UN human rights expert on Sudan urges release of political detainees and respect for freedom of the press
GENEVA, Switzerland, June 25, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, Mashood Adebayo Baderin, at the end of his 5th mission to the Sudan, urged the Government to enable a conducive environment for national dialogue by releasing political detainees and respecting the freedom of the press.
“During my visit in February, I had expressed optimism in the Government's proposition of a national dialogue as a promising peaceful means of addressing the political and human rights problems faced by the country,” Baderin said. “Regretfully, Sadiq Al-Mahdi, leader of the Umma Party, was arrested by security agents of the Government in May 2014, and Ibrahim Al-Sheikh, leader of the Sudanese Congress Party, was arrested in June 2014 for making certain public political statements.”
The Independent Expert specified he had assurances from the Government that Sadiq Al-Mahdi would be released, and was pleased to note that he was indeed released that very day, on 15 June. He urged the Government to also order the release of Ibrahim Al-Sheikh, and all other political detainees to further demonstrate its good faith and genuine commitment to the national dialogue.
Baderin also raised concerns about the condition of three youth activists, Muhammad Salah, Taj Elsir Jaafar and Muammer Musa Muhamed who have been detained by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).
“Based on reports I have received, I am concerned about the condition of these detained youths and was disappointed by NISS's refusal of my request to visit Muhammad Salah to enable me to verify his condition of health,” he said. “I urge NISS to either bring these youth detainees to trial before a competent court of law if there is evidence of any offence against them, or release them forthwith if there is none.”
The Independent Expert stressed that the situation of press freedom and media censorship remained worrying.
“Pre-publication and post-publication censorship continues and journalists are prohibited from writing or commenting on certain public matters considered as 'red lines' that must not be crossed,” he said. “Press freedom is an essential factor for meaningfully facilitating the national dialogue proposed by the Government. I must emphasise the importance of the national dialogue as a means for addressing the political and human rights problems of the Sudan peacefully, and I urge the Government to enable a conducive environment for the national dialogue, which include factors such as press freedom and freedom of expression.”
The escalation of conflict leading to further displacement of civilians in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile states from February to May 2014 was also of significant concern to the Independent Expert.
“The activities of rebel armed movements as well as government forces, particularly the Rapid Support Forces, have led to serious human rights violations in those States, including rampaging of villages, destruction of property, as well as sexual and gender-based violence,” he said. “I continue to receive reports of indiscriminate aerial bombings by government forces in the conflict areas and its consequential impact on civilians; the most recent one being the report of aerial bombing of a hospital run by Médecins Sans Frontières in the village of Farandalla in South Kordofan on 16 June. Such air strikes are a clear violation of the basic principles of the law of armed conflict and must stop. I also urge the armed movements to desist from indiscriminate attacks that result in human rights violations.”
Baderin specified that he was aware of the suspension of the activities of the ICRC in providing humanitarian assistance in these areas of conflict and had discussed the need for the Government to resolve this issue rapidly to enable the ICRC to resume its humanitarian services to the affected civilian population.
“I also urge the Government to improve humanitarian access to civilian populations in need of assistance,” he added.
Baderin confirmed he had received the Government's investigation report into the events of September 2013, on human rights violations that allegedly occurred during the protests relating to fuel subsidies. He said he would study the report closely.