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Freedom of Expression under threat in Red Sea State

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SOAT - Sudan Organisation Against Torture

Human Rights Alert: 25 August 2005

Freedom of Expression under threat in Red Sea State;

Harassments and threats to Beja Writer

On 7 August 2005, Security Officers from Sinkat, Red Sea State, Eastern Sudan summoned the well known Beja writer, Mr. Mohamed Adroub Ohaj, (63 yrs). Mr. Ohaj, who is also a retired teacher was visited at his home and taken by the security officers to their offices for questioning.

At the security offices, Mr. Ohaj was questioned by security officers about his recently published book, ?Beja Congress Past and Present’, his political affliction to the Beja Congress and his relatives. Mr. Ohaj was released on the same day and ordered to return to the security offices two days later, 9 August 2005.

On 9 August, he was again ordered to return to the security offices on 10 and 11 August to meet with the Director General of the National Security Bureau in the Red Sea Province. On 11 August, Mr. Ohaj was interrogated by the Director General of the NSB about certain chapters in his book, ?Beja Congress Past and Present.’ The Director General informed him that he was required to either amend or to delete the pages 54 - 55 and page 66-69 of the book before circulation because the text in those pages was critical of the government and posed a threat to national security.

Mr. Ohaj refused and suggested that if the accuracy of those pages were in doubt, then a Court of Law ought to decide. Following this refusal, Mr. Ohaj was threatened and verbally abused.

The following day, the NSB summoned Mr. Ohaj’s son, Mr. Ahmed, (33 yrs) to the security offices where he was informed that his father had refused to cooperate with the NSA and that if his father continued to be uncooperative, he would be detained and imprisoned as his book violated the National Security Act.

Mr. Ahmed was threatened by the security officers and asked to sign a statement promising that he would tear of the offending pages before circulating the book. Mr. Ahmed duly signed the statement.

The NSA has thus far confiscated 288 copies of the book from Port Sudan and Sinkat. Mr. Mohamed is summoned to the NSA offices regularly for questioning.

Background

Mr. Mohamed Adroub Ohaj graduated from the faculty of education, Khartoum University in 1966. Mr. Ohaj is an accomplished academic and is the author of two historical books on Beja history and two fictional novels. Prior to his retirement, Mr. Ohaj was a teacher at several schools in Sudan and has previously worked in Oman and Yemen. Mr. Ohaj is currently in the process of writing a dictionary of the Beja language, a book which would otherwise not be written.

The right of freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Sudanese Interim Constitution, which came into effect on 9 July 2005. Article 39 asserts that “Every citizen shall have an unrestricted right to the freedom of expression, reception of information, publication, and access to the press without prejudice to order, safety or public morals as determined by law.” In addition, article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; the right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.”

Whilst, SOAT understands that Eastern Sudan remains under State of Emergency rules with many rights suspended, the Interim Constitution states under the article 27 (1) “The Bill of Rights is a covenant among the Sudanese people and between them and their governments at every level.” Thus, SOAT calls on the government and its state organs including the National Press and Publications Council to take effective measures to ensure that rights guaranteed by the Interim Constitution is disseminated to its security organs and to the whole of Sudan.

The practice of State security police monitoring and censoring of academic books is unacceptable in the new Sudan. SOAT condemns the targeting of Mohamed Adroub Ohaj and his son Mr. Ahmed for intimidation and harassments for expressing opinions deemed contrary to those of the government.

SOAT urges the Government of Sudan to:

- i. Immediately end the harassment and intimidation of Mohamed Adroub Ohaj and his family;

- ii. Guarantee, protect and implement the Bill of Rights as enshrined in the Interim Constitution;

- iii. Comply with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which the government is obligated State Party;

- iv. Cease the use of the Penal Code to threaten and to allow full freedom of expression in accordance with international human rights standards;

- v. End restrictions on freedom of expression, allow full and open reporting of, and comment upon the current state of affairs in Sudan;

- vi. Guarantee the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with national laws and international human rights laws and standards.

The above recommendations should be sent in appeals to the following addresses:

His Excellency Field Marshal Omar Hassan al-Bashir
President of the Republic of Sudan
President’ s Palace
PO Box 281, Khartoum, Sudan
Fax: + 249 183 783223

His Excellency Salva Kirr

First Vice-President
People’s Palace

PO Box 281, Khartoum, Sudan
Fax: + 249 183 771025

Prof. Ali Mohamed Ali Shommou
President
The National Press and Publications Council
P O Box 11111
Osman Digna St.
Khartoum East
Sudan
Fax: + 249 183 77 19 25

Dr. Abdelmuneim Osman Mohamed Taha
Advisory Council for Human Rights
PO Box 302
Khartoum, Sudan
Fax: + 249 183 770883

SOAT is an international human rights organisation established in the UK in 1993. If you have any questions about this or any other SOAT information, please contact us:

SOAT
Argo House
Kilburn Park Road
London NW6 5LF, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 7625 8055
Fax: +44 (0)20 7372 2656
E-mail: info@soatsudan.org

Website: www.soatsudan.org

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Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

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