Cross-posted from Blog for Darfur.
Reports are coming out of Sudan of intimidation, harassment and violent repression – leading up to the first nationally contested elections in 24 years. From the crackdown on protesters and opposition leaders in December to more recent detentions and abuses documented by Human Rights Watch and The Carter Center, political and personal freedoms are under assault in Sudan.
Earlier this week, a student with the Girifna movement was detained and tortured in Khartoum.
Girifna held a press conference in which Mahdi, the detained student, detailed his detention (in Arabic) and the organization has more information on their site (also in Arabic).
The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies released the following statement in response:
ACJPS Condemns the Silencing of Political Activists
On 15 March, Abdallah Mahdi Badawi, an 18 year old accounting student at Ahlei University and member of Girifna was detained and tortured in Khartoum. Girifna is an election and civic education campaign started by Sudanese youth during the registration period, and is colloquial Arabic for “we are fed up”. The movement is calling for free and fair elections, and uses orange as its signature color to signify its commitment to nonviolence and peaceful democratic change.
That afternoon, Mahdi received a call from “Hassan”, one of the newest members of Girifna. Hassan requested that Mahdi meet him at Khartoum University. When Hassan did not arrive, Mahdi entered the University; however, Hassan called moments later and the two met. Hassan was accompanied by another young man, and the three walked to a local café to discuss Girifna activities and plans. On their way, in an empty alley behind the café, Hassan and the other man pulled out pistols and forced Mahdi to follow them to an office. He was taken to a small room which had photos of Salah Gosh (the former Director of the National and Intelligence and Security Services, NISS) and tortured. He was beaten by 13 men with sticks, hoses, and electric wires, and interrogated as to the Girifna movements’ activities and sources of funding, and was taunted as to what he was “fed up” about. The agents placed a pistol near his head and pretended to squeeze the trigger, and threatened to make him drink a liquid that they claimed had a virus that would kill him. Mahdi was told that they were the same people who had killed Mohamed Musa, the Darfuri student found murdered in Omdurman in February.
A senior officer identified later as Lieutenant Mohamed Noor Aldaiem forced Mahdi to sign by fingerprint 6 pieces of paper, including an invoice that stated that he owed 100,000 Sudanese pounds to Lieutenant Aldaeim. His captors encouraged him to join the National Security forces. Other pages included a list of the names of Girifna members and their contact details, and a statement that Girifna receives funding and support from the SPLM. Mahdi was then released in an area unknown to him.
Arbitrary arrest, detention and torture violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the UN Convention against Torture. Information available to the African Centre indicates that Mahdi was targeted for no other reason than his association with Girifna and his involvement in peaceful political activities. The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies calls on the government of Sudan to respect the provisions of Article 39(1) of the Sudan Interim National Constitution, which provides that every “citizen shall have an unrestricted right to the freedom of expression, reception and dissemination of information”.
In the context of the elections, such actions by Sudanese authorities indicate a pattern of silencing civic engagement by its own people, which is demonstrative of severe restrictions on civil and political freedoms. The African Centre is concerned that free and fair elections cannot take place in such an environment. The unflinching resolve of Sudanese security services to infiltrate the Girifna movement, and to cause such serious damage to one of its members, shows an unwillingness to tolerate opposition voices.