Home | News    Thursday 18 March 2010

Brutal murder of Sudanese activist shocks and saddens many

March 17, 2010 (KHARTOUM) — The British police arrested an unidentified man for suspicion of involvement in the murder of a Sudanese anti-torture group lawyer at his home in South London this weekend, the BBC reported today.

Abdel Salam Hassan Abdel Salam (Evening Standard)

Earlier this week the police issued an appeal to the public for information about the killing of Abdel-Salam Hassan, 56 who died after being stabbed repeatedly in his stomach, legs and torso. The Guardian said that it appeared that the victim put up a fight with his assailant before falling dead.

A political motive behind the killing has not been ruled out by Scotland Yard though his neighborhood is said to be a relatively unsafe one.

The EXPRESS newspaper said that a neighbor walking her dog found his body at 7am on Saturday after seeing the door ajar.

Hussein had been the victim of repeated criminal incidents in the months before his death, including burglaries, antisocial behavior and harassment, the newspaper reported.

"We are looking at every aspect of his life, including his work as a human rights lawyer," said one police source. "He was quite a vulnerable individual as he walked with two sticks and weighed 22 stone and there were issues with where he lived."

"This was a brutal attack on a defenseless man, made more tragic as Abdel had devoted much of his life to combating abuse of human rights upon others" detective Chief Inspector Damian Allain from the homicide and serious crime command at Scotland Yard said.

The naturalized British citizen worked for Redress, a rights organization which helps torture victims around the world. He also previously worked for Human Rights Watch and Justice Africa.

The group’s director Carla Ferstman said that "there was a lot of concern here about his personal safety".

"He talked to us about what had been going on a great deal. He had been burgled and broken into several times. He talked to his colleagues about it a lot, he was not happy where he was living and his colleagues were concerned for him" Ferstman said.

"The work he did for us involved him working with civil society and the government in Sudan to promote law reform. But he was involved in the much more sensitive work of helping individual victims of torture to seek redress" she added.

Redress website showed condolences from Abdel-Salam’s peers and friend who hailed his work and efforts in the area of human rights. Many of them have last seen him at a conference in Uganda few weeks ago.

Alex de Waal, an Africa expert at the Social Science Research Council in New York wrote in his blog that Abdel-Salam "possessed a vivid curiosity about the complexities and paradoxes of their country".

"He was an unflinching advocate for human rights with a keen sense of the social and political context for making those rights real. He studied Islam deeply and mocked both the excesses of Islamist zealots, and those who were intimidated by them" De Waal said.

He is survived by his wife Wafaa Hussein, and had a 24-year-old daughter.