Sudan: Government's intelligence and security service carrying out brutal campaign of killings, torture, arbitrary arrests against opponents

Press Release
July 19, 2010

Sudan: Government's intelligence and security service carrying out brutal campaign of killings, torture, arbitrary arrests against opponents

Sudan Government's Intelligence and Security Service Carrying Out Brutal Campaign of Killings, Torture, Arbitrary Arrests Against Opponents, Says Amnesty International in New Report

Human Rights Organization Documents "Extensive, Multi-Pronged Assault" on People Seen as Posing a Threat to the Government

July 19, 2010

"I was planning to kill myself that night… Every hour I was at risk. I knew it was a matter of time until they [the security service] reached me"
-Human rights defender who survived torture, days before he fled the country.

The Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) is carrying out a brutal campaign of killings, torture, arbitrary detentions, and mental and physical intimidation against opponents and critics of the government, Amnesty International says in a new report today.

Since the presidential and parliamentary elections in April 2010, the NISS has also renewed its clampdown on freedom of expression, censoring the press, closing newspapers and even torturing journalists, Amnesty International said in its report, Agents of Fear

The report documents the NISS’ systematic use of torture, ill-treatment and intimidation against supporters of the political opposition, students, human rights defenders, civil society activists, staff of national and international NGOs and anyone else seen as posing a threat to the government.

The NISS uses a variety of torture methods, according to the report, including: beating detainees while held upside down against a wall, electric shocks, whipping, sleep deprivation, kicking and stamping on detainees and beating them with water pipes.

"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 International's Africa program director. "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 arrest of at least 34 individuals by the NISS, including journalists, human rights activists and students.

Arrests have peaked at times of political tension, such as following a major attack by a Darfur armed group on Khartoum in May 2008, before and after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against President Al Bashir in July 2008, and following the elections in April 2010.

Ahmed Ali Mohamed Osman, a doctor also known as Ahmed Sardop, was arrested by the NISS on March 20, 2009 in Khartoum after criticizing rapes in the Darfur region and the government’s decision to expel humanitarian organizations from Sudan and rapes in the Darfur

"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," he told Amnesty International. "They kicked me in the testicles repeatedly while they talked about the report on rape in Darfur."

Ahmed Sardop filed a complaint with the police and was examined by a doctor who confirmed his allegations of torture. A few days later, he started receiving telephone death threats: "We will soon find you and we will kill you." He now lives in exile.

Family members are often threatened and harassed by NISS agents to put further emotional pressure on the victims. Women have also been harassed and intimidated by law enforcement agents and the NISS, and sexually assaulted while in their custody.

The report also notes that since the parliamentary and presidential elections in April, NISS agents have resumed the pre-print censorship of the Sudanese press with daily visits to newspapers offices and printing houses. Opposition newspapers have been closed, forced to stop printing, or have stopped printing themselves in protest against censorship. Some journalists have been arbitrarily arrested and detained.

Abuzar Al Amin, the editor-in-chief of Rai Al Shaab, a newspaper affiliated with the Popular Congress Party, was arrested at his home on May 15.

NISS agents interrogated him about his writings and journalistic work, and tortured him. They beat and kicked him and applied electric shocks to his body.

NISS agents continue to benefit from extensive powers of arrest and detention and have immunity for all the violations they commit, under the 2010 National Security Act.

"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 van der Borght. "Allegations of human rights violations must be promptly and effectively investigated and those responsible prosecuted for the crimes they commit. Victims must be given reparations.Without these changes, Sudan's NISS agents will continue to be agents of fear."