More than 40 Sudanese, regional and international organisations and individuals today sent an open letter to the United Nations Special Procedures regarding the TRACKS cases in Sudan.
In the letter, the civil society organisations urge the UN human rights groups and commissioners “to call on the Government of Sudan to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against ten staff members and affiliates of the Centre for Training and Human Development (TRACKS), an organisation which provides training on a range of issues from IT to human rights, in two overlapping cases that include crimes against the state. Crimes against the state charges carry the death penalty.
“We also call on you to urge the Government of Sudan to release TRACKS Director Khalafallah El Afif Mukhtar, trainer Midhat Afifeldin Hamdan, and the director of El Zargaa Organisation for Rural Development, Mustafa Adam, who have been arbitrarily detained for over six months, as well as guarantee the right to a fair trial in conformity with international and regional human rights standards.”
In an annex to the joint communiqué, a detailed report about the two cases facing TRACKS staff and affiliates is given. Officers of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) raided the premises of TRACKS in downtown Khartoum in March 2015. They conducted a second raid in February 2016.
TRACKS staff and affiliates present at the TRACKS office during the February 2016 raid received telephone calls instructing them to report to the NISS office in the Amarat area of Khartoum on 22 May. Nine staff members and affiliates reported to the NISS. The seven men among them were detained “in a 3m by 5m cell with twenty one other detainees at the NISS Prosecutor’s office”.
On 22 May, the NISS reactivated the criminal case against Khalafallah Mukhtar, Director of TRACKS director, and Adil Bakheet, a well-known human rights trainer, following the 2015 raid. They were charged with seven offences, including three under the category of crimes against the state.
Three staff members and a volunteer detained in February this year were released on bail in May and June. Khalafalla Mukhtar, Midhat Hamdan and Mustafa Adam are still detained, since 15 August in El Huda prison.
The defendants have been accused of being responsible for the International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment against President Omar al Bashir and the application of US sanctions against Sudan, despite both events taking place years before the establishment of TRACKS in 2013.
It has also been alleged that TRACKS has been conducting work on behalf of and has a financial relationship with the El Khatim Adlan Centre for Enlightenment and Human Development (KACE), a pro-democracy NGO that also worked to promote multiculturalism in Sudan before it was closed by the authorities in 2012.
The background report further states that the defence lawyers have not been granted copies of the documents and digital material, presented by the authorities as evidence of crimes against the state in advance of the court hearings.
“This included evidence of human rights activities carried out by staff and affiliates of TRACKS, such as a list of names of monitors belonging to a ‘crisis network’, the transcript of a conversation in a Whatsapp group called ‘human rights defenders’ concerning the current civil and political rights situation in the country, and a report concerning the alleged torture and extra-judicial killing of a human rights defender.
“Evidence presented to the court also included reports published by other organizations, such as a 2015 report on trafficking by Human Rights Watch, and an award-winning documentary film, “Beats of the Antonov”, about the impact of war on the people of the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains in Sudan, that were found on lap-tops seized during the 2016 raid. Prosecutors have alleged the film was produced by the rebel Justice and Equality Movement, an armed opposition group.
“Contrary to the NISS’ claims that all evidence presented was seized during raids on TRACKS offices, a number of items presented as evidence to the court on 20 October were in fact confiscated during raids on the home of TRACKS director Khalafallah Mukhtar and the homes of three of his relatives on 11 June 2016.
“Grant contracts between KACE and grant-making bodies, seized during a raid on the family home of KACE Director Dr El Bagir Mukhtar in Khartoum, have been presented to the court to support allegations that TRACKS is carrying out the work of KACE. However, no evidence showing a financial relationship between KACE and TRACKS has been presented,” the report reads.