The Sudanese government must end politically-motivated killings, torture and attacks on Darfuri students at universities across the country, said Amnesty International today (18 January), as it released a new report covering a wave of attacks spanning three years.
The 48-page report, “Uninvestigated, Unpunished: Human Rights Violations against Darfuri students in Sudan”, shows the attacks are mostly carried out by agents of Sudan’s National Intelligence Security Service and student supporters of the ruling National Congress Party, also sometimes referred to as “Jihad Units.”
This report is released only days after the US Government issued an order easing sanctions against the Sudanese Government.
Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, said:
“The US ordering the easing of sanctions against Sudan must not lead to the international community letting the government off the hook for its appalling human rights record, including these horrific abuses against students and the use of chemical weapons that we reported on last September.
"The international community’s silence on rights abuses in Sudan would send a strong message that the people of Sudan don’t matter in the wider context of the fight against terrorism.”
On 31 January 2016, the National Intelligence Security Service, working with pro-government students, violently disrupted a peaceful seminar at El Geneina University organised by students affiliated with the Sudan Liberation Movement/Abdul Wahid Al Nur armed opposition group. One student, Salah al-Din Qamar Ibrahim, was killed, and a number of others seriously injured. According to an eyewitness, Qamar, a fourth-year economics student, died after a security agent hit him on the head with an iron bar and a rifle butt.
In a separate incident, Salma (not her real name), a member of the Darfur Female Students’ Association at the University of Khartoum, was arrested twice in 2014 for campaigning against the forced eviction of female Darfuri students from their housing complex. During her first arrest and interrogation in March, she was insulted, beaten with batons and a rifle butt, hose pipes and sticks, and tortured with electric shocks. The second time, in October, she was drugged and raped by four intelligence officers at their offices in Khartoum.
“I woke up and found myself laying on the bed naked. All four security officers were there looking at me, and then one of them showed me a video clip of them raping me,” she told Amnesty from exile.
Another student, Abdel, was arrested when security agents and pro-government students wielding knives, iron bars and machine guns broke up a peaceful protest by Darfuri students at El Geneina University in January 2016. He said: “They mercilessly beat me with a black plastic water pipe all over my body, on my bare back and feet.”
Amnesty researchers carried out 84 interviews between October 2015 and October 2016 for the report, including with 52 students from 14 universities across Sudan, 32 lawyers, activists, journalists and academics. The majority of the students were interviewed in exile, having fled abroad to continue their education after they were expelled or subjected to other forms of persecution in Sudan.
Some of them told Amnesty that their attackers accused them of supporting armed groups fighting the government, an accusation they deny. Others said they were targeted for demanding the full implementation of a fee-exemption policy for Darfuri students agreed to by the Sudanese government during peace talks with Darfuri armed groups in 2006 and 2011.
“Dozens of students have been killed, injured and expelled from universities since 2014 for organising around and speaking out against human rights violations in Darfur, said Muthoni Wanyeki. “This continues an appalling pattern that continues to see Darfuri students being subject to arrest, detention, as well as torture and other ill-treatment, since the conflict in Darfur broke out in 2003, often compromising their continued access to higher education.
“This suppression of Darfuri students’ rights to expression and association – as well as the interruption of their education - cannot be tolerated. The government must fully investigate and bring those responsible to account, as well as ensure effective remedies for victims, including by guaranteeing full access to reparations.
“The government must also take measures to reduce the intelligence agency’s unfettered powers of arrest and detention, and establish a judicial mechanism to oversee it in order to stop these gross excesses.”