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Urgent concern for detainees held incommunicado amidst Sudan’s growing civil disobedience campaign

(15 December 2016) The Government of Sudan has responded to a growing civil disobedience campaign by arresting and detaining incommunicado at least forty two political opposition party leaders, activists, and individuals, including one prominent human rights defender, Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, and censoring newspapers by seizing their print editions prior to distribution. The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) is aware of at least thirty seven individuals currently held at National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) headquarters near Shande Bus Station without charge or access to their families and lawyers. ACJPS is particularly concerned about four individuals who are detained by the NISS in unknown locations. This includes activist Fatima Mohamed Ahmed, and members of the Pharmacists’ Association, Arif Awad and Mahmoud Mohamed Abdalla, who were arrested after publicly condemning the detention of their colleagues who were arrested days prior. The NISS has denied having a member of the Teacher’s Strike Committee, Al Shazali Mohamed Abdalla, in their custody, despite reports that he was arrested from his home in Omdurman on 26 November.

The detainees include seventeen members of the political opposition Sudanese Congress Party (SCP), whom ACJPS previously reported on on 1 December 2016. The group is all still held without  charge and access to their families and lawyers at NISS offices near Shande Bus Station in Khartoum.

On top of the arrests has been a sustained policy by the NISS of seizing newspapers from different media houses, including traditionally pro-government newspapers, in efforts to block all public discourse regarding the civil disobedience campaign and concomitant arrests. One private television station, Omdurman TV, has been forced to close, and between 6 November – 6 December, seven newspapers, including four which are traditionally seen as being pro-government, were not allowed to distribute their printed copies a total of twenty seven times. Al Gareeda newspaper was prevented from publishing seven times during this period.

The lack of access for lawyers and family members to the detainees, together with the well-documented use by the NISS of torture and other forms of ill-treatment against detainees, particularly whilst held in unknown locations, gives rise to serious concerns for their safety. ACJPS has particular concern for the safety and well-being of Fatima Mohamed Ahmed, Arif Awad, and Mahmoud Mohamed Abdalla, who are all being held in unknown locations, and Al Shazali Mohamed Abdalla, whom the NISS has denied having in their custody. We call upon the Government of Sudan to grant the detainees immediate and unequivocal access to their lawyers and family members, and release them in the absence of valid legal charges consistent with international standards.

Under the 2010 National Security Act (NSA), detainees can be held for up to four and a half months without judicial review.  ACJPS views the detention of the group to have no legitimate legal basis, and to be based solely on the peaceful expression of their rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association.

ACJPS reiterates previous calls to the Government of Sudan to immediately end its policies of pre- and post- print censorship of newspapers, which severely circumscribes the availability of information in the public sphere and hinders freedom of expression and access to information.

Background

The arrests and seizures of newspapers come during a renewed civil disobedience campaign protesting anti-austerity measures in the country instituted in early November. The austerity measures have increased fuel prices by up to 30%, and drastically increased prices on basic commodities in the context of widespread poverty and corruption. A huge amount of government spending is allocated in the national budget to finance Sudan’s wars in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile. Fluctuations on the government set exchange rate regarding pharmaceutical supplies have led to a huge increase in prices of drugs.

A strike organised by the Sudanese Doctors’ Central Committee culminated in the incommunicado detention of at least 14 doctors, also at NISS headquarters near Shande Bus Station, in varying dates in early November. The group was later subsequently released on 22 November 2016. The strike, which began on 6 October, was in response to concerns over the physical safety of doctors working in hospitals, grievances concerning pay, working conditions, and inadequate funding for medical equipment. Doctors only performed life-saving and emergency services during the strike.

Criminal charges have also been leveled against individuals engaged in peaceful demonstrations. On 29 November, seven female activists and members of the “No to Women’s Oppression” initiative were arrested outside the home of Prime Minister Ismail Al Azhari in Omdurman, where they had conducted a silent peaceful sit-in protest and held signs condemning the austerity measures. The group was charged under articles 69 (disturbance of public peace) and 77 (public nuisance) of the 1991 Sudanese Penal Code, and released a few hours later on bail. There is no update on the status of their charges.

In the past, mass civil disobedience campaigns have been met with widespread repression by Sudanese authorities. Sudanese authorities responded with a violent crackdown to large-scale protests that swept the country following the announcement of austerity measures in September 2013, with security forces and armed men allied to them using live ammunition, tear gas and batons.

As many as 185 protesters and other civilians were killed, most of them shot in the head or chest, ACJPS and Amnesty International found in a joint study published in September 2014. Hundreds were injured and more than 800 others arrested, with some held for weeks. Human Rights Watch research showed that many detainees were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, and that many journalists and human rights defenders were beaten. Female protesters were also sexually assaulted by security forces.

