The ink had barely dried on the “Sudan Call,” an opposition political declaration calling for an end to one-party rule and a transitional government, when officials from Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) started arresting people who signed it.

On the night of December 6, officials arrested Dr. Amin Mekki Medani, a human rights lawyer and head of a civil society coalition, and Farouq Abu Eissa, chair of the opposition National Consensus Forces – both in their late 70s with health issues – from their homes. Dr. Farah Ibrahim Mohamed Alagar, who also participated in the meeting, was reportedly arrested later the same night. The men are now detained in unknown locations, without charge, and have yet to be allowed family visits. 

These arrests, tragically, are not surprising in Sudan, where authorities routinely silence dissent. NISS and members of other security organs continue to detain, often without charge, those who express opposition to the policies of the government – whether through political declarations, protests, articles, or simply attending events.

In August, authorities detained Mariam al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, deputy chair of the National Umma Party, upon her return to Khartoum from Paris, where her party signed the Paris Declaration, a similar political declaration calling for broad reforms and a transitional government. She was held for a month without charge. 

In September, NISS arrested dozens of people who had gathered to commemorate the killing of more than 170 people during austerity protests that swept Sudan in September 2013. One of them, a known human rights activist, Rashid Abash, was detained for 11 weeks without charge, and was reportedly subjected to abuse in detention. He now faces trumped-up charges in connection with materials printed for the anniversary.

In October and November 2014, authorities arrested four people in Damazin, Blue Nile state, for printing a Communist Party statement criticizing the government and commemorating Sudan’s October 1964 uprising. And in December, police arrested Ibrahim al-Safi, a youth activist, in Khartoum for attending a public event on law reform organized by the youth movement Girifna (“we are fed up”). He is serving a one-month sentence in Dabak, a facility known for its poor conditions.

NISS also continues to detain journalists and censor newspapers. These tactics of repression have to stop. Not only do they violate basic rights of expression protected by international human rights law and Sudan’s own bill of rights, they deprive society of dialogue at a time when Sudan – at war with itself in three regions, and still reeling from the secession of South Sudan in 2011 – sorely needs it.