GENEVA – A group of United Nations human rights experts today called on the Sudanese authorities to drop charges carrying the death sentence brought against six people linked to a prominent Khartoum-based organisation, Training and Human Development (TRACKS).
The six*, who were detained some three months ago but are yet to face trial, have been charged with criminal conspiracy, undermining the constitutional system, waging war against the State, espionage, and terrorism by the Sudanese State Security Prosecution Office. All these charges carry the death penalty.
“The death penalty is an extreme form of punishment. lf used at all, it should only be imposed after a fair trial that respects the most stringent due process guarantees as stipulated in international human rights law,” said UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard. “I am seriously concerned that any trial of these six people would not uphold such principles.”
The six individuals have faced constant targeting by agents from the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) over the past two years. Their offices have been raided twice, and their documents, equipment and passports confiscated. In addition, they say they have been summoned, detained and tortured several times at the NISS office, where they were questioned about the organisation’s activities.
“The charges brought against them appear to be directly linked to their work in the defence of human rights, while exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai.
“Sudan ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a binding instrument, which enshrines the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association and this sentence is likely to have a chilling effect among activists and human rights defenders in Sudan,” he added.
The human rights experts have already jointly raised their concern to the Sudanese authorities about the ongoing harassment of TRACKS members and, more broadly, about the increasing targeting and prosecution of human rights defenders, including women human rights defenders, in Sudan for undertaking their peaceful and legitimate human rights activities.
“This action is part of an increasing trend to threaten, harass, or intimidate key members of Sudanese civil society, and to curb freedoms of expression and association, which are guaranteed in the Bill of Rights of the Interim National Constitution of the Sudan,” said Aristide Nononsi, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, who visited the country in April 2016. Mr Nononsi had already expressed concern about this case to the relevant Sudanese authorities. ”Human rights defenders play an important role in the country, and there is an urgent need for the Government of the Sudan to allow them to carry out their activities in an open, safe and secure environment,” he stressed.
*The six facing charges are Mr. Khalafalla Mukhtar, Director of TRACKS; Ms. Arwa Elrabie, Mr. Midhat Hamadan, and Mr. Alhassan Kheiri, TRACKS’ employees; and Mr. Mustafa Adam and Ms. Raye Imany Leyla who are affiliated to the organisation.
The experts’ appeal to the Sudanese Government has been endorsed by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Mr. David Kaye, and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mr. Michel Forst.