Home | Comment & Analysis    Tuesday 14 March 2017

Sudan: Recent release of political prisoners shouldn’t fool anyone


By Jehanne Henry

Last week, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir released 193 Darfuri rebel fighters from prison, some of whom had been there for nine years. He also waived the death penalty against 66 others. Days earlier, a Khartoum court released three civil society activists after ten months in detention.

These developments, lauded by onlookers, burnish Sudan’s image at a time when al-Bashir – wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged atrocities in Darfur – has been improving diplomatic alliances with the Gulf, Europe, and the US. In January, the US eased economic sanctions against Sudan, and the EU has earmarked major funds to Sudan for migration control.

But these prisoner releases are a standard piece in al-Bashir’s political playbook and do not signal real change to Sudan’s abysmal rights record. A deeper look shows that Sudan’s sprawling National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) detains activists for extended periods, often accusing them of espionage and other crimes that are punishable by death to intimidate and silence them. NISS has also targeted female activists with sexual violence and reputation smearing.

Human rights defender Dr Mudawi Ibrahim Adam has been in prison since December 7. He has yet to be charged. He went on hunger strike twice to protest the lack of charges. His driver and several associates, including Darfuri activist Hafiz Idris, were also detained. Idris, who hails from a sprawling displaced person’s camp in South Darfur, also remains in detention without charge, and credible sources report he was badly beaten.

Other, lesser-known activists are also locked up – not just in official prisons, but in unmarked buildings, offices, and private houses – today’s version of the eponymous 1990s “ghost houses” where torture and ill-treatment were commonplace. A former detainee and member of the opposition Sudanese Congress Party, who was held for 50 days after being picked up during the November 2016 crackdown on “civil disobedience”, was so badly beaten by security agents that he needed surgery. He told me that he saw other detainees who were beaten and even electrocuted in custody.

The reason for these violent, repressive tactics has always been clear to those detained. One opposition leader, a father of two who was held for 55 days in last November’s crackdown, explained to me, “It is to kill our will for change.” Sudan has not succeeded in this, judging by the proliferation of protest movements. Sadly, the government is still trying.

The author is a senior researcher in Human Rights Watch’s Africa division

The views expressed in the 'Comment and Analysis' section are solely the opinions of the writers. The veracity of any claims made are the responsibility of the author not Sudan Tribune.

If you want to submit an opinion piece or an analysis please email it to comment@sudantribune.com

Sudan Tribune reserves the right to edit articles before publication. Please include your full name, relevant personal information and political affiliations.
Comments on the Sudan Tribune website must abide by the following rules. Contravention of these rules will lead to the user losing their Sudan Tribune account with immediate effect.

- No inciting violence
- No inappropriate or offensive language
- No racism, tribalism or sectarianism
- No inappropriate or derogatory remarks
- No deviation from the topic of the article
- No advertising, spamming or links
- No incomprehensible comments

Due to the unprecedented amount of racist and offensive language on the site, Sudan Tribune tries to vet all comments on the site.

There is now also a limit of 400 words per comment. If you want to express yourself in more detail than this allows, please e-mail your comment as an article to comment@sudantribune.com

Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

The following ads are provided by Google. SudanTribune has no authority on it.

Sudan Tribune

Promote your Page too

Latest Comments & Analysis

President Kiir should extend equal justice recognition to John Agou 2018-03-17 08:35:01 By Deng Kur Deng Dear Mr. President, Is is the quest for equal justice that urges me to write to you today. Our quest didn’t begin with us, but it starts with you. All you have done for your (...)

Applying to the Arab League as the observer is recommendable but wrong time 2018-03-13 11:21:42 By Gatdiet Peter On 5 March 2018, a report from the Egyptian official news agency, MENA has flooded the media and captured a sharp attention of wider South Sudanese people that the Republic of (...)

Africa and UK Brexit 2018-03-10 22:34:34 By Ambassador Dhano Obongo Brexit is the media usage for Britain exiting the European Union (EU). After four decades of membership, last year England voted to quit the EU. Trade impacts will (...)


Latest Press Releases

Appeal for forgiveness and pardon of John Agou Wuoi 2018-03-07 08:28:08 H.E. Salva Kiir Mayardit, President and Commander-in-Chief, of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), Republic of South Sudan (RSS), 5th February, 2018. Through: Hon. Michael Makuei Lueth (...)

Petition for release of Agou John Wuoi from prison 2018-02-15 20:45:31 Open letter to South Sudan President Salva Kiir Your Excellency, Kindly please permit me to take this rare opportunity to appreciate you for every effort you have made toward making South Sudan (...)

AUHIP Communiqué on Sudan & SPLM-N talks for cessation of hostilities agreement 2018-02-05 13:04:16 African Union High-Level Implementation Panel for Sudan and South Sudan Joint Statement on Unilateral Ceasefire, Cessation of Hostilities and Completion of Negotiations 1) With the facilitation (...)


Copyright © 2003-2018 SudanTribune - All rights reserved.