Khartoum / Geneva — The Darfur Bar Association (DBA) calls on civil society organisations and activists in Sudan to exert efforts for the immediate release of Nasreldin Mukhtar, former chair of the Darfur Students Association of the Holy Koran University in Omdurman, and two other Darfur students who were recently detained. The Darfur lawyers as well urge the dissolution of the 'jihadist units' at the campuses of the country's universities.
Mukhtar was held by agents of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) at the gate of the university on 22 August just after he had sat for an exam. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga at the time that the agents shot in the air before they took him to an unknown destination.
In a statement on Sunday, the Bar Association reports that two other Darfur student activists were detained on Saturday: Mahmoud Jadallah, studying at El Nilein University in Khartoum and Siddig Eisa, student of the El Imam El Hadi University in Omdurman.
Both students are member of the United Popular Front (UPF), the students' wing of the Sudan Liberation Movement led by Abdelwahid El Nur. They were held by NISS agents while they were conducting public speeches at the El Soug El Shaabi and the Libya Market in Omdurman.
The whereabouts of Mukhtar are still unknown to his family and lawyers. The DBA fears for his health, as he suffers from a chronic stomach disease and the effects of torture during his former detention in end 2015.
Mukhtar, at the time also Deputy Head of the General Darfur Students Association, used to regularly report to Radio Dabanga about the situation of the Darfuri students at the Holy Koran University after they were attacked by militant student members of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and police and security forces at the campus on 13 October that year. He was detained, together with six other students, on 14 November.
He remained in detention for several months during which he was subjected to torture and electric shocks, the DBA states. "The authorities did not release him until his health deteriorated. He was not interrogated during his detention, and not accused of any acts violating the law. He was released without being legally charged, which confirms that the primary purpose of his detention was to deprive him of his legal and constitutional right to liberty and human dignity [..]."
In its statement, the DBA demands the Sudanese government "to dissolve the jihadist battalions at the Sudanese universities and to hold its members accountable for their criminal acts in accordance with the law, and to release the detainees [..].
"The jihadist security battalions carry out their detentions and other crimes with impunity and under the protection of the authorities, as recently witnessed by students of the Omdurman Islamic University."
The Bar Association urges the civil society organisations in the country to take action for the release of the three Darfur students, and "to force the regime to dissolve the jihadist battalions in Sudanese universities, and to hold its members accountable for their criminal acts according to the law".
On Tuesday, the Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre (DRDC) released a report in which it expressed its deep concern "about the aggressive intrusion by political forces in universities and high education institutions [..]".
"The suspected culprits in most, if not all, these incidents of violence and criminality are members of the students' wing of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) referred to as the National Islamic Students' Movement and its jihadists units."
"University campuses across Sudan are no longer places of peace and intellectual and academic development rather they became killing grounds mainly for political motives. University students originating from war-torn Darfur, especially members of the UPF, bear a major share of the brunt of these crimes and aggressions," the DRDC states.
"The suspected culprits in most, if not all, these incidents of violence and criminality are members of the students' wing of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) referred to as the National Islamic Students' Movement and its jihadists units.
"Members of the jihadists units receive special military and security training and they are armed with all kinds of light weapons to be used against dissident students. They work in complicity with the security forces thus enjoying full immunity against investigation, prosecution and accountability," according to the Geneva-based Darfur Centre.
On 31 August, a Darfuri student was stabbed to death and two others were seriously injured when police, supported by NCP student militants, raided the El Shigla dormitory of the Omdurman Islamic University in the Abu Saad district with the purpose to expel them from the building. The two injured students were taken to hospitals where they succumbed to their wounds the next day.
'Excessive use of force'
In his most recent report for the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Aristide Nononsi, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan, expresses his concern "about the excessive use of force by the Sudanese authorities as a means to restrict the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, which are guaranteed by the Constitution of Sudan and international human rights treaties to which Sudan is a party".
The independent Expert points to the "excessive use of force" against Darfuri students in Khartoum and El Gezira in early 2017.
"According to information received, on 27 January 2017, officers of the National Security Service raided a student dormitory in Um Badda district in Omdurman housing mainly Darfuri students. Five of them were reportedly arrested for unknown reasons," the report reads.
"On 21 March 2017, officers arrested arrested 13 Darfuri students from the University of Holy Qur'an and Islamic Sciences in El Gezira State and used tear gas and batons to disperse a peaceful demonstration organized by them to protest against the university administration's refusal to honour an agreement exempting the Darfuri students from paying tuition fees. The following day, officers raided the Darfuri students' residence and arrested six of them.
"On 15 May 2017, officers and pro-government students attacked an assembly organized by the Darfuri student union alliance at Al-Azahri University, preventing the delivery of a speech calling for the full implementation of a fee-exemption policy for Darfuri students agreed to by the Government of the Sudan during the peace talks in 2006 and 2011.
"Twenty students were arrested and taken to the central police station in Khartoum Bahri, where a case was filed against them for breach of public peace and public. The case was referred to the Central Bahri Public Order Court on 16 May and dismissed owing to lack of evidence," the Expert concluded his statement on the Darfuri students.