A Sudanese human rights defender has been charged with publishing “false news” under Article 24 the 2018 Cybercrime Act, based on Facebook post discussing the health situation in Sudan, announced the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) on Friday.
On November 29, two policemen arrived at the house of human rights defender, Khadeeja El Deweihi in El Isba neighborhood in Khartoum.
According to the ACJPS statement, the police met one of her relatives at the main gate and lied about being former colleagues of El Deweihi from the Ashorooq TV channel. The officers were let in and when El Deweihi met them, she did not recognise them. One of them told her that they knew her contract with Ashorooq TV had ended but they had something for her. He then handed her a document summoning her to appear for questioning at the police station on November 30 in relation to a criminal a complaint under article 24 of the Cybercrimes Act.
The following day, El Deweihi went to the police station with her sister. She was interrogated about posts on her Facebook account written on May 13 concerning the health situation in Sudan. El Deweihi admitted that it was her Facebook account and that she wrote the post. The investigator questioned why she wrote about health issues when she is an agricultural engineer. She was released that day.
On the morning of December 14, she was summoned to appear at the Office of the Prosecutor at 12:00 to complete the investigation. She was asked the same questions as before, in addition to a question about her political affiliation and her engagement with the Communist Party of Sudan (CPoS). El Deweihi stated that she shared posts on Facebook in her personal capacity.
She was summoned again on December 16 and was interrogated about her relationship with the Graduate Association and their Facebook account. She denied any relationship with this association.
On March 18, the Prosecutor in charge of cybercrimes charged El Deweihi with publishing false news online under articles 24 and 25 of the 2018 Cyber Crimes Act and issued an order to refer the case to the court for trial. “No court session has been held yet, but she will be summoned before a court at any given time,” said the ACJPS statement.
In a statement, ACJPS urged the Sudanese authorities “to respect and guarantee the right to freedom of expression as provided for in article 56 of the 2018 Constitutional Declaration and international and regional human rights treaties that Sudan is a state party to.” The organisation also called on the government “to ensure that this freedom is protected both online and off-line,” and “instruct its law enforcement agencies to cease harassment and intimidation of individuals exercising their rights legitimately.”
The decriminalisation of false news should also be a priority for the Sudanese government, said ACJPS, proposing a law reform to adhere to regional and international standards to which Sudan is committed, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
ACJPS has also called on the authorities to take the necessary steps, legislative and others, to put an end to discriminatory actions that impair equal enjoyment of rights by women, after a human rights and women’s rights defender was sentenced to one year in prison over a Facebook video she broadcast.