The 14 medical doctors detained incommunicado by Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) since 31 October may be subjected to torture, says the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS).
At least 49 other doctors participating in the strike across Sudan have been summoned by the NISS since 27 October, and ordered to report daily to various security offices. Several of them have also been threatened with dismissal from their jobs at the state owned hospitals.
On 6 October, doctors and medical professionals in various parts of Sudan embarked on an open-ended strike. They demanded protection while working, a pay rise, and better working conditions. A week later the medical staff of 136 state hospitals had joined the action.
After reaching an agreement with the Vice-President and the Minister of Health on 20 October, the doctors temporarily called off the strike to give the government more time to implement its commitments.
Two weeks later, the Sudanese Doctors’ Central Committee (SDCC) announced the resumption of the strike for two days a week, as “the authorities have not kept their commitments”. The doctors would only perform life-saving and emergency services again during the renewed strike. The NISS, that had been harassing striking medics before, now began detaining them.
In a press statement on Thursday, ACJPS states that Dr Hussam Khalifa, National Coordinator of the SDCC, is being held at the NISS headquarters in El Obeid, capital of North Kordofan, ACJPS reports. Dr Emad Ali, the coordinator of the SDCC in El Geneina, capital of West Darfur, has been transferred to an unknown place.
Twelve doctors held in early November are currently being detained in Khartoum North at “the Political Department of the NISS offices close to the Shendi bus station”: psychiatrist Ahmed Abdelwahab Alabwaby, who was detained from his home in Atbara in River Nile state on 1 November; Hassan Karar Mamoun, surgeon at the Khartoum Teaching hospital; Omar Ahmed Salih, general physician at the El Jazeera Surgery Centre, and SDCC secretary-general; Mohamed Abdellateef, abdominal specialist at Khartoum Bahri Hospital and chair of the SDCC’s Central Council; Mohamed El Motaba, abdominal specialist; Abdallah Gorashi, deputy head of Emergency Department at the Omdurman Teaching Hospital; Jihad Abdelmonim, paediatrician at the Khartoum Teaching Hospital; Mohamed Bashir Helali, surgeon at the Ibrahim Malik Hospital; Abdelmoiz Bakheet Elamin, detained at the Police Hospital in Khartoum, and medics Nasir Shaga Nasir, Ahmed El Sheikh, and Sid Genat.
ACJPS expresses its “serious concerns for the safety and well-being of the 14 doctors detained without charge or access to their lawyers, family members, or medical assistance”.
There is particular concern for the safety of Emad Ali, who was detained on 31 October whilst he was performing surgery at El Geneina hospital, following an armed raid on the hospital by NISS officers the previous day. Ali was released but later held again, and reported that he had been beaten during the first detention. Authorities have refused to disclose his whereabouts.
The African centre also condemns the repeated summoning of dozens of striking doctors by the NISS throughout the country.
At least 49 doctors have been summoned by NISS from hospitals throughout Sudan since 27 October. Their names are on file with ACJPS. They have been interrogated about their role in the strike, political affiliations, and the coordination of the strike, before being released and ordered to report back daily. Those working in state hospitals have been threatened with dismissal.
When reporting back, the doctors are forced to sit for hours in the reception without interrogation, effectively blocking them from participating in the strike as well as providing medical care for their patients.
The SDCC that organised the strike is is an independent body. All doctors in Sudan belong to the Sudanese Doctors’ Union, a state-controlled regulatory body which issues licenses to doctors in the country. Though there are no exact figures, the vast majority of doctors are employed at state hospitals, ACJPS states.
ACJPS calls on the Government of Sudan “to immediately guarantee the safety of all 14 detainees held by the NISS, grant them immediate and unequivocal access to their lawyers and family members, and release them in the absence of valid legal charges consistent with international standards.
“The lack of access for lawyers and family members to the doctors detained in NISS custody, together with the well-documented use by the NISS of torture and other forms of ill-treatment against detainees, gives rise to serious concerns for their safety.”
Under the 2010 National Security Act, detainees can be held for up to four and a half months without judicial review.