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Sudan’s Electoral Period Marred by Arrests and Incommunicado Detention; insecurity in Darfur

(17 April 2015) Sudan’s national general elections began on 13 April 2015. Scheduled to end on 15 April, they were extended one day by the National Elections Commission (NEC) to account for low voter turnout.

In the days leading up to and during the elections and the voting period, ACJPS documented a number of violations, apparently aimed at restricting the ability of independent groups and activists to voice dissenting political views from those of the ruling party. Activists affiliated with Irhal (Go!), a campaign established by the opposition coalition, the National Consensus Forces (NCF), calling on supporters to boycott the elections, have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and ill-treatment by security forces.

A number of political opposition party members, including electoral candidates, have been arrested and detained by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS). Members of the Sudanese Congress Party (SCP) and factions of the Sudanese Peoples’ Liberation Movement – North (SPLM – N), in particular, have been targeted. Members of the Nuba ethnic group also appear to have been targeted, possibly on the grounds of their presumed political affiliations to armed movements. Four members of the Nuba ethnic group in Khartoum were arrested by the NISS and held for three days on suspicion of being members of the SPLM-N. They were released onto a street in Khartoum blindfolded. All four individuals reported being subjected to torture and ill-treatment, including being beaten with water pipes, whilst in NISS custody.

On the eve of the elections on 12 April, two online newspapers, Hurriyat and Sudanile, were hacked. Sudanile’s website is still down. The same day, the NISS called newspaper editors in Khartoum and warned them that publishing on elections was a “red-line” issue. The next day, the first day of voting, editors reportedly received another phone call from the NISS reminding them to not publish on the elections boycott that was organised by mainstream political opposition parties.

A number of political opposition party members, particularly those affiliated with the SPLM – N and SCP, have been arrested and detained across Sudan, as well as known human rights defenders and other prominent activists. The arrests are thought to have been linked to stopping them from campaigning for Irhal or for an elections boycott. At least twenty-two people were arrested across Sudan on 12 April, the eve of the elections, in connection with their outspoken views on the elections. Serious concern was raised for the safety of well-known political activist Sandra Kodouda, (f), who was abducted by unknown men whilst she was on her way to a meeting to discuss the elections boycott. The NISS repeatedly denied that she had been detained, before releasing her three days later on 15 April. There remain serious concerns for Abdulrahman Joni, (m), a member of the SPLM-N Peace Wing, who was abducted from in front of his home by unidentified men in a white landcruiser on 12 April. His whereabouts remain unknown and the NISS his detention has been denied by the relevant Sudanese authorities.

Criminal charges have also been levied against some individuals suspected to be connected to the election boycott, including under article 50 (undermining the constitutional system) of the 1991 Sudanese Criminal Act. Article 50 carries the death penalty.

In Darfur, protests calling for an election boycott were met with excessive force by the authorities. On 13 April, joint forces of police and the Sudanese Armed Forces fired live ammunition and tear gas to disperse an anti-election rally at Mornei IDP camp in Central Darfur. The next day, on 14 April, police fired tear gas to disperse a public forum calling for a boycott of the elections at El Fashir University in North Darfur. It is thought that up to twenty-nine students were arrested, with twelve currently being held in unknown locations. Eighteen students have been remanded in custody, charged with criminal offences including article 50 (undermining the constitutional system) which carries the death penalty.

In light of the current political and security environment, it is clear that the obligations contained in the regional and international instruments ratified by Sudan – including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, which provide for the protection of human rights, the establishment of democracy and the rule of law, and the guarantee of citizen’s rights to participate freely in elections – have not been met.

The African Union (AU), Arab League and International-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which all deployed electoral observers to Sudan, must speak out strongly to condemn the on-going human rights and humanitarian law violations perpetrated in the country. The AU’s preliminary report on elections issued on 17 April does little to acknowledge the dire human rights environment in which the elections took place. The three institutions must further document and publicly condemn any elections – related violations; in particular, the AU has a critical role to play as mediator between all stakeholders in resolving Sudan’s conflicts.

Arrests, detentions and ill-treatment of human rights defenders and political activists in connection with the elections

Arrests on 10 April

On 10 April 2014, the NISS in El Gedarif, eastern Sudan arrested Anas Abdullah, (m), 35 years of age and a member of the Sudanese Congress Party (SCP). Mr. Abdullah was released a few hours later.

He was interrogated on the whereabouts of political activist and SCP member Mohamed Al Fatih. During Mr. Abdullah’s interrogation, he was questioned about the Sudan Call and Berlin Declaration, both political initiatives negotiated between the NCF and the rebel alliance, the Sudanese Revolutionary Forces, concerning the future Sudanese state. Mr. Abdullah was ordered to not engage in any elections-related advocacy.

