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Amnesty urges Sudan to free detained Chadian opposition leader

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April 27, 2006 (LONDON) — Amnesty International urged Sudanese authorities to free a Chadian opposition leader detained without charge since October last year in a Sudanese prison.

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Mohamat Sileck

Amnesty said in a press statement released today that the arrest of the leader of the Alliance Nationale de la Résistance (ANR), Mahamt Sileck is politically motivated. Sileck was arrested by the National Security Forces in the Sudanese capital and is being held in Dabak prison, Khartoum.

His arrest is reportedly linked to a disagreement within the ANR, and with elements of the Sudanese government, over the role of the ANR in Darfur. While Nour was closely working with the Sudanese army and its militia in Darfur, Sileck was travelling abroad to France and western Africa for meetings with other opposition figures.

In late October 2005, shortly after Sileck was arrested, Mahamat Nour formed the Rassemblement pour la Démocratie et la Liberté (RDL), composed overwhelmingly of former ANR members. It is widely reported that the RDL, shortly after its creation, received a significant increase in military assistance from the Sudanese government.

Until the formation of the RDL, attacks by Chadian armed opposition groups across the border from Darfur into Chad were very limited. But on 18 December 2005, Chad accused the RDL, along with the Sudanese government and the government-backed militia, the Janjaweed, of responsibility for a major attack on the Chadian town of Adre, which failed.

In late December, following the high profile attack on Adre, Mahamat Nour formed a new umbrella movement composed of seven other Chadian armed opposition groups opposed to President Idriss Déby, called the Front uni pour le Changement Démocratique au Tchad (FUC). The RDL remained the key player within this group. The FUC launched a coup attempt on 13 April 2006 from eastern Chad on the Chadian capital, N’Djamena.

Sileck was granted a visa by the Sudanese embassy in Paris and travelled to Khartoum with the Sudanese government’s permission, reportedly to attend a meeting with members of the Sudanese intelligence services organized by Mahamat Nour, ANR’s military commander based in Darfur.

Also, Amnesty urged French authorities to provide consular assistance to Mahamat Abbo Sileck or to arrange for the UNHCR to do so. According to Amnesty, France raised the issue with Sudan but has received no response.

Sileck is a Chadian national with refugee status in France. As such he cannot seek consular assistance from his native Chad. France, as a state party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, has an obligation to render administrative assistance to refugees they have recognized or to arrange for such assistance through an international authority, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The ANR was founded in 1994/95 by a former Chadian army chief of staff, Colonel Mahamat Garfa. In 2003, Garfa, after signing a peace agreement with the Chadian authorities, rejoined the government along with some ANR members.

Many ANR members disagreed with the peace agreement, and Mahamat Abbo Sileck, who previously was the international spokesman for the ANR operating largely in Europe, took over the group’s political leadership.

He was recognised by many as the President, but Mahamat Nour, the deputy and military commander based in Chad and Darfur, was reportedly dissatisfied with Sileck’s leadership. Sileck’s control over the ANR was therefore disputed.

(ST)

- On the Net : Mohamat Sileck

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