Sudan brutally suppressing dissent, says Amnesty

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LONDON: Amnesty International on Monday accused Sudan of using arrests and torture to brutally suppress dissent, days after an international court filed charges of genocide against President Omar Al-Beshir.

The London-based group in a report entitled "Agents of Fear" accused Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) of perpetrating institutionalized human rights violations "for years."

"The NISS rules Sudan by fear. The extensive, multi-pronged assault on the Sudanese people by the security services has left the critics of the government in constant fear of arrest, harassment or worse" said Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty’s Africa program director.

The report accuses the NISS of carrying out arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detentions, ill-treatment, unlawful killings and enforced disappearances.

"The Sudanese authorities are brutally silencing political opposition and human rights defenders in Sudan through violence and intimidation. NISS agents benefit from total impunity for the human rights violations they continue to commit."

During the first half of 2010 Amnesty International documented the arrests of at least 34 individuals by the NISS, including journalists, human rights activists and students.

"Anyone seen as posing a threat to the government" is a target, the report says, adding that opposition figures and supporters were singled out for ill treatment and torture and that arrests had peaked at times of political tensions.

The report records the testimony of Ahmed Ali Mohamed Osman, a doctor arrested in March 2009 for a web article critical of the government’s decision to expel humanitarian organizations from Sudan and rapes in the Darfur region.

"They leaned me over a chair and held me by my arms and feet while others hit me on the back, legs and arms with something similar to an electrical cable," said the doctor, who also goes by the name Ahmed Sardop.

"They kicked me in the testicles repeatedly while they talked about the report on rape in Darfur," he told Amnesty, adding he began receiving death threats after going to the police and now lives in exile.

Newspaper editor Abuzar Al-Amin was arrested last May and taken into NISS detention where he was interrogated about his writings and work, beaten and kicked, and given electric shocks to his body, the report says.

"Families are often threatened and harassed by NISS agents to put further emotional pressure on the victim," Amnesty said, adding that, "Women have also been harassed and intimidated by law enforcement agents and the NISS, and sexually assaulted while in their custody.

"The National Security Act must be reformed so that agents are no longer provided with extensive powers of arrest and detention. All immunities should be removed," said Borght.

The report also deplored the return of press censorship by the NISS following the April vote, in which Beshir was re-elected and which international monitors said did not meet international standards and were rife with irregularities.

"NISS agents have resumed the pre-print censorship of the Sudanese press with daily visits to newspapers offices and printing houses," the report says.

Last week, Sudan issued expulsion orders against two top overseas relief officials in Darfur after the International Criminal Court charged Beshir with genocide over the seven-year conflict in the region.

The Sudanese president already faced war crimes charges and charges of crimes against humanity over his government’s alleged use of proxy Arab militias in a scorched earth campaign against ethnic minority civilians in Darfur.

Darfur, an arid region the size of France, has been gripped by civil war since ethnic minority rebels rose up in 2003. The conflict has killed 300,000 people and left 2.7 million homeless, according to UN figures. Khartoum says 10,000 people were killed during the war.

Amnesty said it had not been granted permission to visit northern Sudan for fact finding missions since 2006, and that information and testimonies for the report were obtained during research visits to Uganda and Eastern Chad in 2009 and 2010.




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