Sudan should cease judicial harassment of civil society members and release TRACKs detainees
The harassment of Sudanese civil society activists affiliated with the organisation TRACKs for Training and Human Development (TRACKs) has escalated over recent days, with dormant charges pressed against two activists over a year ago reactivated and proceeding to trial, and eight staff and affiliates of TRACKs detained at the Office of the Prosecutor for State Security without charges since 22 May. One detainee, TRACKs Director Khalafalla Alafif Mukhtar, suffers from a heart condition and was briefly transferred to the Police Hospital in Khartoum, on 25 May, before being returned to a cell at the Prosecutor’s office the same day.
TRACKs, a Khartoum-based organisation that provides training on a variety of topics from information technology to human rights, has been raided twice over the past fourteen months. On 26 March 2015 and again on 29 February 2016, plain-clothed officers from Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) raided the TRACKs premises, confiscated electronic equipment and documents, and subjected staff to repeated summonses following the raids. NISS has confiscate several of TRACK employee passports following the February 2016 raid, and have not returned them.
Dormant Criminal Charges Proceed to Trial
Following the first raid in March 2015, the government has pressed serious criminal charges, including charges which carry the death penalty, against TRACKs Director Khalafalla Alafif Mukhtar, and human rights defender Adil Bakheit, a member of the Board of Directors at the Khartoum-based Sudanese Human Rights Monitor. Despite the serious nature of the charges, very little is known about the allegations against Khalfalla Mukhtar and Adil Bakheit. Until their court summonses, received by telephone on 19 May 2016, they had not received any formal updates on the case against them in over a year. The two men appeared before the Khartoum Central Criminal Court on 22 May 2016, together with two members of staff from TRACKs who were also instructed to attend court. The hearing did not proceed, and was adjourned until 8 June 2016 at the request of their lawyer Mr. Nabil Adib.
No reasons were given for the court summons of TRACKs accountant, Ms. Nudaina Kamal, or TRACKs trainer, Mr. Hassan Kheiry, who were present at the TRACKs office during the March 2015 raid, but have not been charged with any offences.
Detention of TRACKs staff and affiliates
The day prior to the scheduled court hearing on 21 May 2016, TRACKs staff and affiliates present at the TRACKs office during the second raid in February 2016 received telephone calls instructing them to report to the NISS office in the Amarat area of Khartoum immediately after the court session. Eight TRACKs members of staff and volunteers, in addition to a guest from another organisation who was visiting TRACKs during the February 2016 raid, reported to the NISS after the court session on 22 May 2016. TRACKs’ accountant Nudaina Kamal, who is currently on maternity leave, was released immediately, but required to leave her car with the NISS as a guarantee for her release.
The same day, the NISS transferred the remaining eight to the Office of the Prosecutor for State Security where they have been detained without charge since. The prosecution locked the six men, including TRACKs Director Khalafalla Mukhtar, trainer Hassan Kheiry, trainer Midhat A Hamdan, office supervisor Al Shazali Ibrahim Al Sheikh, accountant Khuzaini El Hadi, and the TRACKs visitor from another organisation, in a small, already overcrowded cell. The two women, TRACKs volunteer Imani-Leyla Raye and administration manager Arwa Ahmed Elrabie, had been required to sit in the reception area in front of the cell.
The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) calls on the Sudanese authorities to cease its judicial harassment of human rights defenders and other peaceful civil society activists and instruct its security service to desist from arbitrarily interfering with the work of independent civil society groups.
The serious criminal charges against human rights defender Adil Bakheit and TRACKs Director Khalafalla Mukhtar should be immediately dropped as they relate solely to their work as peaceful civil society activists. The Government of Sudan should further provide assurances that it will cease the harassment and intimidation of the staff and affiliates of TRACKs and protect them from baseless criminal prosecution.
ACJPS further calls on the Sudanese authorities to order the immediate release of the detainees in the absence of valid legal charges that are consistent with international law and standards or, if such charges exist, to bring them promptly before an impartial, independent, and competent tribunal and guarantee their procedural rights at all times.
Original appeal (01 June 2016)
Please note that the court has rescheduled the next hearing of this case to 8 July 2016.
Mossaad Mohamed Ali, Executive Director, +256 779584542+256 779584542 or Katherine Perks, Programme Director, +256 775072136+256 775072136, email@example.com
Photo on front page: TRACKs Director Khalafalla Alafif Mukhtar. Source: African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies. Photo on this page: Adil Bakheet. Source: Frontline Defenders.