and at the expense of the human rights of more than 60.000 people, including women, children and the elderly. In the present circumstances, moving forward with the projects given the opposition by the communities would lead to large-scale forced evictions and further violence. As recognized by the international community, forced evictions violate a wide range of human rights and large-scale evictions can only be carried out under exceptional circumstances and in full accordance with international human rights standards.

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Moreover, as opposition by the communities to the dams has grown, I have received numerous reports of violations of civil and political rights due to the government’s response to community protests. These have included the shooting of unarmed demonstrators, arbitrary arrests of activists, and repressive measures against the press when journalists have attempted to cover the events.

As previously communicated to the Government of Sudan (1), I strongly urge the authorities to fully comply with international human rights standards, and to consider the use of instruments and guidelines that have been developed to minimize the impact of these kinds of projects on the human rights of the populations, such as the “Basic principles and guidelines on development-based evictions and displacement” (2).

I call upon all States that have invested in the Merowe and Kajbar dams, in particular China, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, the Sultanate of Oman and the League of Arab States (through the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development), to ensure that the implementation of the projects does not lead to violations of human rights including the right to adequate housing of the affected communities.

I urge the companies involved in the projects, such as Harbin (China), Lahmeyer International (Germany), and Alstom (France) to put a halt to their activities until a full and impartial assessment of the impact on the human rights of the population is made. In this regard, I also strongly encourage that States, in particular China, Germany and France, ensure that the work of their national companies does not -directly or indirectly- negatively impact the human rights of the affected people.

As an immediate step, in view of the reported rise in the water level and the possible flooding in the Merowe area, I urge the Government to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety and adequate housing of persons living in the area. I also urge the Government of Sudan to facilitate swift access for UN human rights monitors to conduct an independent eviction-impact assessment mission. Until the results of such impact assessment are made available, I call upon the Government to suspend the hydro-electric dam projects in Merowe and Kajbar.

(1) See Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Summary of communications sent and replies received from Governments and other actors, A/HRC/4/18/Add.1,
(2) The “Basic principles and guidelines on development-based evictions and displacement” are included as Annex I to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing,

Source: United Nations