Sudan: The judicial harassment of 5 defenders from TRACKs and the Director of ZORD continues

19/10/2016
Urgent Appeal

New information
SDN 001 / 1016 / OBS 084.2
Judicial harassment/
Arbitrary detention /
Ill-treatment in detention
Sudan
October 19, 2016

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Sudan.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the continuing judicial harassment against five human right defenders working at the Centre for Training and Human Development in Sudan (TRACKs) [1], namely Mr. Al Hassan Kheiry, a computer technician, Ms. Arwa Elrabie, the Administration Manager, Ms. Imany-Leyla Raye, a student volunteer, Mr. Khalafalla Al-Afif Mukhtar, the Director, and Mr. Midhat A. Hamdan, a trainer, as well as against the Director of Zarqa Organisation for Rural Development (ZORD) who had delivered training for TRACKs, Mr. Mustafa Adam, as well as the arbitrary detention of the last three (see background information).

According to the information received, on October 13, 2016, the trial against the six human rights defenders resumed before the Khartoum Central Criminal Court for charges under the 1991 Criminal Act of “undermining the constitutional system” (Article 50), “waging war against the State” (Article 51), “espionage” (Article 53), and “criminal and terrorist organisation” (Article 65). The offences of “undermining the constitutional system”, “waging war against the State”, and “espionage” carry the death penalty. Messrs. Midhat A Hamdan and Mustafa Adam are also facing charges under Article 14 of the Information Crime Law. These charges relate to accusations of producing, setting, sending, storing or promoting indecent content through internet, computer or alike that affect public order or morals. Under this provision, both defenders face additional sentences up to ten years of imprisonment and a fine.

On October 13, a power cut led the hearing to be held in a very small courtroom on the ground floor of the Court, thus preventing many journalists, activists, family members of the defendants as well as a diplomatic staff member from entering the room despite their protests, in breach of the principle of publicity of debates.

During the hearing, the Prosecutor continued showing evidence allegedly found on the laptops of the defendants. These included a number of evidences completely irrelevant to the proceedings, such as a list of names of invitees to the United Nations Human Rights Council and a letter addressing the German Democratic Republic [2].

The Observatory fears that after attempting to question the morality of the defendants during previous hearings, the Prosecutor is now trying to portray them as working against the Sudanese State. As the Prosecutor presents its evidences against the defendants, it appears more and more obvious that their trial aims at punishing their human rights work. Indeed, amongst the documents brought forward are a report on human trafficking in Sudan addressing the role of State forces as well as Mr. Mustafa Adam’s membership to the International Criminal Court Coalition.

The next hearing is scheduled on October 20, 2016 at 12pm.

As three of the defenders remain arbitrarily detained, namely Messrs. Khalafalla Al-Afif Mukhtar, Mustafa Adam and Midhat A Hamdan, the Observatory expresses concerns regarding Mr. Khalafalla Al-Afif Mukhtar whose health condition is deteriorating, as he suffers from heart condition and he does not have access to the appropriate medical care.

The Observatory urges the authorities to release immediately Messrs. Khalafalla Al-Afif Mukhtar, Mustafa Adam and Midhat A Hamdan and drop all the charges against them and Mr. Al Hassan Kheiry, Ms. Arwa Elrabie and Ms. Imany-Leyla Raye.

The Observatory firmly condemns the above-mentioned judicial harassment, which is the latest evidence of an increasing pattern of judicial harassment launched by the authorities targeting civil society organisations and human rights defenders in Sudan.

Finally, until all charges are dropped against them, the Observatory urges the Sudanese authorities to ensure that their conditions of detention are humane and that all judicial proceedings against the six are carried out in full compliance with his right to a fair trial, as protected under international law.

Background information:

On March 26, 2015, approximately ten plain-clothed National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) agents raided TRACKs’ premises, during the last day of a training on “social responsibility and active citizenship”. No search warrant was presented and computers and documents belonging to TRACKs were confiscated.

On April 16, 2015, Mr. Adil Bakheit, member of the Board of Trustees of the Sudan Human Rights Monitor (SHRM) [3],was arrested and charged with “joint acts in the execution of criminal conspiracy, undermining the constitutional system, waging war against the State, calling for opposition to public authority by use of violent or criminal force, publication of false news, and impersonating a public servant”.

In May 2015, Mr. Khalafalla Al-Afif Mukhtar was charged with a number of crimes, including “criminal conspiracy”, “undermining the constitutional system” and “waging war against the State” and later released on bail.

On June 3, 2015, Mr. Adil Bakheit was released on bail.

In February 2016, the State Crimes Prosecution Office dropped the criminal case.

On February 29, 2016, NISS officers raided for the second time TRACKs offices without any warrant and brought the staff present in the premises to the police station in order to interrogate them for 12 hours on TRACKs’ activities, including on their relation to the Al-khatim Aldan Center for Enlightenment (KACE) [4]. Moreover, the NISS officers severely threatened, verbally abused and ill-treated them for hours.

