February 11, 2014 - There are growing safety concerns for two activists detained incommunicado and without charge by Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) amid reports one may have been subjected to torture.
- Hundreds of activists were arrested during anti-government protests in Sudan last September, with many held incommunicado for extended periods without access to their families or lawyers (Photo: Khalil Hamra/AP)
Journalist and blogger Taj Aldeen Arjaa, 23, and university lecturer Sidig Noreen Ali Abdalla, 42, have been held without access to legal representation since they were arrested on 26 December and 16 January respectively.
In a statement released on Monday, the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) said the cases did not appear to be linked, although both were believed to be involved in activism activities related to Sudan’s western Darfur region.
ACJPS said Arjaa openly criticised Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan and his Chadian counterpart, Idriss Deby, at a press conference attended by the two leaders for their alleged roles in the atrocities and human rights violations committed in Darfur.
It is alleged that Arjaa was subjected to torture at NISS offices in Khartoum before being transferred to Kober prison, also in Khartoum, a few days later. He was permitted one family visit after spending a month in detention, however, all subsequent requests have since been declined, said ACJPS.
Abdalla, who lectures at West Kordofan University and is a supervisor with the Greater Darfur Students’ Association, was arrested while taking one of his children for treatment at hospital. He is currently being detained in El Obeid prison and has not been allowed access to his family or a lawyer.
Neither Arjaa nor Abdalla have been charged with a crime.
“ACJPS is concerned that the reasons for the arrests are not known and the detainees may be at risk of ill-treatment”, the London-based advocacy group said in the statement.
ACJPS has called on Sudanese authorities to immediately grant the detainees access to their families and lawyers and any medical assistance they may require.
“The authorities must 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”, ACJPS said.
The Sudanese government is renowned for being generally hostile towards the activities of independent civil society, as well as Darfuri student associations typically organised through universities.
In 2012 and 2013, student militias and armed forces were deployed to violently disperse demonstrations held on university campuses in White Nile, Al Jazeera and El Fasher. ACJPS said their leaders have been subjected to arbitrary arrest, torture and ill-treatment.
More than 800 people were arrested during widespread demonstrations that erupted in Sudan in late September following the government’s decision to cut fuel subsidies.
Those arrested included political activists, opposition party members and human rights defenders.
ACJPS said it had documented the widespread use of prolonged incommunicado detention, torture and ill-treatment by NISS agents throughout the anti-government protests.