Sudanese human rights defenders prevented from travel to Geneva UPR meeting
(28 March 2016) Sudan’s security agency has prevented three members of a civil society coalition from travelling to Geneva, Switzerland, to take part in meetings in preparation for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Sudan in May. The three were stopped by plain-clothed security agents after checking in, told they were banned from travel, and their passports were confiscated.
The three are representatives of a coalition of Sudanese civil society organisations named “Our Rights Group” that submitted a report to the UN in contribution to Sudan’s UPR. Under the UPR mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council, the human rights situation of all UN member states is reviewed every four and a half years. Civil society organisations are invited to submit information in contribution to each review. The group of three had planned to travel to Geneva to take part in a preparatory meeting with diplomats from UN Member States, to provide briefings in advance of the formal review on 4 May 2016.
In the early hours of 28 March, just after 1am, Sawsan Hassan Elshowaya, Director of Asmaa Society for Development, was stopped at Khartoum International Airport together with Dr. Muawia Shaddad, President of the Human Rights and Legal Aid Network (HRLAN). They are both Committee members of the Confederation of Sudanese Civil Society Organizations (CSCSO). When they presented their passports at the immigration desk, after checking in their luggage for travel to Geneva, they were stopped by a plain-clothed officer from the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS). They were informed that they were subject to a travel ban and their passports were confiscated. The two were not given any reasons for the travel ban and were instructed to report to the Information and Inquiry section at the NISS headquarters in Khartoum later the same day.
Mr. Siddig Yousif, President of the Sudanese Solidarity Committee, a committee set up to represent the victims and families of victims killed and injured by security forces during protests in 2013, was prevented from travelling from Khartoum International Airport by the NISS at around 8pm on 23 March. He was first travelling to Egypt, on his way to Geneva. His passport was confiscated and he has since visited the Information and Inquiry section at the NISS headquarters, but was not given any reasons for the travel ban or informed when his passport will be returned. Mr. Yousif has previously been prevented by the NISS from travelling outside the country on three occasions. Two days later, in the early hours of 25 March, the NISS also prevented prominent journalist Faisal Mohamed Salih from travelling to London. Journalists for Human Rights – Sudan (JHR) reported that his passport was confiscated at the airport without any reasons being given. Faisal Mohamed Salih is well known for reporting on human rights issues but was not in fact planning on travel to Geneva for the UPR meeting.
The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) calls on the Government of Sudan to uphold its commitments to international and regional human rights standards and enable the free participation of Sudanese civil society in the UPR process.
The Government of Sudan should instruct the NISS to cease the harassment and intimidation of civil society actors, including human rights defenders and journalists, and guarantee the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. The passports of the three human rights defenders should be returned immediately and all civil society representatives planning to travel to Geneva to contribute to the UPR for Sudan should be allowed to do so freely.