(16 January 2017) The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) is currently aware of seventeen detainees currently held incommunicado by the Government of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS). In particular, there are serious concerns regarding the well-being and treatment of human rights defender Tasneem Ahmed Taha Alzaki, (f), and activist Al Shazali Mohamed Abdalla, (m).
Ms. Alzaki is a female human rights defender and lawyer, and was arrested from her offices in El Fashir, North Darfur, by the NISS at 1pm on 26 December 2016. She was detained briefly at NISS headquarters in El Fashir before she was transferred to Khartoum by airplane at 3pm on 26 December 2016. After arriving in Khartoum, she was transferred to NISS headquarters near Shande Bus Station. A reliable source in El Fashir informed ACJPS that the orders for Ms. Alzaki reportedly came from Khartoum, and not the NISS in El Fashir, and that no rationale was given for her arrest. Ms. Alzaki is currently being held without charge or access to her family or lawyers. Ms. Alzaki is the second human rights defender to be arrested in December, with Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam arrested alongside his driver on 7 December 2016. Dr. Adam and his driver remain detained incommunicado without charge or access to their families or lawyers.
Also raising serious worry is the continued incommunicado detention of Al Shazali Mohamed Abdalla, (m), a member of the Teachers’ Strike Committee arrested in Omdurman on 26 November 2016, The NISS continues to deny having Mr. Abdalla in their custody. Mr. Abdalla’s case was previously documented by ACJPS in December 2016 alongside a wave of forty one other political opposition party leaders, activists, and individuals in the wake of a civil disobedience campaign. Of the group initially documented by ACJPS in December, five individuals remain detained.
ACJPS is aware of an additional eleven activists and political opposition party members arrested during the November and December civil disobedience campaign. All of the individuals below are currently being held in incommunicado detention without charge or access to their families and lawyers, and are believed to be held at NISS headquarters near Shande Bus Station.
- Adam Hajar, (m), chairperson of the Darfur Students Association, arrested on 11 November 2016 in front of the University of Omdurman. Mr. Hajar is a student at the Holy Quran University.
- Hamid Rehimtalla, (m), Deputy Secretary General of the Darfur Students’ Association at Holy Quran University, arrested on 13 November 2016 in front of the University of Omdurman.
- Abbas Al Subai, (m), member of the Sudanese Communist party, arrested on 6 December 2016 from Umbada in Omdurman.
- Alsadig Zakaria, (m), member of the Sudanese Communist party, arrested on 8 December 2016 from Al-Kalakla, Khartoum.
- Abdalla Abdulgaium, (m), member of the Sudanese Communist Party, arrested on 18 December 2016 from Al Gedarif, eastern Sudan.
- Al Ajebo Mahmoud, (m), member of the Democratic Unionist Party, arrested on 23 December 2016.
- Al Muiz Omer Hadra, (m), member of the Democratic Unionist Party, arrested on 25 December 2016.
- Malek Abu Al Hassan, (m), member of the Sudanese Congress Party (SCP), arrested on 28 December 2016.
- Bush Umda Bush (m), member of the Darfur Students Association, arrested on 8 January 2016 in Khartoum.
- Abdulmonim Omer, (m), acting chairperson of the Sudanese Congress Party, arrested on 8 January 2016 at Khartoum airport and prevented from travelling. Mr. Omer’s passport was reportedly seized.
- Mutaz Al-Aijil, (m), member of the Sudanese Communist Party and an artist, arrested on 9 January 2016 in Khartoum.
The lack of access for lawyers and family members to the detainees, together with the well-documented use by the NISS of torture and other forms of ill-treatment against detainees, particularly whilst held in unknown locations, gives rise to serious concerns for their safety.
Incommunicado detention significantly enhances vulnerability to torture and other ill-treatment. The practice is in breach of Sudan’s obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, in particular the prohibition under Article 5 of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment. Under the 2010 National Security Act (NSA), detainees can be held for up to four and a half months without judicial review.