Later in the evening, Mr. Al Fatih, (m), SCP member, a graduate of Al Safi University, and resident of Daiem al Nour in Al Gedarif was arrested in front of his home by the NISS. Mr. Al Fatih had just returned from a forum organized by the Sudan Call forces commemorating the anniversary of the April 1985 revolution. He remains in detention with no known charges and was allowed one family visit from his father after two days, on 12 April.

Arrests on 11 April

On 11 April at 5pm, Hussam Mohamed Adam, (m), was arrested by the NISS in Port Sudan, after being accused of going to the Daiem Market to receive materials related to the Irhal campaign. He was later transferred to police custody. A criminal case, case file no. 1472/2015, was opened against Mr. Adam under articles 50 (undermining the constitutional system) and 69 (disturbing the public peace) of the 1991 Sudanese Penal Code. Sentencing under article 50 can carry the death penalty. He was released on bail at 4.30pm on 14 April from Daiem Arab police station in Port Sudan, Red Sea state.

On 14 April Al Khalas (salvation) Al Gedarif Initiative hosted a public forum in Daiem Al Nour market. Al Khalas advocates for political reform, and is an initiative of the Al Shrouq Cultural Forum which was forced to close by the NISS in 2014. One of the speakers, prominenthuman rights defender Jafar Khidir, (m), called for the release of Mr. Al Fadir and a boycott of the elections. Four NISS vehicles surrounded the forum, forcing it to end. Mr. Khidir, who has been arrested and detained a number of times by the NISS previously for his peaceful activism, was arrested and taken to the main offices of the N ISS in Al Gedarif. He was released later in the evening after NISS officers threatened him not to repeat his calls for the release of Mr. Al Fatih or the elections boycott.

Arrests on 12 April

Three student members of the Darfur Student Associations at El Neelain University and the Omdurman Islamic University were arrested by the NISS from the main street in front of El Neelain University in central Khartoum. The three were arrested after participating in a peaceful protest organized by student opposition parties to call for an elections boycott. Their whereabouts have not been disclosed by the NISS and they have not had access to their families or a lawyer:

  • Ibrahim Ahmed Jumaa, (m), student at El Neelain University.
  • Musa Mohamed Osman, (m), student at Omdurman Islamic University.
  • Haroun Kajoum, (m), student at Omdurman Islamic University.

Three members of the SCP were arrested by the NISS in Aldewin town, White Nile state:

  • Taha Alfadih, (m).
  • Mohamed Yousif, (m).
  • Ahmed Altayeb, (m).

Three members of the SCP were arrested by the NISS in Alsoki town in Sennar state. Their names are below.

  • Adlam Jamal Aldien, (m).
  • Shoma Hamid Zakaria, (m).
  • Taha Al Fatih, (m).

The group is still in NISS custody and has been denied access to their families and lawyers.

  • Salwa Adam Benia, (f) and a member of the SPLM-N, was arrested by the NISS in Khartoum on 12 April. She was released on 14 April.
  • Musa Juju, (m), an SPLM-N member and a lawyer, was arrested from his offices in Khartoum at 8.20pm on 12 April by the NISS. He was released on 15 April 2015. Mr. Juju reported being subjected to torture, including beatings with water pipes, and is currently unable to move independently due to the extent of his injuries.

Five individuals, including two political candidates belonging to the SPLM – Peace Wing, were arrested from their homes in Al Rosairis area in Al Damazin, Blue Nile state by the NISS.

  • Sidig Ahmed Sidig, (m), a candidate for the State Assembly for Blue Nile. Mr. Sidig was released the same day.
  • Al Jaili Abdalla, (m). Mr. Abdalla was released on 14 April.
  • Mohamed Juda, (m). Mr. Juda is still detained by the NISS.
  • Sidig Almugdam, (m), a candidate for the State Assembly for Blue Nile. Mr. Almugdam is still detained by the NISS.
  • Asir Hamad, (m). Mr. Hamad is still detained by the NISS.

Mr. Juda, Mr. Almugdam, and Mr. Hamad are still being held at NISS offices in Al Damazein. They have not been allowed any visits from their families or lawyers.

The SPLM – Peace Wing is a faction of the SPLM that emerged after the outbreak of conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile in 2011. The party is sympathetic to the government, but has been increasingly under pressure from the government since the SPLM – N’s announcement to boycott the elections.

ACJPS has recently learnt that George Khamjan, a SPLM – Peace Wing candidate for the State Assembly for Blue Nile, was arrested on 5 April 2015 by the NISS from Al Shahid Afandi neighborhood of Al Rosairis. Mr. Khamjan had reportedly called for a boycott to the elections. Mr. Khamjan remains in detention.

