(25 May 2016) The harassment of Sudanese civil society activists affiliated with the organisation TRACKs for Training and Human Development (TRACKs) has escalated over recent days, with dormant charges pressed against two activists over a year ago reactivated and proceeding to trial, and eight staff and affiliates of TRACKs detained at the Office of the Prosecutor for State Security without charges since 22 May. One detainee, TRACKs Director Khalafalla Alafif Mukhtar, suffers from a heart condition and was briefly transferred to the Police Hospital in Khartoum on 25 May before being returned to a cell at the Prosecutor’s office the same day.
TRACKs, a Khartoum-based organisation that provides training on a variety of topics from information technology to human rights, has been raided twice over the past fourteen months. On 26 March 2015 and again on 29 February 2016, plain-clothed officers from Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) raided the TRACKs premises, confiscated electronic equipment and documents, and subjected staff to repeated summonses following the raids. A number of TRACKs’ staff passports were confiscated following the February 2016 raid and have not been returned.
Dormant criminal charges proceed to trial
Serious criminal charges, including charges which carry the death penalty, were pressed against TRACKs Director, Khalafalla Alafif Mukhtar, and human rights defender, Adil Bakheit, a member of the Board of Directors at the Khartoum-based Sudanese Human Rights Monitor, following the first raid in March 2015. Despite the serious nature of the charges, very little is known about the allegations against Khalfalla Mukhtar and Adil Bakheit. Until their court summonses, received by telephone on 19 May 2016, they had not received any formal updates on the case against them in over a year. The two men appeared before the Khartoum Central Criminal Court on 22 May 2016, together with two members of staff from TRACKs who were also instructed to attend court. The hearing did not proceed and was adjourned until 8 June 2016 on the request of their lawyer, Mr. Nabil Adib. No reasons were given for the court summons of TRACKs accountant, Ms. Nudaina Kamal, or TRACKs trainer, Mr. Hassan Kheiry, who were present at the TRACKs office during the March 2015 raid but have not been charged with any offences.
Detention of TRACKs staff and affiliates
The day prior to the scheduled court hearing on 21 May 2016, TRACKs staff and affiliates present at the TRACKs office during the second raid in February 2016 received telephone calls instructing them to report to the NISS office in the Amarat area of Khartoum immediately after the court session. Eight TRACKs members of staff and volunteers, in addition to a guest from another organisation who was visiting TRACKs during the February 2016 raid, reported to the NISS after the court session on 22 May 2016. TRACKs’ accountant, Nudaina Kamal, who is currently on maternity leave, was released immediately but required to leave her car with the NISS as a guarantee for her release. The remaining eight were transferred to the Office of the Prosecutor for State Security the same day where they have been detained without charge since. The six men, including TRACKs Director Khalafalla Mukhtar, trainer Hassan Kheiry, trainer Midhat A Hamdan, office supervisor Al Shazali Ibrahim Al Sheikh, accountant Khuzaini El Hadi, and the TRACKs visitor from another organisation, were locked in a small cell that was already overcrowded. The two women, TRACKs volunteer Imani-Leyla Raye and administration manager Arwa Ahmed Elrabie, have been required to sit in the reception area in front of the cell.
The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) calls on the Sudanese authorities to cease its judicial harassment of human rights defenders and other peaceful civil society activists and instruct its security service to desist from arbitrarily interfering with the work of independent civil society groups.
The serious criminal charges against human rights defender Adil Bakheit and TRACKs Director Khalafalla Mukhtar should be immediately dropped as they relate solely to their work as peaceful civil society activists. The Government of Sudan should further provide assurances that it will cease the harassment and intimidation of the staff and affiliates of TRACKs and protect them from baseless criminal prosecution.
ACJPS further calls on the Sudanese authorities to order the immediate release of the detainees in the absence of valid legal charges that are consistent with international law and standards or, if such charges exist, to bring them promptly before an impartial, independent, and competent tribunal and guarantee their procedural rights at all times.
TRACKs for Training and Human Development has been raided on two occasions, on 29 February 2016 and 26 March 2015. Three weeks after the March 2015 raid, on 16 April 2015, human rights defender Adil Bakheit, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Khartoum-based human rights group, Sudanese Human Rights Monitor (SHRM), was detained and held in police custody for 17 days before his release on bail. Mr. Bakheit was charged with seven criminal offences. TRACKs Director Khalafalla Mukhtar was summoned on 21 May 2015, charged with the same offences, and released later the same day. They face charges under articles 21 (Joint Acts in the Execution of Criminal Conspiracy), 24 (Criminal Conspiracy), 50 (Undermining the Constitutional System), 51 (Waging War Against the State), 63 (Calling for Opposition to Public Authority by Use of Violent or Criminal Force), 66 (Publication of False News) and 93 (Impersonating a Public Servant) of the 1991 Criminal Act. Articles 50 and 51 are categorized as crimes against the state that carry the death penalty.
TRACKs was raided for a second time on 29 February 2016, just five days after it was announced that the NISS prosecution intended to drop the case brought against Adil Bakheit and Khalafalla Mukhtar. On this occasion, no formal charges were issued, but 10 members of TRACKs staff, volunteers and visitors present at the time of the raid were repeatedly summoned over a number of days. Their passports were confiscated with only one, that of TRACKs volunteer Imani-Leyla Raye, a national of Cameroon, having been returned to date.
Mossaad Mohamed Ali, Executive Director, +256 779584542 or Katherine Perks, Programme Director, +256 775072136, firstname.lastname@example.org
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