Ethnic detentions continue in Sudan, lawyers targeted by both warring parties

Elsadig Dawelbeit, of Darfuri origin, detained since April 21 in Atbara, River Nile state (Photo: Supplied)

Agents of Sudan’s Military Intelligence, the General Intelligence Service (GIS), and ‘special forces’ this week detained several human rights defenders in Sennar and White Nile state. Ethnically based detentions continue in northern Sudan.  

Mohamed Jawda, member of the steering committee of the Sudanese Bar Association, told Radio Dabanga that they are closely following the developments in Sennar, parts of which were attacked by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on Saturday, and in White Nile state, which is still under control of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF).

“It is clear that both parties to the war are targeting human rights defenders in these two states,” he stated.

Information about the fate of human rights defenders in Sennar is difficult to obtain, as communication with a large number of lawyers in Singa and surroundings was lost since the first day of the RSF attack on the state capital.

“We know that several lawyers in Singa were detained, both by the SAF and the RSF. Together with members of the local emergency rooms, we are trying to follow up on this matter as well as on the missing lawyers, hoping they managed to reach safe areas,” Jawda said.

“In Rabak, the capital of White Nile state, there is a fierce campaign taking place against them” he continued. “A joint force of Military Intelligence agents and members of the General Intelligence Service (GIS) has been raiding in offices of lawyers this week.

“The detention of four layers has been confirmed. The families of those who managed to flee are being terrorised and intimidated to provide information about their whereabouts.”

According to El Hadaf newspaper, GIS agents also held Adam El Degnawi, prominent lawyer, deputy chair of the White Nile Bar Association, member the Democratic Lawyers Association, and of the mainstream Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party. He was detained by GIS officers and private security agents from another lawyer’s office in Rabak and took him to an unknown location.

The same force raided a number of lawyers’ offices at the Rabak Market, and took three of them, blindfolded, with them to an unknown location.

Northern Sudan

The Darfur Bar Association (DBA) and partners reported yesterday that two young brothers of Darfuri origin are being held in Atbara Prison in River Nile state since April 21.

In a press statement, the DBA states that Military Intelligence officers and policemen stormed the home of teacher El Tahir Dawelbeit in El Hurra village in El Kotiab and took his sons Adel and El Sadig to Atbara, where they were charged of undermining the constitution (Articles 50 and 51 of the 1991 Penal Code).

Dawelbeit, a retired teacher, is “a prominent figure in the Darfur region and Sudan,” the statement reads. In recent years, he is suffering from kidney failure, and he relies on his two sons for the follow up of his treatment.

Adel and El Sadig were held together with other volunteers in the village. After checking their identification cards, the people originally from the north were released, while the Darfuri (where many RSF members as well as rebel fighters come from) remined detained.

The DBA strongly denounces “these practices of social and regional discrimination” and warn of “the use of suspicion as an entry point to target those from western Sudan and hold them on charges under the articles containing crimes against the state and the undermining of the constitutional order”.

Dawelbeit told Radio Dabanga that he did not want to complicate the situation of his sons by going to the press. “I have not made a statement to any party, but what forced me now to break the silence is that my sons have spent already 75 days in army cells without their case having been investigated, and without them being brought to trial or released.”

After two days of incommunicado detention, his sons were taken to Zaidab Prison and from there to the Artillery Intelligence offices in Atbara. After about 45 days, they were transferred to the Atbara Police Central Investigations Department.

The two young men were held together with more than 120 others. “They were released, except for about 30 people, who are almost all from western Sudan,” the retired teacher stated.

“It is clear that these detentions and charges come within the regional and racist framework sweeping through Sudan since the start of the war.”


Since war broke out between the Sudanese army and the RSF in mid-April last year, young volunteers and activists, often members of the grassroots resistance committees and local emergency rooms, and also lawyers, journalists, and medics, have been targeted.

The RSF often detain them arbitrarily ‘on the spot’, but the practices of Military Intelligence and the GIS, whose powers were broadened in May, reportedly concentrate more on “preventive detentions”. These are done in a systematic manner, as the MI officers are usually well informed about their targets, mostly activists and politicians.

Detainees are also tortured to death. In early May, lawyer and politician Salah El Tayeb, was beaten to death by MI agents in El Gezira. The Sudanese Congress Party said he was detained by “the Islamists who have the armed forces in their grip”.

In December, several human rights groups and political bodies in Sudan condemned the widespread detention campaigns by Military Intelligence and Islamist groups against civil society activists. “The remnants of the Al Bashir regime seek victory of the army, whatever it may cost, in order to take over the country again.”

In early April, the National Committee for War Crimes and Violations by the RSF) filed criminal charges with the Port Sudan Prosecution Office in Red Sea state against 17 leaders of the political Tagadom Coordination Committee.