The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies is concerned about the safety and well-being of two community leaders from Port Sudan, Red Sea state who are being held incommunicado by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) of Port Sudan. The two leaders have been in detention for close to three weeks without charge or access to their families and/or lawyers. Their families have expressed concern for their safety and their vulnerability to torture and ill-treatment given the well-documented use by the NISS of torture and other forms of ill-treatment against detainees.
On 11 December 2017, the two leaders, Hashim Ali Ahmed and Osman Albagir Osman led a peaceful protest by members of the Bishareen tribe whodemonstrated against activities of a mining company contracted by the government to search for gold in a number of archaeological sites in Halayib locality, Red Sea state. The leaders were then summoned to NISS offices where they were forced to record statements indicating that they would desist from mobilising protests against the mining company. They were released the same day. Despite this, the leaders and members of the Bishareen continued to protest against the mining activities in the archaeological sites of Halayib.
On 17 December 2017, the leaders accompanied by a delegation of archaeologists from the Sudanese Antiquities Department, were travelling from Port Sudan to Halayib locality when they were intercepted by the NISS and arrested. The community leaders were then taken to the NISS offices in Port Sudan where they remain in detention.
ACJPS believes that there is no legitimate cause for the two community leaders' detention, and that their arrests are solely based on their involvement in a peaceful protest calling for the protection of the archaeological sites which fall within the ambit of freedom of expression, association and assembly, rights guaranteed under Sudan's Interim National Constitution.
The lack of access to lawyers and family members of 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.
The incommunicado detention of the two community leaders, alongside other recent incidents of arbitrary detention documented by ACJPS, diverges significantly from the current image projected by Sudan to normalise its relationship with the international community as the United States prepares to review Sudan's sanctions next month.
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. If such charges exist, the three individuals should be brought promptly before an impartial, independent and competent tribunal and guarantee their procedural rights at all times.
The NISS has used its powers of arrest without charge for up to four and a half months to arbitrarily detain scores of perceived opponents and other people with real or perceived links to the rebel movements who are often targeted because of their ethnic origin. NISS routinely holds detainees incommunicado and without charge for prolonged periods, including in excess of the four and a half months permitted the NSA 2010, and has subjected detainees to torture and other forms of ill-treatment.
A renewed campaign of civil disobedience, following the introduction of austerity measures in early November 2016, was met withnumerous arbitrary arrests and incommunicado detentions. A strike organised by the Sudanese Doctors Central Committee culminated in theincommunicado detention of at least 14 doctorsat NISS headquarters near Shande Bus Station, in varying dates in early November. The group was later released on 22 November 2016.
Criminal charges have also been levelled against individuals engaged in peaceful demonstrations. On 29 November 2016, seven female activists and members of the "No to Womenâ€Ÿs Oppression" initiative were arrested outside the home of Prime Minister Ismail Al Azhari in Omdurman, where they had conducted a silent peaceful sit-in protest and held signs condemning the austerity measures. The group was charged with disturbance of public peace and public nuisance, and released a few hours later on bail. The criminal charges remain pending.