(17 April 2015) Today marks the one-year anniversary since the untimely passing of Osman Hummaida, Founding Executive Director of the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS), friend and mentor to countless human rights defenders around the world.
Osman worked tirelessly in support of human rights and social justice in Sudan and across Africa. He believed strongly in the principles of human rights and international justice, and was at the forefront of campaigns to build and support strong African regional human rights mechanisms. He was instrumental to the campaigning that led to the referral of the situation in Sudan’s Darfur region to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the eventual issuance of an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al Bashir for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In 2008 he was detained and tortured by Sudan’s security services because of his support to the ICC and his calls for justice for the victims of mass atrocities in Darfur. He had been previously detained for over a year without charge and tortured in Sudan’s notorious ghost houses in the early 1990s for his outspoken activism.
In 2009 Osman Hummaida set up the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) together with former staff and leadership of Sudanese human rights groups that were forced to close because of their support for the ICC-led prosecutions. Since its inception ACJPS has performed vital human rights monitoring and protection functions and has built a solid reputation for the credibility, impartiality and professionalism of its work inside and outside Sudan. Under Osman’s leadership, ACJPS also played a vital role in providing technical support and training to new human rights organisations and networks.
Osman mentored countless Sudanese activists and supported the growth of a human rights movement in Sudan. Formerly, as the Director of the Sudan Organisation against Torture (SOAT) he was one of the first human rights activists to visit the IDP camps in Darfur following the outbreak of conflict there. He established the first network of human rights defenders in Sudan, which included lawyers, journalists, doctors, students and women’s rights activists.
He was a member of the Assembly of Delegates of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and one of the activists who contributed to the establishment of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP). He was actively involved in the research and advocacy work of the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and participated and led international fact-finding missions to Chad, Zimbabwe and Sudan.
Osman was known for loving the company of his friends and organising impromptu gatherings around the world wherever he travelled. He died of natural causes on Thursday 17 April 2014 in Johannesburg, South Africa. His wife Azza, sister Nadia and friend Mohamed El Hassan were together with him. His sons Nile and Rayan look just like him and have continued his ardent support for Arsenal Football Club.
In February of this year, Africa’s main human rights body, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, published a decision calling on Sudan to effectively investigate and prosecute the security and intelligence officers alleged to be responsible for the arbitrary arrest, torture and ill-treatment of Osman and two of his colleagues in 2008; to reopen and unfreeze the bank accounts of a human rights organisation shut down in connection with the case; and to pay them compensation. Osman had lodged a complaint against Sudan with the human rights body shortly after his detention, determined to rely on and build upon the authority and jurisprudence of the African human rights system.
His colleagues, friends and family will hold his inspiration near and continue the fight for human rights, peace and justice in Sudan and the region.
A memorial service to celebrate his life was held on 28 June 2014 at the Human Rights House in Kampala, Uganda. His friends and family planted a tree, in his honour, in the gardens of Human Rights House and opened the Osman Hummaida Hall at the offices of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project. Photos of the memorial service can be viewed here.
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