  • Abdulrahman Joni, a member of the political opposition party, SPLM – Peace Wing, was abducted from in front of his home in Al Rosairis by unidentified men in a white land cruiser on 12 April. His whereabouts remain unknown. Mr. Joni is contesting for a seat on the State Assembly of Blue Nile. The party submitted a memorandum to the NEC informing them of Mr. Joni’s abduction.
  • On 12 April political activist Dr. Sandra Faroug Kodouda, (f), was forcibly taken from her car at 5pm on 12 April by a group of unidentified men in Omdurman, Khartoum. Dr. Kodouda was on her way to a meeting at the National Umma Party headquarters. Her car was found thirty minutes later abandoned outside the Almourada school on Almourada street in Omdurman, with the keys still in the ignition. She was released by the NISS on the evening of 15 April 2015.

In Khartoum the NISS arrested four members of the Nuba ethnic group:

  1. Yousef Kaki Banat, (m), member of the Nuba ethnic group. Mr. Banat was arrested from his shop in Khartoum.
  2. Almak Toto Abiad, (m), community leader and member of the Nuba ethnic group. Mr. Abiad was arrested from his home in Omdurman.
  3. Almak Saeed Jedo, (m), community leader and member of the Nuba ethnic group. Mr. Jedo was arrested from his home in Omdurman.
  4. Hussien, (m), teacher at Almair Secondary school and member of the Nuba ethnic group. Hussein was arrested from his home in Omdurman.

After three days in detention the group was released by being pushed out of a NISS car, blindfolded, onto a street in Al Gerif, Khartoum on 15 April 2015. They reported being severely beaten with water pipes and sticks and accused of communicating with the SPLM-N during NISS interrogations.

Insecurity and Targeted attacks in Darfur

In Darfur, the elections have taken place in a context of ongoing insecurity and violence.

ACJPS and the Darfur Bar Association previously reported the killing of Idriss Ahmed, (m), on 30 March 2015. Mr. Ahmed is a community leader in Otash IDP camp in Nyala, South Darfur, and was reportedly killed by a group of unknown men reportedly wearing government uniforms. It was reported that Mr. Ahmed had previously received death threats for advocating for an election boycott amongst IDPs.  ACJPS has learnt that on 16 March Mr. Idriss refused to allow a National Congress Party (NCP) representative into his section of the Otash IDP camp. The NCP representative was there to encourage citizens to vote.

On 13 April demonstrations at Mornei IDP camp in West Darfur calling for a boycott of the elections were forcibly dispersed by joint forces of police and the Sudanese Armed Forces, who entered the camp, fired live ammunition, and opened heavy tear gas.

The demonstrations came one day after one of the IDP camp community leaders, Al Said Adam Yousef, (m), appealed to the IDPs in Mornei to go and vote. The IDPs began shouting and throwing stones at Mr. Yousef.

The boycott policy amongst Mornei IDPs had originated two weeks prior, when a number of IDPs had organized a peaceful demonstration inside the camp and held a procession to the headquarters of the local joint AU and UN peacekeeping mission, UNAMID, to implore UNAMID to not withdraw from Darfur. Police gathered outside Mornei IDP camp and prevented the IDPs from leaving the camp to deliver the memo.

Around Darfur, there have been reports of forced closures of market places to encourage people to vote. On 13 April in Kirink locality, West Darfur, a militia of ninety men (reportedly the Rapid Support Forces) in eight land cruisers burst into the market and forced vendors to close their shops to go and vote. The market is held once each week and its closure prevented nine local villages in Kirink locality from buying and selling their goods. On 14 April the NISS of El Geneina asked the trade union of El Geneina to close the market the following day due to the low voter turnout. The market was closed on 15 April.

Police forcibly disperse public forum at El Fashir University; whereabouts of twelve students unknown

On 14 April, police raided El Fashir University during a public forum organized by the Student Alliance of opposition parties calling for a boycott of the elections. The forum was held in the yard of the Faculty for Education. Heavy tear gas was fired, forcing students outside of the building. A reliable source reported to ACJPS that approximately twenty-nine students were arrested, with twelve being held in unknown locations. A number of students suffered minor injuries during the attack.

Seventeen of the approximately twenty-nine students arrested were initially facing criminal charges under articles 50 (undermining the constitutional system), 67 (rioting), and 182 (criminal mischief) of the 1991 Criminal Act. Article 50 sentencing carries the death penalty. The charges were dropped by the prosecutor on 16 April 2015 following interventions by lawyers in El Fashir, but the prosecutor renewed their detention for three days for further investigation. The charges were reportedly renewed after a request from the El Fashir police commissioner.

Nine of the students were transferred by the police to Shalla prison:

  1. Abdullah Adam Babiker, (m).
  2. Hider Ahmed Issa, (m).
  3. Ahmed Adam, (m).
  4. Badier Eldien Hassan, (m).
  5. Ahmed Mohamed Haroun, (m).
  6. Hassan Adami Taharefia, (m).
  7. Hassan Abdullah, (m).
  8. Abdullah Suleiman Abdullah, (m), 17 years of age.
  9. Mustafa Bushara, (m).

