The United States on Tuesday condemned the reported arrests of Darfur activists over the past days by Sudanese security agents and said it would raise the issue with Khartoum. “The United States is deeply concerned by the reported arrests of several human rights activists and the closure of the Darfuri radio station’s offices in Khartoum,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said.
“Radio Dabanga is a very important source of information, real time information in Darfur,” Crowley said.
The special US envoy to the region, Scott Gration, “will express these concerns directly with senior Sudanese officials during his meetings tomorrow (Wednesday),” Crowley said.
Separately, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said Washington “strongly condemns” the arrests and the reported shutdown of the Khartoum office of Radio Dabanga.
“These arrests indicate an emerging pattern of harassment and intimidation by the government of Sudan against civil society in advance of the scheduled January 9 referenda,” Rice said.
She was referring to votes on independence for southern Sudan and Abyei, part of a 2005 peace deal that ended a two-decade old civil war in Sudan which left an estimated two million dead.
Human Rights Watch called on the Sudanese government Tuesday either to charge or immediately release 10 Darfur activists that security agents have recently arrested in Khartoum.
Members of the group, which reports to international organizations and diplomats on the situation in Sudan’s war-torn western region, have complained of increasing scrutiny by Sudanese security officials in recent months, the rights watchdog said.
Darfur has been gripped by a civil war since 2003 that has killed 300,000 people and displaced another 2.7 million, according to UN figures. Khartoum says 10,000 people have died in the conflict.
Voter registration starts in southern Sudan on November 14.
Despite major delays, which have led to fears of new conflict in Sudan, the UN Security Council is still hoping that the votes in southern Sudan and Abyei region will go ahead on January 9.