Lagos, Nigeria - Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday called on the Sudanese authorities to release or charge to court the six opposition members in its custody, saying their continued detention without charges violates due process.
The six are members of parties that participated in negotiations with rebel groups in January over an agreement endorsing peaceful and armed opposition to Sudan’s government.
HRW said in a statement posted on its website that while detention for taking up arms against
the government, or incitement to do so, is a legitimate ground for detention, Sudanese security agencies have overly broad powers of arrest, and that they routinely deny detainees, including those arrested on lawful grounds, their fundamental due process rights, making the detentions arbitrary and unlawful.
“Sudan should release the six detainees or promptly bring credible charges against them,” the statement quoted Daniel Bekele, Africa director at HRW, to have said.
“These weeks-long detentions violating due process rights underscore the need for a major overhaul of Sudan’s national security agencies and the laws that govern them,” he said.
Between 7 and 14 Jan. 2013, Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) detained six leading members of opposition parties in connection with their participation in a conference in Kampala, Uganda.
At the Kampala negotiations, from 2 to 5 Jan., some political opposition groups and rebel groups signed the New Dawn Charter, stating a common goal of changing the government through both armed and peaceful means.
Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party leaders in Khartoum have heavily criticised the New Dawn Charter agreement and its signatories, with President Omar al-Bashir on 10 Jan. publicly threatening to ban all the political parties that signed the document.
Several of the parties that attended the Kampala negotiations did not sign the agreement or later retracted their signatures.
One detainee was released after two weeks. But another opposition party leader was arrested on 14 Feb. after he signed a separate agreement that did not endorse armed opposition.
Five of the current six detainees, all over age 50, are being held in the national security wing of prisons in Khartoum and Omdurman, while the whereabouts of the sixth is unknown.