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American human rights award for Sudanese lawyer

June 29 - 2018 CHICAGO
Sudanese lawyer Abdelrahman El Gasim, well-known member of the Darfur Bar Association (file photo)
Sudanese lawyer Abdelrahman El Gasim, well-known member of the Darfur Bar Association (file photo)

The American Bar Association (ABA) will honour Sudanese lawyer Abdelrahman El Gasim with the ABA International Human Rights Award, in recognition of his representing and expanding access to justice for victims of rights violations in Sudan.

El Gasim will receive the annual award on August 2 in Chicago, during the ABA meeting, which is given on behalf of the ABA Center for Human Rights, Section of International Law, Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, Section of Litigation and Rule of Law Initiative.

El Gasim, who is now living as a refugee in Uganda, played a pivotal role in co-founding the Darfur Bar Association (DBA), an institution that has lead the way in protecting human rights and civil liberties in Sudan, the ABA said in a press statement.

El Gasim himself conducts trainings on regional human rights legal systems and has represented the DBA on various occasions, growing it into an internationally recognised organization. He has, for example, facilitated the DBA’s participation at the Human Rights Council and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).

El Gasim has taken many risks as a human rights advocate. In September of 2010, he advocated for the extension of the United Nations mandate of the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Sudan at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. Because of his advocacy, El Gasim was arrested upon his return to Sudan and detained without due process. He was tortured for information and for his connections with human rights organisations, eventually being charged with “offenses against the state”. Charges were later dropped due to insufficient evidence.

Once the charges were dropped, El Gasim fled to Uganda to live as a refugee because of the governmental harassment he faced after his arrest. He recently submitted a resolution on the human rights situation in Sudan during an ACHPR Ordinary Session. This resolution calls upon the government to cease all violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, particularly in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states to ensure all persons held in custody are granted a fair trial

El Gasim has influenced many Sudanese lawyers, particularly those in marginalised areas, and his work has both directly and indirectly led to dozens of rights abuse cases being heard at domestic, regional and international levels, ABA said in the statement.

“We honour Abdelrahman El Gasim’s steadfast commitment to the protection of human rights and civil liberties for victims of rights violations in Sudan,” said ABA President Hilarie Bass. “His achievements are particularly extraordinary given the tremendous obstacles, intimidation and threats that he has faced.”

El Gasim appeared in the news in Sudan in 2015, when he briefed members of the UN Security Council on the importance to support the activities of the International Criminal Court and the warrant to arrest president Omar Al Bashir. In March 2017 he called on the security apparatus to reveal the names of all Darfuri detainees who were held in prison and allow their families and lawyers access.

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