The press has been subjected to repeated censorship under the Press and Publications Act of 2009 and by the NISS using its powers under the NSA 2010. The NISS has restricted the media through blacklisting, prosecuting and harassing journalists, subjecting journalists to repeated summonses and threats of prosecution, detaining journalists, and making threatening visits or telephone calls to editors ordering them not to report outside of “red lines” determined by the government. In an emerging trend since 2013, traditionally pro-government newspapers have also been censored.

Censorship is often ramped up around key events with post-print censorship, whereby entire print runs of daily editions are confiscated prior to morning distribution, at great cost to newspapers, which along with other forms of harassment and intimidation enforces self-censorship as editors are unable to afford to publish opinions that might result in the print run being confiscated. Authorities also tightened restrictions to prevent coverage of the nationwide anti-austerity protests in 2013, and again in April 2015, to prevent coverage of an elections boycott by opposition parties.

Further information

The following activists and political opposition leaders are currently detained incommunicado, and were arrested on the following dates. Except where noted, they are all currently held at NISS headquarters near Shande bus station without charge or access to their families and lawyers.

4 – 9 November

At least 17 members of the political opposition Sudanese Congress Party (SCP) were arrested from 4 – 9 November 2016 from Khartoum, following public calls by the party for peaceful demonstrations against the Government of Sudan’s plan to implement austerity measures.

22 November 2016

The following political opposition party leaders were detained following calls from the NISS on the evening on 21 November 2016 to report to the Political Department of the NISS near Shande Bus Station in Khartoum Bahri.

  • Sidig Yusif, (m), member of the Central Committee of the Sudanese Communist Party and the National Consensus Forces.
  • Tariq Abdul Majid, (m), member of the Central Committee of the Sudanese Communist Party and the National Consensus Forces.
  • Munzir Abu al Maali, (m), member of the Unionist Nasser party and the National Consensus Forces.
  • Mohamed Diaa Eldien, (m), member of the Ba’ath party and the National Consensus Forces.

24 November 2016

The following two men, both teachers, were arrested from the Umma Party headquarters in Omdurman after they attended a meeting of the Teachers’ Committee on a possible planned strike.

  • Mohamed Al Daie Bushara, (m), teacher.
  • Ismail, (m), teacher.

Authorities are also currently searching for another teacher, Amar Yusif, (m), a member of the Sudanese Communist Party, who appeared on 24 November to the NISS headquarters near Shande Bus Station after being summoned. Mr. Yusif was ordered to report back to the NISS the following day, and did not do so.

Fatima Mohamed Ahmed, (f), a student and activist, was arrested by the NISS from Alkalakla in Khartoum. Her location is unknown. Her family has not received any correspondence from the NISS despite inquiring about her whereabouts.

26 November 2016

On 26 November, the Teachers’ Committee organized a second meeting at Umma Party headquarters concerning a potential strike. The following eight individuals were arrested from the meeting. It is unclear whether the meeting took place before the arrests occurred.

  • Omar Anan Muhi El Dien, (m).
  • Muntasir Al Fadhi, (m).
  • Abdul Majid Bashir , (m).
  • Hamad Younies , (m).
  • Mawia Abdlu Raziq, (m).
  • Sida Mohamed Sharif (f).
  • Sidig Tawour (m).
  • Abdulrahman Almahadi (m).

One detainee, Al Shazali Mohamed Abdalla, (m), teacher, was arrested from his home in Omdurman by the NISS the same day. His location remains unknown. The NISS has denied that he is in their custody.

27 November 2016

Three members of the Pharmacists’ Association were all arrested from their homes on 27 November 2016.

  • Hatim Al Daak, (m), member of the Pharmacist Association. He was arrested by the NISS from his home in Khartoum.
  • Baha Eldien Ahmed Al Haj, (m), member of the Pharmacist association. He was arrested by the NISS from his home in Khartoum.
  • El Tayeb Bukhary, (m), member of the Pharmacist association. He was arrested by the NISS from his home in Khartoum.

29 Nov. 2016

  • Jalal Mustafa (m), University Professor and a member of the Sudanese Congress party (opposition). Mr. Mustafa was arrested by the NISS from his home in Khartoum.

1 December 2016

ACJPS has particular concern on the two detainees listed below, both of whom are detained in unknown locations without access to their families or lawyers.

  • Arif Awad, (m), member of the Pharmacists’ Association. Mr. Awad was arrested in front of the Pharmacists’ Association headquarters after making public calls for the release of his colleagues detained on 27 November 2016.
  • Mahmoud Mohamed Abdalla, (m), member of the Pharmacists’ Association. Mr. Abdalla was arrested in front of the Pharmacists’ Association headquarters after making public calls for the release of his colleagues detained on 27 November 2016.

