Home | Press Releases    Tuesday 8 March 2005

Stepping up of Harassment on International Women’s Day

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SOAT

Sudan Organisation Against Torture
Human Rights Alert: 8 March 2005

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, 8 March, SOAT has received reports of how Public Order Police forces in Khartoum continue to harass and violate the fundamental human rights of women.

Over recent months, SOAT has received reports of the arbitrary arrest by Public Order Police forces of women for allegedly committing ’indecent and immoral acts’. During such arrests, mobile phones are often confiscated and searched for text messages which are later used in court as evidence, notwithstanding that it is an arbitrary interference of their privacy.

At 1am today, 8 March 2005, Public Order Police in Khartoum arrested five women aged between 25 to 26 yrs, as they were leaving a party at a private garden owned by a church in Algreif area of Greater Khartoum. Two of the women who attended the party, which was organised by recent graduates and students, are Christians from Southern Sudan.

The five women, who were wearing long trousers and shirts which the police considered to be indecent clothing, were officially charged under article 152 (Indecent and Immoral Acts) of the 1991 Penal Code.

On the same morning at 10am, the five women were taken before Al Sagana Public Order Court in Khartoum where they were found guilty by Mawalna Mustafa (Judge). Four of the women were fined 100.000 Sudanese pounds. The mobile phone of the fifth woman was confiscated by the order of the court. Images and text messages retrieved from her mobile phone were considered by the police as an insult to public morality. She was found guilty under article 153 (Materials and Displays Contrary to Public Morality) of the 1991 Penal Code. She was sentenced to 15 lashes and fined 170,000 Sudanese pounds.

The arrest of these women contradicts the declared government commitment to the Machakos Protocol (July 2002) and the subsequent six protocols based on this protocol including the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed on 9 January 2005. SOAT recalls the GoS’s position on the status of national capital; "The National Capital shall be a symbol of national unity that reflects the diversity of Sudan. It administration shall be representative. Khartoum shall be the capital of the Republic of the Sudan." In addition under article 2.5.2, "All human rights and fundamental freedoms as specified in the Machakos Protocol, and in the Agreement herein, including respect for all religions, beliefs, and customs shall be respected and enforced in the National Capital, as well as throughout the whole of Sudan". The continued targeting of people from Southern Sudan undermines the fundamental principles of the CPA and thus is unacceptable.

SOAT is gravely concerned that the government of Sudan is increasingly carrying out punishments of this nature against women. Punishments including lashing constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment according to the UN Convention Against Torture and the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.

SOAT urges the Government of Sudan to:-

i. Immediately cease the use of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments

ii. Ensure that charges and punishments are not carried out the same day as the conviction as it does not allow for an appeal to be heard.

iii. Ensure that all trials are fair and are held before an impartial and competent tribunal

iv. Guarantee the procedural rights of defendants at all times

v. Guarantee respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards, and conform to all recommendations made by the Human Rights Committee.

SOAT is an international human rights organisation established in the UK in 1993. If you have any questions about this or any other SOAT information, please contact us:

- Argo House
- Kilburn Park Road
- London NW6 5LF, UK
- Tel: +44 (0)20 7625 8055
- Fax: +44 (0)20 7372 2656
- Email: info@soatsudan.org
- Website: www.soatsudan.org

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Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

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