Sudan: Arbitrary arrest of more than 60 women human rights defenders
Since December 2018, people in Sudan have taken to the streets in different parts of the country to protest the rapid deterioration of economic and social conditions. Peaceful demonstrations are still taking place and the Sudanese regime is putting all its efforts to quell the growing movement. Authorities’ have combined their efforts by using various military and security forces, including riot police and the National Security and Intelligence Service (NISS) to silence protesters and disperse protests. Authorities used excessive force, live bullets, rubber bullets, tear gas and other weapons. The regime also blocked Internet access in order to limit and hinder communication between protestors. In addition, The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, called on authorities to investigate deaths during protests and detention.
Women human rights defenders have been involved in leading these movements. Their important and vital role is proven by the violent and focused targeting of WHRDs by the Sudanese authorities. At least 70 women human rights defenders were arrested over the span of a month, although some of them were released, more than 16 women human rights defenders are still behind bars, among them: Dr. Ihsan Fegeiri, Dr. Amal Jabrallah, Dr. Hiba Omar Ibrahim, Adeela Al-Zaebaq, in addition to lawyers such as Hanan Nour, Hanadi Fadl, Samia Arqawi, Amani Othman, along with prominent journalists and WHRDs Somia Ishaq, Intisar, Amani Idriss and many others WHRDs that are risking their lives by peacefully participating in protests and demonstrations in their cities. 7 of the detained WHRDs are in need of immediate medical assistance. Some of them haven’t been allowed to access a lawyer, or to be visited by their families for at least 2 weeks. Dr. Heba Omar Ibrahim was arrested on the 13th of Jan and is being pressured by police officers to give names of HRDs and WHRDs active in the health sector, especially the Sudanese Professional Association, which puts her in a very dangerous and critical situation. In addition, WHRD Zainab Badreddine was threatened by police officers over the phone.
The authorities have been using various tactics. For instance, they have released a group of women human rights defenders, for a short period of time (approximately 10 hours) and re-arrested them, and have detained certain WHRDs for two hours or more in order to intimidate and threaten them. In addition, authorities have also arrested a family member or close relatives to the WHRD as a hostage to pressure her to go into police custody. Sudanese police also threatened to kill a WHRD if she took part in the protests. Hospitals, offices and WHRDs’ houses were targeted by gas bombs.
The Sudanese authorities are trying to hinder the work of women human rights defenders in various ways. It seems that the current objective of the regime is to prevent them from being present in the movements and protest areas. This wave of arrest is a continuation of the authorities’ rigorous targeting of WHRDs since the January 2018 protests. At this time last year, 30 women human rights defenders were arrested, some of them are behind bars today as well, especially lawyers, journalists and WHRDs who work on documenting violations.
The Regional Coalition for Women Human Rights Defenders in the Middle East and North Africa (WHRDMENA) believes that the situation is very critical in Sudan. The Sudanese authorities are already violently hostile to women human rights defenders and their presence in public space. The regime has an established system, known as Public Order, to restrict the movement of women and to impede the work of women human rights defenders by forcing them to be isolated and distanced from the spaces of struggle. The capabilities of women human rights defenders in Sudan are restricted, as they are unable to access legal, psychological and medical assistance, especially under detention. WHRDs are frequently subjected to ill-treatment detention centers. During their detention, their social media accounts are often accessed by police officers. In addition, women human rights defenders are currently being subject to violent smearing campaigns, accusing them of dealing with foreign agencies in order to destabilize Sudan’s internal security.
Under such circumstances, the Regional Coalition condemns the brutality of the Sudanese authorities, their lack of commitment to human rights and their continued attacks on women human rights defenders. The Coalition calls on the authorities to end the violence and to immediately and unconditionally release of all women human rights defenders who have been arbitrarily detained, since no charges have been brought against them until now. The regional Coalition also urges the authorities to put an end to the systematic oppression of women human rights defenders in Sudan.
The Regional Coalition is in solidarity with women human rights defenders in Sudan, and salutes their unprecedented struggle and resistance, despite all threats, risks and smearing campaigns. The Coalition, and the world, is watching brave women human rights defenders in Sudan fight back and resist, and risking their lives while doing so.
In the context of the increasing violations of fundamental human rights committed with impunity in Sudan, the Regional Coalition calls on the regional and international community to stand in solidarity and provide sustained support to women human rights defenders through:
– Demanding the authorities to immediately release of all women human rights defenders and to urgently provide them with urgent medical, psychological and legal services.
– Demanding the authorities to end the targeting of women human rights defenders in all its forms.
– Demanding a transparent and independent investigation into torture and ill-treatment in Sudanese prisons and deaths during protests.