Sudan: UN rights office laments crackdown on rights activists

OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani. Photo: UN Multimedia

OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani. Photo: UN Multimedia

12 December 2014 – The United Nations human rights office expressed deep concern today over a spate of detentions and prosecutions in Sudan which, it said, appeared aimed at “silencing political opposition and criticism” of the governing political party.

 Speaking to the press in Geneva, Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), cited reports of a recent “high profile case” involving two prominent public figures –Amin Makki Medani, a well-known human rights defender and former UN rights official in the region, and Farouk Abu Issa, the leader of the opposition National Consensus Forum.

 The two were taken from their homes in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum just before midnight on 6 December by Sudanese security services.

 Ms. Shamdasani said the two men had just returned from Ethiopia, where they had signed a political document known as the “Sudan Call” committing signatories “to dismantle the one-party state regime and replace it with a state founded on equal citizenship through daily popular struggle.” A third man, Farah Ibrahim Mohamed Alagar, also attended the meeting but did not sign the document. Nonetheless, said the rights office, he too is believed to have been arrested on 7 December.

 “We urge the Government to release the three men in the absence of valid legal charges or promptly charge them with a recognizable offence and bring them before a judge with guarantees of their fair trial rights,” Ms. Shamdasani said, noting that there were “serious concerns” about the health and safety of both men, who require daily medications for a number of potentially life-threatening ailments.

 “The Government is required by its international human rights obligations to inform individuals arrested of the grounds for their arrest through an arrest warrant, to guarantee their safety, disclose their whereabouts, grant access to their family members and lawyers, and to provide any medical assistance they may require.”

 She added that the arrests appeared to be part of a broader pattern of clampdowns against rights activists as the past six months had already seen “scores” of political and youth activists detained by the authorities. She also pointed to an emerging “worrying trend” involving the Government’s prosecution of owners and employees of private printing firms in an apparent attempt to restrict printed materials deemed critical of the ruling party.

 “We urge the Government to cease the harassment and prosecution of political activists, human rights defenders and other public commentators such as journalists and bloggers for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and opinion.”

UN