Sudan: State Brutality and Intimidation of Political Critics on a Long List of Problems

By Bradley Blackburn

Jul 19, 2010 2:54pm

ABC’s Dana Hughes Reports from Nairobi: Sudan is the largest country in Africa, and possibly the most troubled. It’s president, Omar Al -Bashir is facing war crime and genocide charges by the International Criminal Court in the Hague for his role in Darfur, a continuing conflict which has seen hundreds of thousands of people killed and has had an uptick of violence in recent months. There is a referendum scheduled for January which would see the southern part of the country secede; part of a peace agreement signed in 2005 which ended a 20-yr civil war that killed over two million people. As part of the peace agreement, Sudan agreed to have an election, which was largely-considered flawed, and pass new security laws. In 2007, it also agreed to United Nations -African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, although in an extremely limiting capacity. An effort, Khartoum claimed, to appease the international community.  Now two different and respected rights organizations have put out reports and issued statements on the state of the conflict-riddled country. Amnesty International released the damning report, “Agents of Fear: The National Security Service in Sudan” detailing stories of torture, beatings and sexual assault of anyone publicly critical of President  Al-Bashir’s regime. Victims include journalists, bloggers, politicians and even students. Victims told Amnesty International researchers about being arbitrarily detained, harassed and in some cases beaten nearly to death while in detention by national security agents. Researcher Rania Rajji told ABC News that security agents targeted those critical of Khartoum’s role in Darfur and Darfurians themselves. There was also a spike of cases in the days leading up to and immediately following the country’s general election, a troubling sign, says Rajji, for how the government will deal with the upcoming referendum.   “The space for freedom of expression and civil and political rights in Sudan is much needed right now,” says Rajji “And the national security agents have been behind most violations of civil and political rights, including freedom of expression in Sudan.” Amnesty International is calling on security laws to be reformed so that the intelligence agency has less unchecked power. So far the government of Sudan has not responded publicly to the report, but Rajji admits there’s not much motivation for Khartoum to reform on its own, and needs pressure from the international community, including the Obama Administration, the EU and the UN. “It is their responsibility to keep an eye on the situation of civilians in Sudan and to make sure those laws are reformed,” she says. Human Rights Watch also released a statement today calling on the international community to do more in Sudan, and specifically Darfur. The UN Security Council is expected to renew the mandate for the peacekeeping mission later this month, and the human rights organization wants the focus to be on protecting civilians.   “While international attention has focused on the Sudanese elections and the referendum on Southern Sudan, Darfur remains in shambles,” said Rona Peligal, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The new fighting and rights abuses across Darfur show clearly that the war is far from over and that the UN needs to do more to protect civilians.” For the last few months several rights and experts focused on Sudan have been warning that the country is headed for catastrophic human rights abuses and possible war if the international community, and specifically the Obama Administration, does not begin to pay closer attention to the countries problems. When ABC’s Jake Tapper asked Vice President Biden on This Week about how seriously the Obama  administration is taking the problems in Sudan, he said they are working closely with the UN and other important players in the region to try and make sure the referendum will happen peacefully. “It must be viewed as credible to keep that country, that region, from deteriorating. The last thing we need is another failed state in the region,” said Vice President Biden. “And I’m still hopeful. We are on it full-time. And — I believe that we’ll be able to pull — they’ll be able to pull off, with our help and the UN’s help, they’ll be able to pull off a credible election.” Watch the interview here: Click here to return to the World News page.

You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus