Sudan: Stop harassing journalists and human rights defenders

The ongoing prosecution, harassment, and intimidation of journalists and human rights defenders by the Sudanese transitional authorities is a clear violation of Sudan’s international human rights obligations and poses major setbacks to the democratic commitments of the transitional leadership, said global civil society alliance CIVICUS today.

Over the last few weeks, the Sudanese authorities have used criminal provisions which carry lengthy penalties to target journalists and human rights defenders. On 22 September 2021, journalist Otaf Abdelwahab Altom was arrested from his home and detained at the Al-Mugran Police Station in Khartoum. He was charged under Sudan’s Criminal Code for undermining the Constitutional System and waging war against the state. He is being denied access to his family and the charges levelled against him carry the death penalty.

“The Sudanese people have overcome huge challenges following the ousting of former President Omar Al Bashir and despite high hopes placed on the transition authorities, the targeting of journalists and human rights defenders is a major setback for Sudan’s democratic process,” says Paul Mulindwa, Advocacy and Campaigns Officer, CIVICUS

On 15 September, journalist Aisha Al-Majidi was arrested and accused of defamation for posting messages on social media calling for the dissolution of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). In the posts, she urged the authorities to use the infrastructure and resources of the Forces to construct hospitals, care homes, and orphanages for children in Sudan. The RSF were responsible for human rights violations and violent attacks on protesters during the previous regime and continues to cast a shadow over the transition period. Al-Majidi was released on 16 September but the case against her is pending. In another example, on 11 September, two human rights activists Musab Zakaria and Suleiman Jamal were arrested and charged with disturbing the public peace as they protested against the Vice President of the Sovereign Council and Commander of the RSF at a Mosque in the city of Omdurman. 

Background

Sudan’s Sovereign Council is charged with leading the country through the current transitional process that would lead to elections in November 2022. The Council has introduced certain reforms and has made commitments to release certain members of the former regime who are accused of human rights violations to the International Criminal Court (ICC). However, the tenure of the Sovereign Council has been overshadowed by human rights violations and restrictions on freedom of assembly. Protests, particularly those led by women, have been violently repressed and the RSF continues to detain and target civilians, human rights defenders and journalists.

Civic space in Sudan is rated 'repressed' by the CIVICUS Monitor.