Concern over reported arrest of women activists

9 June (IRIN)

The Swiss-based human rights group, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has expressed concern over a recent incident in which Sudanese security forces reportedly arrested a group of women activists, and it urged the authorities in Khartoum to conduct a "thorough and impartial" investigation.

According to an OMCT statement, about five officers from the Sudanese National Security Agency (NSA) on 2 June arrested 38 activists from the Nuba Mountain Women's Association and three men who were accompanying them. The arrests came as the group was leaving Khartoum, the capital, for a women's conference for peace and development in Kawda town, in the Nuba Mountain region of central Sudan.

The officers, armed with AK-47 rifles and pistols, transported the group to the NSA offices, where they were "searched in an antagonistic manner and insulted verbally", according to the statement issued on Friday.

The NSA officials reportedly confiscated personal items from the group, including mobile phones, money, computer equipment and documents. The group was released in batches between 2 and 3 June but ordered to report daily to the NSA offices in Khartoum, OMCT said.

OMCT said the NSA had also closed down the offices of Ruayya Association, another women's organisation in Khartoum.

"OMCT condemns the continuing restrictions on freedom of association in Sudan and the harassment of women's human rights activists," the organisation said.

The anti-torture body urged the Sudanese authorities to guarantee respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards. It also urged Khartoum to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Sudanese government officials could not be reached for comment.

The Nuba Mountain region is one of the areas affected by the conflict in the southern part of Sudan between the Khartoum government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army. It is currently under an
internationally monitored ceasefire.