August 30, 2016 (KAMPALA) - Amnesty International and four other rights groups on Tuesday called on the Sudanese government to drop charges against 10 human rights activists affiliated with the Centre for Training and Development (TRACKS) and immediately and unconditionally release three men in detention since May this year.
- Lawyers of detained opposition leader Farouq Abu-Essa and prominent human rights activist Amin Mekki Medani (ST)
On 22 May, eight activists from TRACKS have been arrested after they were summoned to the Office of the Prosecutor for Crimes against the State following charges filed against them by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).
Five of them were later released while three are still being detained.
The state’s security prosecution office transferred the case of TRACKS’s staff members to the court after charging them with counts that could lead to the death sentence and life imprisonment. They have also been accused of undermining the constitutional order, provoking war against the state, criminal complicity, instigating an insurgency against the regime, and disseminating false news.
In a joint a statement on Tuesday, the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, Amnesty International, DefendDefenders, the International Federation for Human Rights and the International Refugee Rights Initiative, said the activists are facing two overlapping criminal cases, one opened following a raid on Tracks premises in March 2015 and another following a second raid in February 2016.
“The criminal charges, arrests and raids all appear aimed at intimidating TRACKS staff members and disrupting the operation of the organisation,” said Mossaad Mohamed Ali, Executive Director of the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies.
“Sudan must immediately and unconditionally release the detainees, drop all charges that stem from their peaceful activities and let TRACKS staff and their affiliates conduct their work without fear of reprisals” he added
According to the statement, “three of the accused are held in detention at Al Huda Prison in Omdurman North, Khartoum. TRACKS director Khalafalla al Afif Mukhtar, TRACKS trainer Midhat Afif al-Deen Hamdan, and the director of Alzarqaa Organisation for Rural Development, Mustafa Adam, who happened to be visiting TRACKS at the time of the February raid”.
The statement pointed the detainees “had spent 86 days without charge at the Office of the Prosecutor for State Security in Khartoum in inhumane conditions, in a cell that was overcrowded, with poor ventilation and restricted access to sanitation”
“Khalafalla al Afif Mukhtar, who suffers from a heart condition, was denied medical treatment on a number of occasions at the Prosecutor’s office and fainted twice due to the heat” read the statement
The court was unable to continue trial procedures since the case was transferred from the prosecution office due to absence of the first defendant, Khalafalla al Afif Mukhtar, who was detained at the state security detention center on other charge filed by the NISS. The judge was forced to adjourn the trial more than once.
On 1 August, the judge ordered the state security prosecution’s office to bring the fourth defendant who is also being held on other charges at the state security detention center.
“The Prosecution has failed to provide written confirmation of the names of the accused or charges brought against them, or provide details on the factual or legal basis for the charges, and has repeatedly delayed proceedings, undermining the right to a fair trial” said Sarah Jackson, Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes at Amnesty International.
The statement added that the Sudanese authorities “have unduly restricted the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, including by shutting down newspapers, using excessive force to break up protests, and placing arbitrary restrictions on civil society organizations”.
“In March this year, the NISS stopped four civil society representatives from travelling to Switzerland for a high level meeting with diplomats in preparation for a UN-led human rights review of Sudan and confiscated their passports”, it added.