Sudan: Political Opposition Leaders Detained, At Risk of Torture

Mr. Abdul-Aziz Khalid, Chairperson of the Central Council of the National Sudanese Alliance Party, was arrested from his home in Khartoum by Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) at 9pm on 14 January.

He is currently detained incommunicado in an unknown location. The NISS have refused to provide his family with any information concerning his whereabouts or the charges he faces.

Mr. Abdul-Aziz Khalid is the sixth political opposition member to be detained by NISS since a coalition of Sudanese political opposition parties attended political negotiations with armed opposition groups in Kampala, Uganda in early January.

ACJPS is deeply concerned for the safety of Mr. Abdul-Aziz Khalid and five other representatives from Sudanese political opposition parties who have been detained incommunicado in an unknown location since their arrests on 7 and 8 January:

Dr. Jamal Idris, (m), Chairperson of the Socialist Unionist Nasserist Party (SUNP), arrested from his home in Khartoum on 7 January.

Enstar Alagali, (f), a leading member of the SUNP. Ms. Alagali is also head of the women's unit within the Sudanese civil society coalition called 'Cooperation for Defending Rights and Freedoms', arrested from her home in Khartoum on 7 January.

Professor Mohamed Zain Alabidein, (m), Political Affairs Assistant to the Chairperson of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), arrested from Khartoum airport on 8 January.

Dr. Abdulrahim Abdalla, (m), Dr. Abdalla is the Regulatory Affairs Assistant to the DUP Chairperson, arrested from Khartoum airport on 8 January.

Hisham Al Mufti, (m), a leader of the DUP, arrested from Khartoum airport on 8 January.

The NISS has refused to disclose the whereabouts of any of the detainees.

The family of Professor Mohamed Zain Alabidein visited NISS offices in Khartoum on 11 January. Professor Alabidein, who is 66 years old, recently underwent surgery for cancer and has an appointment with a specialist in the United Kingdom on 18 January. The NISS refused to disclose his whereabouts but accepted medication and clothing for him from his family. Sudan's track record of using the NISS to intimidate political opponents of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the lack of information on the whereabouts and welfare of the detainees give rise to serious concerns for their safety.

The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) fears that the six detainees are at serious risk of torture and ill-treatment and calls on the Government of Sudan to:

· Immediately make known the whereabouts of the detainees, grant them access to their families and lawyers and any medical assistance they may require. Professor Mohamed Zain Alabidein must immediately be granted access to a medical doctor.

· Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of the detainees and order their immediate release in the absence of valid legal charges that are consistent with international law and standards or, if such charges exist, to bring them before an impartial, independent and competent tribunal and guarantee their procedural rights at all times.

· Cease the harassment and intimidation of political opponents and guarantee the right to freedom of assembly, association and expression as recognised by the Interim National Constitution (2005) and Sudan's commitments under international law.

Background

The arrests are thought to be directly connected to the political negotiations which took place in early January in Kampala, Uganda between a coalition of Sudanese political opposition parties called the National Consensus Forces (NCF) and a coalition of armed opposition groups called the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF). The negotiations were also attended by representatives from Sudanese youth movements, political parties outside of the NCF coalition, and a number of individuals.

The negotiations culminated in the adoption on 8 January of a political document entitled the "New Dawn". The "New Dawn" document affirms the validity of both peaceful and violent means for regime change, and pledges the creation of a transitional government with independent bodies that respects diversity. The leadership of a number of political parties whose representatives signed the document have since distanced themselves from it.

Mr. Abdul-Aziz Khalid signed the "New Dawn" document on behalf of the National Sudanese Alliance Party.

These arrests of political opposition leaders form part of a broader campaign targeting the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly in Sudan. They came just days after the forced closure of three civil society organisations and one literary forum in Sudan by the authorities.

Popular protests which took place throughout the country in 2012 were met by the Sudanese authorities with excessive use of force, mass arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and ill-treatment.

ACJPS has serious concerns that the little space left for political debate and expression of dissenting views in Sudan is rapidly contracting.

Sudanese media outlets have quoted a statement made by Presidential Assistant and Chairperson of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), Mr. Nafei Ali Nafie, to recent graduates of the paramilitary Popular Defence Forces, where he warned that the signatories to the "New Dawn" document had "dug their graves with their own hands by adopting the agreement, as it is based on the rejection of the principles of Islamic Sharia law". He was also reported to state that "2013 will be the year of cleaning of the opposition by both peaceful and military means" and that "we will not leave the traitors a chance to breathe".

Source:  African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS)

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