“This unwarranted action of the government against three Sudanese non governmental organizations which were operating totally within the law makes us fear for the future of civil society and free expression in Sudan,” said Dr Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, SUDO (UK)’s Chairperson.
The three organizations closed are: the Sudan Studies Centre, a centre for research and discussion on all aspects of Sudanese life, which was closed by the Ministry of Culture on 24 December 2012; the Narrative and Criticism Forum, closed on 27 December 2012, and the Khatim Adlan Centre for Enlightenment and Human Development, a centre for debate, discussions, and research, which was closed by the government’s Humanitarian Affairs Commission (HAC) on 31 December 2012.
The closure of the organizations was done without any respect for legality. For instance, in closing the Khatim Adlan Centre a delegation of six members of HAC came without warning, refused to allow the legal advisor of the Centre to attend, and listed all the contents of the Centre, including the employees’ personal possessions, before locking the building.
On 30 December 2012 civil society activists organized a peaceful gathering to hand over a petition against the government’s crack-down on civil society to the National Human Rights Commission. The security forces not only prevented those assembled from entering the NHRC offices, but detained the commissioners, who were prepared to receive the memorandum, inside their offices. The security later used force to beat up and disperse the gathering. On 6 January 2013 the security services dispersed a further peaceful assembly of civil society representatives who planned to present the memorandum to the President.
Harassment of civil society organizations, independent media and independent expressions of opinion has been building up throughout 2012 and is part of a long history of government attempts to stifle independent civil society activists and organizations who raise human rights concerns.
In March 2009 three leading human rights organizations, the Khartoum Centre for Human Rights, the Amel Centre for Victims of Torture and the Sudan Social Development Organization (SUDO) were banned after President Omar al Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court. All of the assets of these organizations were seized.
SUDO fought the illegal ban in the Sudanese Courts, and eventually won its case in April 2010 when the Administrative Appeals Court ruled that the closure of SUDO was illegal. However nearly three years later SUDO is still not allowed to operate in Sudan. Its offices remain sealed, and properties, such as computers and vehicles, have never been returned.
“The SUDO case shows that the Sudanese government does not respect its own establishments, having ignored the rulings of the judiciary and now bypassing the government’s National Human Rights Commission,” said Dr Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, former Chairperson of SUDO, and Chairperson of SUDO (UK). “The closure of these organizations makes us fear that freedom of expression within the law and civil society’s legal activities to help victims and promote human rights will again be smothered. This must not be allowed”.
SUDO calls on the Sudan Government to implement the proposals of the Confederation of Civil Society Memorandum to the President by reversing its decision to close the three civil society organizations and ending restrictions and harassment of non-governmental organizations and media.