Sudan must end intolerance of dissent, HRW says

New York
September 21, 2011 (Sudan Tribune)

The Sudanese government must rescind its increased repression of dissent and release detained activists, a leading rights group said on Wednesday.

A press release by the New York-based Human Rights Watch said that government forces in Sudan have arrested more than 100 opponents of the government, banned political parties and restricted media coverage.

The human rights watchdog noted that among those arrested are members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N), a party bifurcated out of the ruling party in the newly independent state of South Sudan, as well as the prominent activist Abdel-Mon’im Rahamah.

Sudan has recently banned the SPLM-N, shuttered its offices and arrested its members as war intensified between Sudan’s army and the party’s fighters in the country’s border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

“Rather than trying to silence dissent by fear and intimidation, Sudan should promote political debate in the face of its complicated political challenges,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Increased repression will only breed further violence and abuse.”

HRW also condemned the waves of arrests and abuses that accompanied the outbreak of the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, citing reports of haphazard arrests, extra-judicial killings and house-to-house search targeting the Nuba population of South Kordofan.

“The government should immediately communicate the names of all detained men and women and the places of their detention to relevant community leaders and family members,” said Bekele. “Authorities should release or charge them and ensure access by family and lawyers.”

HRW further reiterated calls on Sudan to reform the law under which the country’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) operates, saying that the apparatus routinely uses its broad powers of arrest and detention against opponents of the ruling National Congress Party and is known for ill-treatment and torture of detainees.

Turning to the media front, HRW said that Sudan had tightened restrictions on newspapers through pre-print censorship and confiscations, denouncing these practices as an attempt to wall the public off information.

“These restrictions on press freedom and access to information stifle public dialogue about critical events concerning citizens,” said Bekele. “It appears Sudanese authorities are seeking to prevent public dialogue and keep information from the public and the international community.”

“With the South’s independence, Sudan has an opportunity to make long-promised reforms,” Bekele said. “It should immediately take steps to reverse the current wave of repression and show its commitment to civil and political rights for Sudanese people.”


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