This issue of the Sudan Human Rights Monitor covers December 2014 – January 2015. The Monitoring Report provides a detailed account of human rights violations documented by the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) including a rise in freedom of expression, association, and assembly violations in January 2015. Press censorship continued and restrictions on independent civil society surged. The National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) raided the Sudanese Human Rights Monitor in late December and the Registrar of Cultural Groups ordered the closures of the Mahmoud Mohamed Taha Centre and the Sudanese Writers’ Union in January. The monitoring report also covers incidents of arbitrary arrest and excessive use of force against students at Red Sea University in Port Sudan, Kassala University in Kassala, and at the University of Bahri in Khartoum. At the University of Bahri, 69 students were charged with various criminal offences after the Darfur Students’ Association held a public forum on campus to protest the dismissal of Darfuri students who had not paid tuition fees (a formal fee waiver is in place for Dafuri students across the country). In two of the incidents, members of armed pro-government student militias attacked students before the authorities moved in to conduct arrests. The report also provides the details of a raid on the Evangelical Church in Khartoum Bahri in early December 2014 where church members were holding a sit-in to protest the sale of church land. Police forces broke up the sit-in, beat a number of church members with water pipes and sticks, and arrested thirty-eight people. Twenty-one people were fined after their conviction, without legal representation, for participation in a criminal or terrorist organisations and disturbance of the public peace. In December, a man and woman were convicted of indecent and immoral acts for having been found together in a private place without having a legitimate reason. They were each subjected to forty lashes after the Supreme Court upheld the conviction on appeal. In eastern Sudan in late December, 16 Eritrean refugees from Al Shagarab Refugee Camp drowned in a river when they tried to escape from a locally-known trafficking gang comprised of members from the Rashaida ethnic group. Four refugees were kidnapped during the incident and two of them were later found dead. The refugees had initially consented to a deal with a smuggling gang but feared for their safety and tried to flee when that group handed them over to the trafficking gang on route to Khartoum. Refugees from Al Shargarab retaliated to the attack by taking two hostages from a local Rashaida village. Police responded by raiding the refugee camp with tear gas and freed the Rashaida hostages. In Darfur, insecurity continued. On 3 December, Arab militia burned and looted two villages, Loaei and Kanko, in west Darfur, killing one man and injuring two others. The attack followed an incident the previous day when a local farmer shot and killed a nomad who had refused to stop grazing his cattle on local farmland. On 22 December 2014 an unknown militia riding camels shot and killed six farmers and injured five others in Sembu village, north Darfur. The attack is thought to have been in retaliation for a previous incident when Sembu villagers herded camels belonging to the militias off village farmland. On 30 December a 13-year-old girl was shot and killed by members of the Central Reserve Forces (CRF) who drove through El Geneina market firing shots into the air in pursuit of another individual. In South Kordofan, aerial bombardment in civilian areas intensified. The monitoring report provides details of villages bombed in the Nuba Mountains in January, and government restrictions on the sale of basic commodities on the pretext that the commodities may be sold to people in rebel-controlled areas. It also details the redeployment of an estimated 10,000 members of the Rapid Support Forces from Darfur and Khartoum to Al Dalang and the arrest and confiscation of property belonging to civilians accused of affiliating with the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement-North. The Sudan Human Rights Monitor’s Feature Article includes an analysis of the human rights environment in the country before the national elections, including the recent Sudan Call negotiations in Addis Ababa and the Berlin Declaration. Since January 2015, ACJPS has documented the confiscation by national security personnel of at least 33 entire print runs of 15 newspapers. The restrictions are believed to be a tactic by the NISS to circumscribe the already restricted space for the freedom of expression and prevent the dissemination of news deemed critical to the ruling party ahead of elections. Prominent human rights defender Dr. Amin Mekki Medani, Chairman of the National Consensus Forces Mr. Farouq Abu Eissa, and the former National Congress Party chairperson of Blue Nile state, Dr. Farah Ibrahim Alagar were arrested on 6 and 7 December after their return from the Sudan Call negotiations. All three were held incommunicado by the NISS for 15 days before being allowed access to their families and lawyers. Dr. Medani and Mr. Abu Eissa have since been charged with undermining the constitutional system and waging war against the state. The Legal and Political Developments section of the Sudan Human Rights Monitor includes an overview of new amendments to the Interim National Constitution of Sudan passed by Sudan’s National Assembly without notification or consultation. It also addresses the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court’s decision to “hibernate” the investigation into Darfur, and provides an update on the Awadia Ajabna case of 2012. Awadia Ajabna was killed by a Public Order police officer outside her home in Al Daiem, Khartoum, in 2012. The police officer was initially sentenced to death for murder, but on 15 January an appeals court revised the conviction to homicide by negligence and commuted the sentence to 5 years imprisonment after the payment of blood money (diya). This case is one of just two cases in which ACJPS has documented the waiver of immunity from criminal prosecution for members of the police and armed services since 2009. Read the full Sudan Human Rights Monitor here.