Sudan: Government trying to gag those who tell the world about human rights abuses

‘Intimidation and Denial: Attacks on freedom of expression in Darfur’ reports on how the Sudanese government, which is under increasing international pressure, is attacking freedom of expression so as to control information about the scale of continuing human rights violations in Darfur.

Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International,said:

“Instead of arresting those who commit human rights violations, the Sudanese authorities are arresting those who are exposing the perpetrators.

“As long as people who want to speak out about these violations are intimidated and arrested, the commitments of the Government of Sudan to the international community will remain hollow.”

Among the cases documented in the Amnesty International report are those of seven people arrested for giving information to the African Union's ceasefire monitors in Abu Dereja near Al Fasher on 15 July and 17 July. They were reportedly still being detained in the National Security centre in Al Fasher as of 20 August. The Sudanese authorities have also arrested people for presenting petitions, trying to organize public meetings and opposing the return of those displaced by the conflict to unsafe areas.

Control over the independent media in Sudan is very restrictive, and government-owned television and radio give a one-sided view of the crisis, portraying foreign media reports about human right violations in Darfur as a “conspiracy against Sudan”. A Sudanese lawyer told Amnesty International:

“One problem is the lack of information in Khartoum about the conflict. People in Khartoum do not know what is happening in Darfur. On the television and the radio the government says that everything is all right in Darfur, that people receive aid and that the situation is under control.”

On 30 August the UN Security Council will discuss the UN Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Sudan. Freedom of expression has been notably absent in political discussions between the Sudanese government and the UN.

The new Amnesty International report refers to international law to show how freedom of expression is essential not only as a right in itself, but because it acts in defence of other rights; unless people are allowed to speak freely it will be difficult for UN and AU observers to make an accurate assessment of any progress in Darfur. Amnesty International is calling on the Sudanese government to lift all restrictions on the right to freedom of expression and release all those detained solely for expressing their opinions. The right to freedom of expression must be protected in Sudanese commitments, in peace talks, and in any monitoring of the situation in Darfur.

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