December 20, 2010 (KHARTOUM) – The South Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) said on Monday that it has received a formal notification from the Constitutional Court regarding two legal challenges filed before it that raised fears of a delay to the key vote that is due to take place in less than a month.
- constitutional court as part of their legal bid to halt a referendum on southern Sudanese independence, in Khartoum December 12, 2010 (Reuters)
Sudan official news agency (SUNA) carried a statement attributed to the SSRC spokesperson George Makeir Benjamin saying that one of the two motions challenging the voter registration process was dismissed by the Constitutional Court.
However, the judges asked SSRC to file a response to the other motion no later than Sunday December 26th. Omar Al-Farouk Shamina and Al-Hassan Ahmed Saleh were assigned by the referendum commission to conduct the necessary legal research and prepare the response, the SSRC said.
The SSRC chief Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil downplayed the case against his commission suggesting it has no legal merits.
"From what I have seen so far there is absolutely no substance to these petitions. Some are ridiculous. One of them said that the CPA was unconstitutional," he told Reuters today, referring to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that set up Sudan’s interim constitution and promised the referendum.
A handful of legal challenges were made against the SSRC and the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) alleging violations to the voter registration process for eligible Southerners.
Among the arguments put forward by the group that the referendum law stipulates that registering the voters and finalizing the lists should have been completed three months prior to the vote. Because the Sudanese national assembly has not passed any amendments to the current law and thus the voter registration process should be deemed unconstitutional.
Three weeks of voter registration for the referendum ended this month, with more than three million people signing up to vote in the south, electoral officials said.
The Muslim north and mostly Christian and animist south agreed in 2005 to hold the referendum as part of the peace accord that ended a 22-year civil war in Sudan, Africa’s largest country. The people of south Sudan must choose between secession and staying united with the north.