Abdullah Suleiman Abdullah, (m), 17 years of age, had his head shaved by prison authorities. As Mr. Abdullah is legally a child, he is being illegally detained by Shalla Prison and should be under the care of the Child and Family Unit.

Eight students remain detained at the Central Police Station in El Fashir:

  1. Ishag Ahmed Mohamed, (m).
  2. Asim Abubaker Abdul Hamid, (m).
  3. Mahajoub Yassin Abdullah, (m).
  4. Abdulrahman Sebil, (m).
  5. Hamza Aldaie, (m).
  6. Yousef El Nour, (m).
  7. Ahmed Al Rashid Khalil, (m).
  8. Saad Eldien Suleiman, (m).

Police have surrounded El Fashir University since the incident, giving rise to concerns that there will be further arrests of students.

Forced Voting of Prison Inmates in Zalengei and Jail Outbreak

Prisoners were reportedly forced to vote at Zalengei Prison in Central Darfur on 14 April. Whilst prisoners were queuing to vote, at around 4pm, a group of prisoners forcibly took Kalashnikovs from two prison officers. Armed with the two guns, the group ran to the death row section of the prison to release the inmates there. The death row inmates had recently been informed that they would shortly be taken to El Fashir for execution.

They also attacked the office of the prison warden, Abdulrahman Ali El Tahir, (m), and fired live ammunition into his office. Mr. El Tahir managed to escape the attack. None of the other prison authorities were attacked.

Nineteen prisoners escaped from Zalengei Prison, including seven death row prisoners. One prisoner who stole a gun, Ahmed Hamdan Hamid, (m), 33 years of age, was shot and killed by prison authorities.

Mr. El Tahir was previously the warden of Ardamata Prison in West Darfur but was transferred to Zalengei after demonstrations in February 2014 over poor facilities, lack of medical care, and ill-treatment culminated in guards firing upon prisoners, killing one.

Background

The European Union (EU) and the Troika of the UK, US and Norway have issued statements that an environment conducive to participatory and credible elections does not exist. Only the AU, Arab League, and IGAD have observed the elections. The pre-assessment mission sent by the AU to Sudan in March also reportedly found that the environment was not conducive for credible elections to take place.

The elections have been boycotted by all mainstream political opposition parties, except for the Democratic Unionist Party. In February the Sudan Call forces set out their position on a preparatory meeting for the Government of Sudan’s National Dialogue process to be organized by the AU African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP). The preparatory meeting was indefinitely suspended in early April by the AU after the Government of Sudan refused to send a delegation to Addis. The dialogue was intended to bring parties together prior to the holding of general elections.

In a statement on the elections released by the AU elections monitoring mission released on 17 April, the AU stated that “in spite of its pre-election assessment report, the AU made a decision to send an election observation mission because the AU considers it important to maintain contact. The mission stated that the “elections would have been enhanced” if the human rights situation had been improved. The AU expressed concern at the number of individuals who boycotted the elections.

On 13 April a number of Sudanese and African civil society organisations expressed dismay at the African Union’s decision to send an elections monitoring mission to Sudan, in direct contradiction to the recommendations of the AU’s pre-elections assessment mission. The organisations called on the AU to report objectively and accurately on structural flaws within the election process.

On 9 April prominent human rights defender Amin Mekki Medani, chairperson of the NCF Farouq Abu Eissa, and political activist Farah Ibrahim Alagar were released after being held a little over four months, including 15 days incommunicado. They were released under article 58 of the 1991 Criminal Procedures Act allowing the Ministry of Justice discretionary powers to drop cases. The men had been detained since 6 and 7 December after attending the Sudan Call negotiations in Addis Ababa between the NCF and rebel coalition, the Sudanese Revolutionary Forces (SRF) in Addis Ababa. The Sudan Call is a political declaration calling for an end to the conflicts in Sudan and the establishment of a democratic state. Dr. Medani and Mr. Abu Eissa were facing capital charges.

In Darfur, there are estimates of over 100,000 newly displaced in 2015 so far. In December 2014, the Government of Sudan announced the continuation of the “Decisive Summer Campaign”. Violations of international humanitarian law and human rights in Sudan’s conflict regions of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile have continued to escalate in 2015. Civilians in these areas have not been able to participate in the electoral process in any meaningful or inclusive way. The hibernation of the International Criminal Court’s Darfur case has only emboldened Bashir and three other co-indictees from the government of Sudan.

Contact

Katherine Perks for ACJPS (English) – Tel: +256 775072136 (in Kampala) – Email: info@acjps.org.

Mohamed Badawi for ACJPS (Arabic) – Tel: +256 783 693 689 (in Kampala) – Email: info@acjps.org.

This post is also available in: Arabic

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