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Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2007 - Sudan

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Author Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Publication Date 19 June 2008
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2007 - Sudan, 19 June 2008, available at: [accessed 29 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Political context

In Sudan, the political situation continued to be dominated in 2007 by the conflict in Darfur, and although the international community multiplied its initiatives throughout the year (arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC), follow up by the Expert Group of the United Nations Human Rights Council, authorisation to launch the hybrid United Nations-African Union peacekeeping operation1), in the absence of cooperation on the part of Omar El Bashir's Government and of adequate resources, human rights violations continued on a large scale.

The United Nations estimate that since the beginning of hostilities, in February 2003, between governmental forces allied to the "Janjawid" militia and the armed movements, the conflict has made over 200,000 victims, and that at least two million persons have been displaced inside the country or towards neighbouring countries (mainly Chad).2 The internally displaced persons (IDPs) live in camps, where they are exposed to attacks by the militia, as are also the human rights or humanitarian organisations on the spot.

This year, these camps have been subjected to particularly violent and repressive controls. Sudanese Government forces have arrested numerous tribal representatives and leaders. Several incidents have occurred, for instance in the Kalma camp. For the ICC Prosecutor, the dismantling of the camps, the murder and the arbitrary arrest of local civilian leaders "suggests coordinated efforts to foster instability in the larger camps and reduce support for IDP camp leaders".3 In November 2007, the Human Rights Council Expert Group, chaired by the Special Rapporteur for the Sudan, also handed in its final report, referring to "insufficient disarming of the militia" and "numerous attacks against villages and camps".4

In December 2007, in his enquiry on the crimes committed in Darfur, the ICC Prosecutor also denounced the total lack of cooperation on the part of Sudan.5 On the contrary, out of the two arrest warrants issued by the ICC, one of the suspects was released and the other, Mr. Ahmed Harun, present Minister for Humanitarian affairs, was appointed Vice-Chairman of the Committee charged with examining complaints relating to human rights violations in Darfur; he was also given the responsibility of following the deployment of the peacekeeping forces.

Lastly, the Government has continued to hinder access to and circulation of information on the situation in Darfur. In addition to restrictive legislation on freedom of expression, the authorities strive to prevent any publication on the human rights situation in the country, and in particular on human rights violations in Darfur and on the need to fight against the impunity enjoyed by the authors of the most serious crimes. Several acts of censorship have thus been performed by the secret services against newspapers in Arabic, including Ray al Shaab, Al Sudani, Al Sahafa, Al Ayaam and Al Meidan.

Humanitarian workers attacked with impunity

Mid-November there were from 12,500 to 15,800 humanitarian workers in Darfur,6 who were still working under conditions of extreme insecurity. Targeted attacks by the security forces or the militia occur daily, and take the form of vehicle holdups, looting of food convoys, attacks against offices, abductions, shot, and sexual aggressions. According to the figures published by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in 2007, 77 humanitarian convoys were attacked, NGO and AMIS premises were burgled or attacked 93 times, 147 humanitarian workers were kidnapped, 10 received threats and 13 were killed.7 Furthermore, the Expert Group of the Human Rights Council denounced the expulsion of the Director of the CARE organisation in August 2007. In all, 11 humanitarian workers appear to have been expelled since the beginning of 2007, without any justification being given by the Government.

Despite the signature on March 28, 2007 of a joint press release by the UN and the Sudanese Government on the facilitation of humanitarian aid, the attitude of the authorities towards the humanitarian workers – and especially the refusal to grant visas, the expulsions without justification, or the banning of access to certain places – also sends a strong message of impunity to the authors of the attacks, and increases the dangers to which the workers are exposed.

Harassment of NGOs and obstacles to the freedom of association

In November 2007, the security forces launched what is no less than a harassment campaign against the personnel of the Khartoum Centre for Human Rights and Environmental Development (KCHRED) and against other defenders in the capital. This took the form of repeated visits by the National Security Service to KCHRED members working in the freedom of expression section, and to a member of the financial department. The questioning related to foreign financing, money transfers, etc. The regional offices of the Amel Centre for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture continue to receive repeated visits from the security forces. Such interference in the affairs of the NGOs raises serious issues of confidentiality and security of victims' files. In addition, in March 2007, pursuant application of the Organisation of Humanitarian and Voluntary Work Act, the executives of the Amel Centre were summoned and questioned by the Humanitarian Aid Commission. Following the interrogation, the Centre was temporarily closed for "administrative verification" reasons, before resuming its activities in May 2007.8

Acts of harassment against defenders fighting for the rights of populations affected by the building of two large hydroelectric dams

In 2007, the construction of two large hydroelectric dams at Meroe/Hamadab and Kajbar, in the northern valley of the Nile, was the origin of a series of violent confrontations between the local populations and the security forces, causing the death of several civilians. The defenders who intervened to defend the rights of the affected populations were severely put down. For instance, Messrs. Alam Aldeen Abd Alghni, Emad Merghni Seed Ahmed and Abd Allah Abd Alghume, lawyers who were participating in one of the demonstrations in the village of Farraig (Halfa municipality), in order to study the legal aspects of the question, and Mr. Mugahid Mohamed Abdalla, a journalist covering the demonstration, were arrested on June 13, 2007. They were released on August 19.

Likewise, during the same demonstration, the police and the security forces opened fire on demonstrators opposing the dam, killing four people and seriously wounding thirteen others. The internal intelligence services arbitrarily detained around forty leaders of the Nubian community and at least five journalists, two lawyers and a university professor. These persons were detained for two months, without having access to their family, nor to a lawyer. They were released on condition they would not continue their mobilisation against the dam. Several members of the Committee Against the Building of the Kajbar Dam (CABKD) were also arrested and questioned on several occasions by the police. They have reportedly been subjected to ill-treatment.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders is a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH).

1 In July 2007, the United Nations Security Council authorised the deployment of the hybrid UNAU operation in Darfur (UNAMID), which officially replaced the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) on December 31, 2007. With 20,000 troops and over 6,000 police and civilian personnel, it should be the largest operation staged by the United Nations. At the end of 2007, however, it was blocked by the refusal of Sudan to allow entry to certain non-African elements due to join the mission, and by security issues.

2 See Press Release by the United Nations Press Centre, Deadly attacks in South Darfour spark UN call for independent inquiry, May 18, 2007.

3 See Sixth Report by the ICC Prosecutor to the United Nations Security Council pursuant to Resolution 1593 (2005), which obliges the Sudanese Government to cooperate with the Court, December 5, 2007.

4 See Final Report on the human rights situation in Darfur of the Group of experts, United Nations document A/HRC/6/19, November 27, 2007. The Group of experts was established by the Human Rights Council on March 30, 2007.

5 See Statement and Sixth Report of the ICC Prosecutor to the United Nations Security Council on developments in his enquiry in Darfur, December 5, 2007.

6 See Report by Expert Group mentioned above.

7 These figures include the drivers recruited by the United Nations (see OCHA Geneva, Report on incidents in 2007 by the geographical coordination and monitoring section).

8 In that respect, the Expert Group and the United Nations Committee on Human Rights, which this year examined the Report of the Sudan, expressed concern that numerous organisations and defenders are not able to carry out their activities freely, and are often subjected to harassment, intimidation and arbitrary detention by Government agents. The Committee on Human Rights also denounced the consequences of the 2006 Organisation of Humanitarian and Voluntary Work Act (See Concluding Observations of the Committee on Human Rights, UN document CCPR/C/SDN/ CO/3, August 29, 2007, and the Report of the Expert Group mentioned above).

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