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Sudan: Human Rights Activists Arrested

Harassment of Those Speaking Out Against Abuses Increasing


Sudanese authorities have arrested and detained three human rights defenders in Khartoum, two of whom remain in detention, Human Rights Watch said today. On November 24, 2008, Sudanese authorities in Khartoum summoned the three men to the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) offices, where they were detained and questioned about their human rights activities.

One, Amir Suliman, was released the same day. Abdelmoneim Aljak was released early the following morning but re-arrested on November 26, and Osman Hummaida, who is British, also remains in custody. The security service has not charged any of the men with any crime. They were questioned only regarding their human rights activities.

"The Sudanese government is well-known for having little tolerance for criticism," said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "This is part of a wider pattern of trying to silence those who support justice and to suppress information about the human rights situation in Sudan."

Over the last year, the Sudanese government has increasingly targeted those who have spoken out about human rights abuses, the situation in Darfur, or international justice. This harassment intensified considerably following the May 10 attack by the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) on the capital and the announcement by the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court on July 14 requesting an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Journalists trying to publish articles about the situation in Darfur or the May 10 events and staff members of national NGOs working on these issues have been summoned and forced to censor any articles regarded as critical of the authorities.

Hummaida and Aljak work as consultants to civil society and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Suliman is chairperson of the Khartoum Centre for Human Rights and Environmental Development (KCHRED). The three were summoned by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) political section in Khartoum North at around noon on November 24. A colleague was allowed to bring medicine for Hummaida later that afternoon.

Suliman was released at 8 p.m. and summoned again and detained briefly the following evening. Aljak was released the following day without charge, but was summoned again on November 26 and remains in the security service's custody. Hummaida is still being held without charge and has not been allowed to speak to his lawyer.

Sudanese authorities have not said on what basis the three were summoned or detained, but they are active in the Sudanese human rights movement and have participated in awareness-raising campaigns on justice and accountability, as well as highlighting the ongoing human rights situation in Sudan.

The three men were summoned by the political affairs section of NISS, which deals with civil society organizations and political parties. All three have previously been detained on several occasions because of their human rights activities.

"As well as being concerned for Osman Hummaida and Abdelmoneim Aljak's well-being, we fear that these arrests of human rights activists will not be the last," said Gagnon.

Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.