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UN experts call to drop charges against Sudanese activists

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August 31, 2016 (GENEVA) - A group of United Nations human rights experts on Wednesday called on the Sudanese authorities to drop charges carrying the death sentence brought against six people affiliated with the Centre for Training and Human Development (TRACKS).

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UN independent expert on the human rights situation in Sudan Aristide Nononsi (UNAMID Photo)

TRACKS employees were arrested by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) on May 22 and they have been charged 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 press statement on Wednesday, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard said the death penalty “is an extreme form of punishment. lf used at all, it should only be imposed after a fair trial that respects the most stringent due process guarantees as stipulated in international human rights law”.

“I am seriously concerned that any trial of these six people would not uphold such principles,” she added.

The statement added that TRACKS employees have faced constant targeting by the NISS over the past two years, saying “their offices have been raided twice, and their documents, equipment and passports confiscated”.

“In addition, they say they have been summoned, detained and tortured several times at the NISS office, where they were questioned about the organisation’s activities” read the statement

The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, said the charges brought against the six individuals “appear to be directly linked to their work in the defence of human rights, while exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association”.

“Sudan ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a binding instrument, which enshrines the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association and this sentence is likely to have a chilling effect among activists and human rights defenders in Sudan,” he added.

According to the statement, the human rights experts have jointly raised their concern to the Sudanese authorities about the ongoing harassment of TRACKS members and about the increasing targeting and prosecution of human rights defenders in general.

The Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, Aristide
Nononsi, said the arrest and trial of TRACKS affiliates “is part of an increasing trend to threaten, harass, or intimidate key members of Sudanese civil society, and to curb freedoms of expression and association, which are guaranteed in the Bill of Rights of the Interim National Constitution of the Sudan”.

Nonosi, who visited the country in April 2016, pointed that he had already expressed concern about this case to the relevant Sudanese authorities, stressing the need to allow rights defenders to carry out their activities in an open, safe and secure environment.

Amnesty International and four other rights groups on Tuesday called on the Sudanese government to drop charges against 10 human rights activists affiliated with TRACKS and immediately and unconditionally release three men in detention since May this year.

Meanwhile, during the first trial session of TRACKS affiliates on Tuesday, the prosecutor said the centre have connections with the Al-Khatim Adlan Centre for Enlightenment and Human Development (KACE) which was shut down by the NISS in 2012 after it was accused of being linked to the opposition and working to topple the regime.

“The six defendants are implementing external agenda and have links with suspicious organizations that call for foreign intervention. They hold training sessions that calls for foreign intervention in the country” he added.

The defendants, for their part, have objected to a number of the prosecutor’s accusations and described them as inaccurate.

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