‘Clamp-down on civil society as polls approach’: Sudan HRs Monitor
With the approaching Sudanese elections, the authorities have begun to further restrict the activities of civil society organisations in the country, the Sudan Human Rights Monitor (SHRM) stated on Monday.
In an elaborate report, the human rights organisation said that the month of January this year witnessed a narrowing-down of permissions granted by the authorities to civil society groups and organisations. The registration of some cultural and civil society centres was cancelled, while other organisations faced suspension or non-renewal of their license. The monitoring by security agents increased since December last year.
On 21 December, seven members of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) raided the offices of the SHRM, founded by Dr Amin Mekki Madani, in Khartoum. A workshop on the Universal Periodic Review of Sudan was stopped, and a number of laptops and documents were confiscated. The SHRM did not receive any formal communication from the Humanitarian Affairs Commission (HAC), under which it is registered, concerning the raid.
The Papa Costa restaurant in downtown Khartoum has opened its doors for free art exhibitions since its establishment in 2006. In December last year, the manager of the restaurant was summoned several times to the Khartoum state security office. On 27 December, an exhibition had to be stopped, under the pretext that the restaurant did not obtain permission. A day later, security officers accused the manager of organising political activities, and told him to request a permit for any activity in the future.
Security agents stormed the Mahmoud Mohamed Taha Centre in Omdurman on 18 January this year, whilst a ceremony commemorating the execution of the Islamic reformer in 1985 was taking place. On 21 January, the Centre received a letter from the Ministry of Culture, cancelling its registration.
Also in January, the National Civil Forum’s registration was cancelled, by the Registrar of Cultural Societies. The Forum is an independent organisation working in the areas of peace-building and democratisation, economic and social rights, and capacity-building of civil society organisations, and the monitoring of elections.
The registration of the Sudanese Writers Union (SWU) was cancelled on 29 January this year, by the Registrar of Cultural Groups within the Sudanese Ministry of Culture. The cancellation order provided a brief notification of the cancellation, without citing reasons or relevant legislation.
The SHRM also referred to a decline in the press freedom, as “an unprecedented number” of print-runs of daily newspapers were recently confiscated, many journalists were summoned by the security apparatus, and criminal charges were filed against some of them.
The human rights organisation called on “all concerned authorities to cancel the unexplained closure of civil society organisations, and allow them to resume their work”.
It demands a halt to the harassment of organisations that have to apply each year for an extension of their license. “Through different forms of pestering, and unlawful procedures, many civil society organisations are withheld from continuing their activities.”
The SHRM furthermore demands a “review of all laws governing voluntary work. The laws are to be adjusted to comply with the 2005 Interim Constitution, and Sudan’s international obligations”.
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