10 November 2010
Sudan – Nine Darfuri human rights defenders arrested and being held in incommunicado detention in Khartoum
On 29 October 2010 between 4pm and 4:30pm eight Darfuri human rights defenders were arrested in Khartoum, Sudan. In a similar incident on 3 November another human rights defender was arrested. As yet no charges have been brought against them. It is reported that the arrests targeted people working with HAND (Human Rights and Advocacy Network for Democracy), a coalition of nine grass-roots Darfuri organisations, that publishes weekly human rights monitoring reports from Darfur, and people working for Radio Dabanga, a Sudanese radio station registered in the Netherlands that broadcasts news on the conflict in Darfur. Both HAND and Radio Dabanga reportedly share the same building in Khartoum. Some of those arrested had just attended a youth forum on social development hosted by Girifna, a pro-democracy student movement.
The first disappearance occurred on 29 October, in Suq al Arabia in down-town Khartoum, when National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) agents arrested Abdelrahman Mohamed Al-Gasim, a member of the executive committee of the Sudanese Human Rights Monitor (SHRM) from Tulus, South Darfur. Mr. Al-Gasim is based in Khartoum and is the Legal Aid and Training Coordinator of the Darfur Bar Association. He has not been seen since by his family and never returned home, and his mobile has been switched off since the evening of 30 October. On 31 October, his family received confirmation that he had been arrested, though no charges had been pressed and they were not allowed access to him. He is reportedly being held separately from the rest of the group.
Almost immediately after the arrest of Mr Al-Gasim, another round of arrests occurred, suggesting a coordinated effort by the NISS. The arrested individuals are:
Mr Abdelrahman Adam Abdelrahman, the Deputy Director of the HAND network;
Mr Dirar Adam Dirar, a finance and administration officer with the HAND network;
Mr Abu Gasim Al Din
Mr Zakaria Yacoub
Ms Aziza Ali Edris, ;
Ms Manal Mohamed Ahmed,
Ms Aisha Sardo Sharif,;
The three women human rights defenders are not affiliated with HAND. It was announced on the 31 October that it was likely that they would be released shortly however they are still being held in incommunicado detention.
In a similar incident, on 3 November, the NISS raided the offices of Al Sahafa newspaper in Khartoum and arrested Jaafar Alsabki Ibrahim, a Darfuri editor, from the editing room. According to eye witnesses, the NISS refused to allow him to call his family before he was taken away. They confiscated his mobile phone and took him to an undisclosed location.
As of 10 November, the entire group remained in NISS custody. A group of lawyers in Khartoum have organised a submission for clarification on the arrest of Abdelrahman Mohamed Al-Gasim and any charges brought against him.
The NGOs Unit at the National Security and Intelligence Apparatus, has staged a crack down campaign against HAND, resulting in the arrest of all members of the Executive Board and other members of the network including eight women. The security men confiscated all the computers and other belongings and closed the HAND office in Khartoum. The campaign comes after HAND had published a study in July 2010 calling for international protection for Darfuri people, and has been publishing reports of violations in Darfur in its weekly newsletter. The Network fear that more of its members could be the subject of arrested in the coming days.
Front Line condemns the actions of the NISS both in arresting nine human rights defenders, and keeping them in incommunicado detention where their status and whereabouts is unknown. Front Line fears that those detained may be ill-treated or tortured as incommunicado detention, which is a grave breach of international human rights law, significantly increases the risk of torture.
Front Line urges the Sudanese authorities to:
Immediately and unconditionally release the nine human rights defenders as Front Line believes they are being detained solely as a result of their legitimate human rights work;
Carry out an immediate, impartial and thorough investigation into the arrest and detention of the nine human rights defenders with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of human rights defenders in Sudan, particularly by ensuring that adequate and effective security measures are provided to protect human rights defenders at risk;
Ensure that all human rights defenders in Sudan, carrying out their legitimate work in
the defence of human rights, are able to operate free of restrictions and reprisals.