Arbitrary Detention of human rights defender and connected arrests

On 7 December, prominent Sudanese human rights defender Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam and his driver, Adam El Sheikh Mukhtar, were arrested from the University of Khartoum, where Dr. Mudawi is a professor. Dr. Mudawi’s family only learned of his arrest when NISS agents searched their family home later that evening, and they were not formally notified of the arrest until five days later on 12 December. Dr. Mudawi and Adam El Sheikh Mukhtar are currently being held at NISS headquarters near Shande Bus Station. As of yet both are being held incommunicado without charge and access to their families and lawyers.

There is particular concern for Mr. Mukhtar, whose whereabouts were not confirmed till an unknown later date. Mr. Mukhtar is not engaged in any political or human rights activities and is believed to have been detained solely for authorities to gain further information on Dr. Mudawi, who he has worked as a driver for since 2001.

Since his arrest, Dr. Mudawi’s home has been under surveillance by security services in an attempt to intimidate his family and as a form of harassment.

Dr. Mudawi’s brother, Awad Allah (m), was also briefly detained the day after the arrest of Dr. Mudawi. Awad Allah’s detention, which lasted approximately half a day, was thought to be related to his investigations and inquiry relating to the whereabouts of his brother. Awad Allah is a member of the Popular Congress party.

Nora Abaid, an accountant at Dr Mudawi’s Lamda Engineering company, was taken from outside their offices at 2pm on 13th December, reportedly after she updated her facebook status to “FreeAdamElSheikh”. Nora Abaid remains detained incommunicado without charge at NISS headquarters near Shande Bus Station.

Seizure of print media and closure of television station

On 27 November a private television station, Omdurman TV, was forced to close following a decision by the Sudanese Radio and Television Broadcasting Company to cancel the station’s license. The cancellation is believed to be linked to statements made by Mr. Khogali on the channel’s broadcast mentioning the suffering of the Sudanese people in connection to the austerity measures. The channel broadcasts in three states in Sudan, and has been active over the course of the last six years.

On 6 November 2016 the NISS prevented three daily newspapers in Khartoum from distributing printed copies. No rationale was given. The papers are:

  • Al Ayaam, an independent newspaper.
  • Al Gareeda, an independent newspaper.
  • Altyaar, a traditionally pro-government newspaper.

On 29 November, Muzamil Abu Al-Gasim, chief editor of the traditionally pro-government Alyoum Altali newspaper, was informed by the Gamari Publication and Distribution company that they would no longer provide funding for advertisements in the newspaper, after being ordered to do so by the NISS.

In 28th November 2016 the NISS prevented two daily newspapers in Khartoum from distributing printed copies. No rationale was given. The papers are:

  • Al Ayaam, an independent newspaper.
  • Al Gareeda, an independent newspaper.

On 29 November 2016 the NISS prevented four daily newspapers in Khartoum from distributing printed copies. No rationale was given. The papers are:

  • Al Ayaam, an independent newspaper.
  • Al Gareeda, an independent newspaper.
  • Altyaar, a traditionally pro-government newspaper.
  • Altoum Altali, a traditionally pro-government newspaper.

On 30 November 2016 the NISS prevented five daily newspapers in Khartoum from distributing printed copies. No rationale was given. The papers are:

  • Al Ayaam, an independent newspaper.
  • Al Gareeda, an independent newspaper.
  • Altyaar, a traditionally pro-government newspaper.
  • Altoum Altali, a traditionally pro-government newspaper.
  • Alwatan , a traditionally pro-government newspaper.

On 1 December 2016 the NISS prevented five daily newspapers in Khartoum from distributing printed copies, including four that had been censored the previous day. The papers are:

  • Al Midan, traditionally affiliated with the Sudanese Communist Party.
  • Al Gareeda, an independent newspaper.
  • Altyaar, a traditionally pro-government newspaper.
  • Altoum Altali, a traditionally pro-government newspaper.
  • Alwatan , a traditionally pro-government newspaper.

On 2 December 2016 the NISS prevented Alwatan and the traditionally pro-government Alsiha newspapers from distributing printed copies. No rationale was given for the confiscation.

On 3 December 2016 the prevented the traditionally pro-government Al Siha newspaper from distributing printed copies. No rationale was given for the confiscation.

On 4 December 2016, the NISS confiscated the Sudanese Communist Party affiliated Al Midan and the independent Al Gareeda newspapers. No rationale was given for the confiscation.

On 6 December, the NISS confiscated Al Midan newspaper. No rationale was given for the confiscation.

On 7 December 2016, the NISS confiscated Al Gareeda newspaper for the fifth time in two weeks. No rationale was given for the confiscation.

Contact

Mossaad Mohamed Ali, (English and Arabic) ACJPS Executive Director, info@acjps.org, +256 779584542, or Emily Cody, (English), ACJPS Programme Officer, info@acjps.org, +1 201 916 3676.