(23 March 2016) Sudanese authorities should stop harassing civil society activists and allow them to work without arbitrary interference and intimidation, DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) and the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) said today.
On 29 February 2016, National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) once again raided the office of TRACKs for Training and Human Development, a Sudanese organisation that provides training on a variety of topics from information technology to human rights. This is the second time the organisation has been raided since March 2015, when it was targeted during a workshop it organised on social responsibility. The raid came just five days after it was announced that the NISS prosecution intended to drop the case brought against prominent Sudanese human rights leader Adil Bakheit and the Director of TRACKs Khalafalla Alafif Mukhtar following the March 2015 raid.
Since the most recent raid, NISS agents have required TRACKs staff and visitors who were in the office at the time of the search to report to security offices repeatedly for long periods, subjecting them to inhumane treatment, and have confiscated their passports.
“We are extremely concerned about the ongoing and worsening pattern of targeting activists, organisations and human rights defenders by national intelligence in Sudan,” said Hassan Shire, Executive Director of DefendDefenders and Mossaad Mohamed Ali, Executive Director of the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies. “We strongly urge the Sudanese government to end its harassment of TRACKs and its staff and allow civil society organisations to operate without fear of persecution and prosecution.”
On the day of the raid, plain-clothed officials from the NISS entered the offices of TRACKs without a warrant and held all staff and visitors in the office while they confiscated electronics and documents. “They took all of our laptops, phones, publications, and books and forced us to give the passwords for our phones and computers. One of my colleagues did not hand over his phone and was beaten with a folded newspaper because of that,” one member of staff told ACJPS and DefendDefenders after the raid. “They threatened us with prosecution for working on “human rights” and said they were going to close the office.”
TRACKs’ Director Khalafalla Alafif Mukhtar, Office Supervisor Al Shazali Ibrahim Al Sheikh, and the Director of TRACKs’ partner organisation, Alzarqaa Organisation for Rural Development, Mustafa Adam, were arrested and taken to NISS offices in central Khartoum. Mustafa Adam and Al Shazali were released after 11pm while Khalafalla was held until after midnight. Six others present at the time of the raid were ordered to report to the NISS offices on 3 March, including one trainee who had arrived early for an IT training session due to take place later that evening and a visiting artist.
Five out of the six reported to the NISS on 3 March together with the three men who had been detained on the day of the raid. The group was split into two and was ordered to report to the NISS offices on alternating days from 3 March until 12 March. Members of the group were often forced to sit in intensely hot areas for long hours. On one occasion, Al Shazali, who is diabetic, fainted as a result of the severe heat and lack of food.
Later in the week, on 10 March, TRACKs’ Administration Manager Arwa Ahmed Elrabie was also summoned. When she returned for questioning on 12 March, she was beaten on the head with a folded newspaper and threatened with electric shock, to disclose the whereabouts of TRACKs’ volunteer Imani-Leyla Raye, who was later summoned to the NISS office for further interrogation.
The staff and visitors of TRACKs are no longer being summoned daily, however, they have been ordered to remain close to their phones. TRACKs has been largely paralysed by the confiscation of their equipment and lengthy questioning of their staff. Director Khalafalla Alafif Mukhtar has been instructed to obtain authorisation from the NISS before holding any activities at the TRACKs office. The office remains under close surveillance by NISS officers who sit outside in a vehicle.
TRACKs was raided previously on 26 March 2015 by NISS officers, armed with guns, who accused participants in an ongoing training session on social responsibility of discussing a boycott of the upcoming General Elections. TRACKs staff and affiliates were summoned and interrogated on a number of occasions by the NISS after the raid. Human rights defender Adil Bakheit, whose laptop was confiscated during the raid, was summoned three weeks later, on 16 April, and charged with seven criminal offences by the State Security Prosecution Office. These included two “crimes against the state” under the 1991 Criminal Act that carry the death penalty. Shortly after, TRACKs Director Khalafalla Alafif Mukhtar was summoned on 21 May 2015, charged with the same offences, and released on bail later the same day. Adil Bakheit was held in police custody for 17 days before his release on bail. Khalafalla Alafif Mukhtar was informed by the State Security Prosecution Office of an intention to drop all charges owing to a lack of evidence on 24 February 2016.
For further information, please contact:
Mossaad Mohamed Ali, Executive Director, African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS), email@example.com, +46 727604801 (English and Arabic)
Hassan Shire, Executive Director, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project on: firstname.lastname@example.org or +256 772 753 753 (English)
Clementine de Montjoye, Advocacy & Research Officer, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project on: email@example.com or +256 752 183 305/ +33 6 58 56 26 50 (English and French)