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Human Rights Watch: Sudan prisoner release left many activists behind

February 23 - 2018 NAIROBI
Protest in Omdurman on 17 January (RD)
Protest in Omdurman on 17 January (RD)

Dozens of prominent activists remain in detention in Sudan, despite the release of more than 50 people on February 18 and 19, 2018, according to a report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Many of those still held are in unknown locations and without access to lawyer or family visits in conditions that may constitute enforced disappearances and put them at risk of abuse, the report says.

HRW calls on Sudan to urgently release all detainees, or promptly charge them with a recognisable crime in procedures that uphold due process and ensure that they are allowed family visits and medical care.

“Sudan’s tactic of silencing dissent through mass arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, and other rights violations needs to stop,” said Jehanne Henry, senior Africa researcher at HRW. “The world should know that, despite Sudan’s release of some protesters as the cameras rolled, dozens of activists remain hidden behind bars in limbo without access to their families, lawyers, or due process.”


Since early January, Sudan’s government has violently suppressed peaceful protests against austerity measures and has repeatedly confiscated newspapers that have covered the protests. Sudanese rights groups estimated that 131 people were detained between January 13 and 20 alone, many during opposition party-organized protests in Khartoum and Omdurman on January 16 and 17. National security officials continue to arrest people at their homes or offices, or at meetings. They arrested at least three communist party members at their homes on February 18 and 19. The rights groups estimate that at least 90 people are still being held.

On February 18, the government announced it had released 80 detainees, but Sudanese groups monitoring the releases told HRW they counted approximately 50. Most were released from Kober prison, Khartoum’s main prison, and from a national security prison in Khartoum in an event that drew considerable news coverage. The released detainees included more than a dozen female activists who were held at the Omdurman women’s prison for over a month.

EU calls for release

The Sudanese government's decision to devaluate the local currency in January and rising bread prices sparked ongoing protests across the country, which have resulted in police killing at least one protester and arresting hundreds of activists. In the past weeks the United States’ embassy in Sudan, the European Union Delegation to Sudan, and press freedom advocate groups including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on Khartoum to release these political detainees as soon as possible.

Read the complete Human Rights Watch report here

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