On May 22, 2016, Messrs. Khalafalla Al-Afif Mukhtar, Mustafa Adam, Midhat A Hamdan, Al Hassan Kheiry, Ms. Arwa Elrabie and Ms. Imany-Leyla Raye as well as three other TRACKs staff, Ms. Nudaina Kamal, accountant, Mr. Khuzaini El Hadi and Mr. Al Shazali Ibrahim Al Sheikh were summoned to the NISS Department in Khartoum. Only two of them were questioned and further threatened in relation to their personal activities, including their activism and sources of income, while others were kept waiting before all the individuals summoned were placed in custody pending further investigations.

Ms. Nudaina Kamal was released shortly after her arrest on the same day. Ms. Arwa Elrabie and Ms. Imany-Leyla Raye were released on bail on May 30; Messrs. Hassan Kheiry, Khuzaini El Hadi and Al Shazali Ibrahim Al Sheikh on June 7, 2016.

On August 15, 2016, Messrs. Khalafalla Al-Afif Mukhtar, Mustafa Adam and Midhat A Hamdan were transferred to Al Huda prison after spending almost three months in a narrow cell with poor ventilation and access to food5, no access to medication and limited access to toilet at the State Prosecution office and were charged for the same offences.

On September 22 and 29, 2016, the Prosecutor showed a number of personal pictures and materials found on the laptops of the defendants [5], although completely irrelevant to the charges and in blatant breach of their right to privacy and property. The Observatory fears that these were shown in an attempt to question the morality of the defendants. Furthermore, the Prosecutor claimed TRACKs’ activities were used to carry on the work of KACE despite being shut down by the authorities in 2012.

The Prosecutor also claimed that TRACKs was operating without being registered as a training centre, since their licence ended on March 27, 2015. However, TRACKs’ application to renew their licence in due time, which included the payment of registration fees to the National Centre for Training, has been delayed by the authorities due to “internal issues”. The status of their application is therefore still pending, which nonetheless enables TRACKs to legally operate under Sudanese legislation.

The hearing of September 29, which started with two hours delay due to the late arrival of both Prosecutor and Investigator, was eventually suspended due to a power cut.

On October 6, 2016, the Prosecutor continued showing evidence allegedly found on Mr. Mustafa Adam’s laptop and without any relevance to the proceedings. Amongst the documents brought forward, some of them were allegedly including “information about the Sudanese regime” [6].

The Prosecutor also presented the registration form filled out by TRACKs to the National Center for Training. In this document, TRACKs requests to be registered as a centre that works on trainings covering a wide scope of issues such as NGO, time and project management as well as proposal-writing, negotiations, conflict analysis and youth capacity-building. The Prosecutor thus argues that TRACKs is not registered to carry out trainings on human rights and human rights monitoring. Nonetheless, TRACKs’ vision of work has always included human rights throughout its trainings.

Lawyers of the defendants have requested evidences to be stamped by the forensic laboratory and cross-examined.

Furthermore, Mr. Khalafalla Al-Afif Mukhtar, Ms. Arwa Elrabie, Ms. Nudaina Kamal and Mr. Adil Bakheit are also facing the similar charges in another court case related to another raid conducted at TRACKs’ offices on March 26, 2015. The case was dropped on February 2016 by the State Crimes Prosecution Office, and re-opened by the same on August 15, 2016. Their first hearing should have taken place on August 24, 2016 but has already been postponed three times and no date for the next hearing has been set yet.

Actions requested:

The Observatory urges the authorities of Sudan to:

i. Release immediately and unconditionally Messrs. Khalafalla Al-Afif Mukhtar, Mustafa Adam and Midhat A Hamdan and guarantee in all circumstances their physical and psychological integrity;

ii. Drop all charges against Messrs. Khalafalla Al-Afif Mukhtar, Mustafa Adam, Midhat A Hamdan, Al Hassan Kheiry, Mrs. Arwa Elrabie and Ms. Imany-Leyla Raye, as they only aim at sanctioning their human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to any kind of harassment, including at the judicial level, against them, as well as against all human rights defenders in Sudan, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their activities without hindrances;

iv. Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular its articles 1 and 12.2;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Sudan.

Addresses:

·Mr.Omar Hassan Ahmadal-Bashir, President of Sudan, Fax:+249183783223

·M. Awad Al Hassan Al Nour, Minister of Justice of Sudan; Fax:249183764168/+249183770883; Email:moj@moj.gov.sd

·Advisory Council for Human Rights of Sudan, Rapporteur, Fax:+249183770883

·H.E. Mr. Mustafa Osman Ismail Elamin, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Sudan to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax:+41227312656/+41227161970, Email: mission.sudan@bluewin.ch

·Embassy of Sudan in Brussels, Belgium. Fax:0032(2)6483499, Email:sudanbx@yahoo.com

Please also write to diplomatic representations of Sudan in your respective countries.

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  • Co-signatories

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    Paris-Geneva, October 19, 2016

    Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

    The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

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