Sudanese Authorities Must End 'Ruthless Crackdown' on Protesters and Journalists

Press Release
June 22, 2012

Sudanese Authorities Must End 'Ruthless Crackdown' on Protesters and Journalists

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150, @strimel

(New York) -- Amnesty International said today Sudanese authorities must end the ruthless crackdown on protests and harassment of journalists covering demonstrations after riot police in Khartoum used tear gas and batons to break up demonstrations over austerity cuts.

Scores of activists have been arrested since demonstrations began Sunday. The police also temporarily detained bloggers and journalists in an attempt to stifle reporting on the protest movement.

"The Sudanese government is showing zero tolerance for demonstrations and continues to deny the Sudanese people their right to peaceful assembly," said Paule Rigaud, Amnesty International's deputy director for Africa.

The protest movement, which is dominated by student activists, has until now been concentrated around universities in Khartoum and neighboring cities Omdurman and Khartoum North, but demonstrations were also reported in provincial universities, notably Blue Nile University in Damazin, as well as in residential areas of the capital.

The country has faced rising food prices and a weakening currency in recent years.

Among those arrested are members of political parties and prominent youth groups, such as Girifna ("We're fed up"), a student-led activist movement. Many were released on the day of their arrest, but some have reportedly been charged.

High-profile activist Mohammed Hassan Alim "Boshi," was arrested at his house June 20. His whereabouts remain unknown. Boshi had already been detained numerous times for his political activities, notably last December, when he was held incommunicado in solitary confinement for 22 days after publicly criticizing President Omar al-Bashir's top aide Nafi Ali Nafi.

International reporters and social media activists have also been targeted. Simon Martelli, a journalist for the press agency AFP, was arrested June 19 while covering a student demonstration in Khartoum. He was detained incommunicado for 12 hours by the National Security Service (NSS) and interrogated before being released the next day.

On June 21, Salma al Wardany, a reporter for Bloomberg, was arrested alongside Maha al Sanosi, a Sudanese blogger and a member of Girifna, while covering a demonstration in Khartoum. They were detained for roughly five hours by the NSS then released.

Inspired by protests throughout the Middle East and North Africa, Sudan has experienced frequent demonstrations since January 2011, calling for political change and an improvement in living conditions. The authorities have responded with frequent arrests and ill-treatment of peaceful protestors.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.