On February 27 and March 2, 2018, Alkarama sent two urgent appeals to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) concerning the cases of three members of the Sudanese opposition who were arrested by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) in January 2018, and who remain secretly detained to date.
Amjed El Tayeb, Yousif El Koda, and Omar Ushari Ahmed Mahmoud disappeared after taking part in a protest in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, on January 16, 2018, during and after which the NISS arrested more than a hundred participants and journalists as well as opposition figures and activists.
The protest – organised by the Sudanese Communist Party and supported by the National Umma Party (NUP), Baath and the Sudanese Conference – was against government's recent austerity measures, which devalued the country’s currency and cut wheat subsidies, causing the price of bread to increase.
While Yousif El Koda and Omar Ushari Ahmed Mahmoud never returned home on the day of the demonstration, Amjed El Tayeb was arrested by members of the NISS near his home two days later. A doctor by profession, 33-year-old El Tayeb is also a human rights defender specialised in the rights of refugees. In the past, he has been highly critical of Sudan's Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a branch of the NISS involved in the detention of asylum seekers – including Eritrean refugees – at the Sudanese border.
El Tayeb’s detention falls under the scope of the 2010 National Security Act, which allows the NISS to hold detainees for up to four-and-a-half months without judicial review. Though his family challenged the legality of his detention before the constitutional court, invoking the arbitrary nature of his arrest, El Tayeb remains in secret detention to date.
Omar Ushari Ahmed Mahmoud's arrest and subsequent detention follows a similar pattern. Violently arrested while taking part in the demonstration under the banner of the Sudanese Communist Party, the 39-year-old political writer was taken into custody at an undisclosed location.
Yousif El Koda, a 65-year-old lawyer, has been targeted by the Sudanese authorities in the past as a result of his involvement in the opposition movement. In February 2013, he was arrested upon his return from Kampala, Uganda, where he had attended a meeting with other members of the Sudanese opposition, and he was subsequently detained incommunicado for 48 days. Fearing further persecution, he fled to Switzerland, where he obtained political asylum. In the aftermath of a national dialogue process initiated by the government, El Koda was able to return to Sudan in 2016, and he is the current president of the opposition party El Wasat Islamic Party.
Although many of those arrested in connection with the January 16 protest have now been freed, El Tayeb, El Koda and Ushari Ahmed Mahmoud remain detained in secret without access to their lawyers and families. Alkarama submitted their cases to the WGEID on February 27 and March 2, requesting that the Working Group intervene with the Sudanese authorities to ask them to immediately release the three men or at the very least to put them under the protection of the law.
In response to the arrests and the wider crackdown on peaceful dissent in the country, Rachid Mesli, Alkarama’s Legal Director stated: “It is deplorable to witness such a crackdown on dissent whenever individuals stage demonstrations critical of the government and its policies.”
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