Another member of Sudan’s suspended Empowerment Removal Committee (ERC)* has been detained, as the coup authorities continue their crackdown on political opponents. Taha Osman Ishag, who is also a leading member of the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), was held by a joint force of police and security agents in central Khartoum on Saturday.
Ishag’s arrest follows the February 9 detention of the ERC leader, Wajdi Saleh, an outspoken voice and supporter of the dismantlement of the ousted Al Bashir regime, former Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Khaled Omar, and the Secretary General of the ERC, El Tayeb Osman, and subsequent February 13 detention of Mohamed El Faki, a former member of Sudan’s Sovereignty Council, and the alternate head of the ERC, as well as Maj Awad Karendis, another member of the ERC.
The opposition Forces for Freedom and Change FFC, the main drivers of the revolution that overthrew the 30-year Al Bashir dictatorship in 2019, and convenors of an ongoing campaign of civil disobedience and mass demonstrations since the coup, say the detainees are being held in a separate section of Soba prison.
In a statement on Sunday, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) condemned the “political arrest” of Ishaq, as “part of the arbitrary arrests campaign targeting the Resistance Committees, and anti-coup political and civil society groups”.
The campaign of detentions has prompted a chorus of condemnation locally and internationally. A joint statement by the Sudan Troika (Norway, the United Kingdom, and the USA), Canada, Switzerland, and the European Union) following the February 9 arrests points out that “these troubling actions are part of a recent pattern of arrests and detentions of civil society activists, journalists, and humanitarian workers occurring throughout Sudan these last weeks.
“We condemn this harassment and intimidation on the part of Sudan’s military authorities. This is wholly inconsistent with their stated commitment to participate constructively in a facilitated process to resolve Sudan’s political crisis to return to a democratic transition.”
In the statement, the signatory countries call for “an immediate end to such practices and for the immediate release of all those unjustly detained”.
On Wednesday, members of Sudan’s legal fraternity, resistance committees, and political parties, held a vigil outside the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Khartoum, denouncing the arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances of coup authority critics.
110 people are in their third day of detention in Soba prison, whilst many vocal opponents of the sitting military government are still missing. The vigil attendees issued a memorandum condemning the prolonged detention of those unlawfully detained and called on authorities to issue a statement on their conditions.
A number of lawyers addressed the vigil, praising the role of the lawyers. They also criticised the arrests without charges and preventing detainees’ families and lawyers from visiting them, as well as not allowing doctors to see them. The memorandum also described the current State of Emergency as illegal and called for it to be lifted immediately.
Sources have reported that the Director General of the Sudanese Standards Organisation, Sami Balla, was detained. Members of Balla’s family said, he was summoned by the committee reviewing the decisions of the ERC before they presented an arrest warrant against him.
* The full name of the committee is the Committee for Dismantling the June 30 1989 Regime, Removal of Empowerment and Corruption, and Recovering Public Funds. It was established by the government of Abdallah Hamdok at the end of 2019 with the aim to purge Sudan of the remnants of the Al Bashir regime. Empowerment (tamkin) is the term with which the ousted government of Omar Al Bashir supported its affiliates by granting them far-going privileges, including government functions, the setting-up of various companies, and tax exemptions.