ACJPS condemns the ongoing silencing of political opposition members, activists, and human rights defenders through arbitrary detention, despite constitutional guarantees to the freedom of expression, association, and assembly. The criminalisation and ban of human rights work is contradictory to the protections guaranteed by the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and other elements of international and regional human rights law.
We call upon the Government of Sudan to grant the detainees immediate and unequivocal access to their lawyers and family members, and release them in the absence of valid legal charges consistent with international standards.
The latest arrests come amidst renewed calls by the Government of Sudan to re-launch the National Dialogue, which has been boycotted by mainstream political opposition parties and armed rebel movements in the past over concerns that the process is non-transparent, lacking inclusivity, controlled by the ruling National Congress Party, and taking place in the context of armed conflict in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile. The National Dialogue has been reinvigorated in attempts to reignite the constitutional review process to replace the 2005 Interim National Constitution.
A spate of arrests of activists, human rights defenders, and political opposition party members in November and December 2016 came alongside a civil disobedience campaign organized against austerity measures in the country instituted in early November. This also included organised strike committees such as the Teachers’ Strike Committee and the Sudanese Doctors’ Central Committee, who had fourteen of its members arrested and detained incommunicado in November 2016.
The austerity measures have increased fuel prices by up to 30% and drastically increased prices on basic commodities in the context of widespread poverty and corruption. A huge amount of government spending is allocated in the national budget to finance Sudan’s wars in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile. Fluctuations on the government set exchange rate regarding pharmaceutical supplies have led to a substantial increase in prices of drugs.
On top of the arrests has been a sustained policy by the NISS of seizing newspapers from different media houses, including traditionally pro-government newspapers, in efforts to block all public discourse regarding the civil disobedience campaign and concomitant arrests.
Frontline Defenders reported on the arrest and incommunicado detention of human rights defender Hafiz Idris on 24 November 2016, reportedly by five plain-clothed members of the NISS from a relative’s home in Khartoum. Mr. Idris was reportedly taken to the hospital in late December for treatment following beatings received in NISS custody.
Detainees released from NISS custody have also voiced concern for Abd Al Mukhlis, (m). Mr. Mukhlis was reportedly arrested from Damazein, Blue Nile, on an unknown date and transferred to Khartoum. Released detainees have reported that Mr. Mukhlis has been subjected to torture in NISS custody.
The intensity of repression currently leveled by the Sudanese Government is particularly targeted towards human rights activities. The practice of issuing criminal charges against activists and human rights defenders has become an established tool to silence dialogue about human rights and civil society. On trial currently are ten staff members and affiliates of the Centre for Training and Human Development (TRACKs), an organisation which provides training on a range of issues from IT to human rights, in two overlapping cases that include crimes against the state. Crimes against the state charges carry the death penalty.
Prominent Sudanese human rights defender Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, the former director of the Sudan Social Development Organisation (SUDO), remains detained incommunicado by the NISS, alongside his driver, Adam El Sheikh Mukhtar. Both men are currently being held without charge or access to their families and lawyers at NISS headquarters near Shande Bus Station after being arrested on 7 December 2016. Their families were only officially informed of their arrest on 12 December. Nora Abaid, an accountant from Dr. Mudawi’s engineering company, Lambda Engineering, was arrested by plain-clothed NISS agents in an unmarked car on 12 December, and also remains detained incommunicado without charge or access to her family or lawyers.
The detention of Ms. Alzaki also raises particular concern due to the treatment of female detainees in NISS custody. In 2016, Human Rights Watch documented efforts by Sudanese authorities to silence female human rights defenders and activists. Women engaged in these efforts are targeted with a range of abuses, from rape and rape threats, to deliberate efforts to tar their reputations. Their male counterparts may be less likely to experience some of these abuses.
The African Center for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS): In Kampala, Mossaad Mohamed Ali (English, Arabic, Swedish): +256 779584542; or New York, Emily Cody, (English): +1 201 916 3676, firstname.lastname@example.org.