Khartoum — The Speaker of the Sudanese Parliament received a petition on Thursday, signed by more than 1,200 people requesting the immediate release of their relatives currently being held by Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). The Popular Congress Party has urged the Sudanese president to order the release of the 411 political detainees in the country.
In January, Sudanese spontaneously took to the streets in protest against new austerity measures that led to the doubling and in many cases tripling of the prices of basic consumer goods. Opposition parties called for mass demonstrations and demanded the government to step down.
In response, the authorities detained hundreds of demonstrators, activists, and political opposition leaders, among them the heads of the Sudanese Congress Party, the Communist Party of Sudan, the Republican Party, the National Alliance Party, the Arab Baath Socialist Party, the National Unionist Movement, and leaders of the National Umma Party. Journalists covering the protests were also arrested. A number of newspapers were gagged.
A number of senior opposition politicians have been transferred from the Sudanese capital to prisons in Darfur, and from eastern Sudan's Sennar to Khartoum.
The concerned relatives called on the Parliament Speaker "to urgently intervene to release the detainees". They handed a copy of the petition to the Committee on Legislation, Justice, and Human Rights as well.
In the memo, they stated that according to the Constitution, every Sudanese citizen has the right to demonstrate peacefully: "The detainees have the full right to turn to the streets [..] to legitimately demand the lifting of the burden on the people who suffer from the soaring prices of bread, medicines, and other basic needs."
Neemat Abubaker, wife of detainee Dr Amjad Farid and representative of the petitioners, told reporters in Khartoum after the submission of the memorandum that according to the latest counts at least 150 people are being held by the NISS.
"The real number of protesters and activists who were detained in January exceeds 150, including sick and elderly people. Yet, estimates show that there are dozens of others being held as well," she said.
The authorities have allowed relatives to visit the detainees, she added. Some families received information that the health of their detained relatives is deteriorating.
Siddig Yousef, member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, was released last week. Following a visit to Yousef at his home in Omdurman on Thursday, the Political Secretary of the Popular Congress Party, El Ameen Abdelrazig, said in a press statement that 411 political activists are still being held in various places in the country.
He called on President Omar Al Bashir to order the release of all political detainees, and appealed to Salah Gosh, the newly re-appointed NISS director, to begin his work with "opening the prison cells for all political detainees in the country, expand the margins of public freedoms, and allow the Sudanese parties to exercise their political and legal rights".
The EU and the US Embassy in Sudan have expressed their concern about the wave of political detentions in January. Sudanese and international organisations have called for the immediate release of the political detainees.
The Sudanese News Agency (SUNA) reported on Thursday that the Minister of Justice, Dr Ibrahim Jamil, briefed Second Vice-President Hasabo Abdelrahman that morning on the situation concerning the ratification of international human rights treaties.
The Minister urged the vice-president to accelerate the ratification process for the treaties it has signed. The meeting further focused on the human rights situation in the country and the performance of the Sudanese human rights bodies.
According to the Minister, Khartoum has applied many international human rights recommendations, except those that "contradict Sudan's constitutional religious dictates".