Sudanese authorities have rejected an appeal made by families to release their relatives held following anti-government, despite President Omar Al-Bashir’s promise to free those arbitrarily detained.
Dozens of families gathered at the information building of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) yesterday to hand over a letter calling for detainees to be released or brought to trial, but according to witnesses, officials refused to take it.
“The security services rejected the letter and followed it by terrorising the families of the detainees by taking them out of the information building, a measure that confirms the absence of minimum professional standards and without any legal grounds,” Al-Waleed Bakri, whose brother has been in custody for three months, told reporters.
Thousands of people have been detained since December following protests against austerity measures and political autocracy. Despite the demonstrations’ peaceful nature, security forces have responded with violence; rights groups say more than 60 people have been killed and hundreds injured. Students in particular have been detained on mass, with many claiming they have been forced to confess to being part of a terror cell.
Last month, some 2,400 protesters were released by the Sudanese government after US officials warned that the violent crackdown on demonstrators threatened the country’s removal from Washington’s terror blacklist.
However hundreds are still believed to be in prison; despite the Al-Bashir ordering the release all the women detained during the rallies, only 36 were freed. A sentence of 20 lashes and one month in prison against nine female Sudanese protesters for their participation in the demonstrations was also revoked after widespread outrage.
Yet demonstrators have continued to be arrested this week; at least four people were detained on Monday by security forces in Khartoum 2, an upscale area in the heart of the capital where dozens protested, a witness said. Security forces used batons and tear gas to disperse the crowds.However, Al-Bashir has vowed to stay in power, stressing that the current demonstrations are the result of a foreign conspiracy. Last month he declared a state of emergency, dissolved the central government, replaced state governors with security officials, expanded police powers and banned unlicensed public gatherings.
After growing pressure, Al-Bashir promised during a swearing-in ceremony for a new cabinet last week that he would engage in dialogue with the opposition, but the opposition has rejected dialogue with the president and has continued to call for him and his government to step aside.
The new measures have also not stemmed the protests, with almost daily demonstrations calling for his resignation.
Al-Bashir, who seized power in a military coup in 1989, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against his own people.