A compact weekly digest of Dabanga Sudan's highlights of the news from Darfur and Sudan
♦ Sudanese missing in Jordan after deportation
December 21 – 2015 AMMAN A number of people went missing after Jordanian authorities forcibly evacuated a makeshift camp of Sudanese asylum seekers in Amman on 16 December, to deport them to Sudan.
Asylum seeker Habib Mohamed Adam told Radio Dabanga from the Jordanian capital that “children, brothers, and other family members disappeared in the chaos on Wednesday. We have not been able to find out their whereabouts so far”. He said that most of the Sudanese nationals, who were able to flee, are hiding in remote places in Jordan.
On Wednesday morning, the Jordanian police raided the tent camp set up by Sudanese asylum seekers in front of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) office in Amman. One of them told Radio Dabanga that 921 out of the about 1,000 people in the camp were detained. On Thursday, the deportation procedure of about 500 asylum seekers was completed. The Jordanian security imposed tight security on the rest of them.
Jordanian government spokesman Mohamed El Momani told the press that the decision to deport the Sudanese nationals was taken in coordination with the Sudanese authorities. He said that the definition of a refugee does not apply to the Sudanese, as they received a visa to visit Jordan for medical treatment.Yet, Sudanese asylum seekers reported more than once that the majority of those who were forcibly deported were carrying documents proving they are refugees.
The Jordan authorities gave the UNHCR a two hours’ notice of the deportation decision, spokesman Mohamed El Hawary reported on Friday. The asylum seekers said that Jordanian security officers stormed the place where they were sleeping Thursday night. “They threw tear gas and beat us before handcuffing and cramming us into buses to take us to the airport for deportation to Khartoum. Sudanese embassy staff members, accompanying the Jordanian security officers, just laughed while they saw us being beaten and humiliated.”
The people deported to Khartoum on Friday reported that they were treated “like criminals” upon arrival.
UNCHR spokesman El Hawari said that the agency does not have any assurances regarding the situation of the deportees, because they have not received a list with details about the approximately 800 Sudanese nationals who were and are to be forcibly deported to Sudan. He said that they are conferring with the Jordanian authorities to halt the deportation process, especially as the majority of the deportees from the Darfur region could be at risk if returned there.
The UNHCR is still awaiting a list with the names of the deportees, the spokesman said. In case the list includes people with refugee or asylum seeker status in Jordan, the agency will take the appropriate measures. El Hawari confirmed that 430 Sudanese were deported on Friday. The rest of the 800 people will be leaving on five Amman-Khartoum flights.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement on 16 December that the Jordanian authorities violated the international law which prohibits governments to return people to places where they risk persecution, torture, inhuman treatment, or degrading punishments.
While not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol, Jordan is nevertheless bound by the customary international law principle of non-refoulement, whether the person seeking asylum has been officially registered or not, HRW said. “Jordanian authorities should focus on ensuring the protection and well-being of this vulnerable group of Sudanese instead of trying to deport them.”
According to the Jordanian newspaper El Ghad 3,480 Sudanese are registered as refugees with the UNHCR in Jordan.
♦ Two Sudanese newspaper editors face death penalty
December 22 – 2015 KHARTOUM Two prominent Sudanese editors-in-chief are facing the death penalty over claims that they introduced anti-government editorial policies at their newspapers.
El Tayar editor Osman Mirghani and El Sayha editor Ahmed Yousef El Tai were detained by officers of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) last week. They were questioned for hours about articles that the prosecution said “would incite against the government and undermine the constitutional order”, and released by the state security prosecutor on personal bail. They face sentencing this week.
On 14 December, the entire print-run of El Tayar was confiscated. The following day, a NISS officer informed Mirghani by telephone that the newspaper was suspended indefinitely. Reasons would be given ‘later’. The editor-in-chief told Radio Dabanga that he did not rule out that the suspension of the newspaper was triggered by his editorials in which he sharply criticised the Finance Minister’s proposal to lift subsidies on basic commodities next year.
In an article in The Guardian on Monday, Mirghani says that his publication has been made a scapegoat for widespread criticism of the government. “We were held by security officers and taken with cars from our offices, and they accused us of inciting people against the regime,” he said. “I think the president is very angry about our media coverage of next year’s budget, and our criticism of the finance minister. So our newspaper is the scapegoat.”
Mirghani and El Tai are being charged under two articles of the Criminal Code. According to Feisal Mohamed Salih, a journalist and human rights activist, “the Code is in conflict with the Constitution which guarantees the right to freedom of speech”. [..] “The government is facing a genuine challenge this time, and we will see whether they will respect their own laws and Constitution, or not,” Salih said. “All over the world, the media shapes public opinion. Only in Sudan, when the newspapers disclose corruption or anything against the government, they get very angry.”
In an interview with El Sudani newspaper on Sunday, NISS director Mohamed Atta El Moula said that the measures taken against the Sudanese press are not “arbitrary” but based upon the law. Therefore, he noted, they are forced to take those measures.
He accused the Sudanese press of using sensationalism and exaggeration to attract readers, citing newspapers reports on child abuse incidents in school buses.
Last May, the NISS seized copies of ten newspapers and suspended four of them indefinitely in reaction to reports published by those newspapers on incidents of sexual harassment and child rape taking place on school buses.
“Sometimes we are forced to take an action against a major violation [by the newspapers] but strangely, when we suspended ten newspapers for one day for reporting the child abuse incidents, the issue was not directed against the NISS or its personnel but rather against the whole [Sudanese] society,” the security chief said.
Sudan ranks 174th out of 180 countries on the Reporters Without Borders’ 2015 press freedom index.
Other news highlights:
December 21 – 2015 OMDURMAN The Sudanese authorities destroyed two church buildings of the British Evangelical Lutheran Church in Omdurman, Khartoum state, in October, without any legal ground…
December 20 – 2015 KHARTOUM The Sudanese Ministry of Health has warned for a growing number of cases of sexual abuse of children in Khartoum state. Addressing a forum on gender-based violence…
December 20 – 2015 ADDIS ABABA Three-days of AU-brokered ‘informal talks’ between the Sudanese government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), were concluded…
December 18 – 2015 NEW YORK The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) this week chided the UN Security Council for its “empty promises” to bring Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir…
December 17 – 2015 EL FASHER / GIREIDA At least two farmers were killed and ten others injured by herders in North and South Darfur today. “A group of militant Abbala herders drove their camels and…
December 17 – 2015 NYALA Sudan’s Second Vice-President, Hasabo Mohamed Abdelrahman, has warned that regionalism and tribalism in Darfur will not lead to a secure situation. Addressing a public gathering…
December 17 – 2015 ED DAMAZIN Dozens of soldiers from the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and paramilitaries of the Popular Defence Forces have reportedly abandoned their posts in Blue Nile state, military…
December 16 – 2015 KHARTOUM The Minister of Minerals for Sudan, Ahmed El Sadeg El Karori, has acknowledged that Lake Nasser is heavily polluted. On Monday, he told the Parliament that…
This digest is an excerpt from the weekly Darfur & Sudan News Update. Subscribe to the newsletter here.