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Screenshot of a video interview with Sudanese-American rights activist, Rudwan Dawod. August 2012.  © 2012 Private
(Nairobi) – Sudanese authorities should immediately charge or release the human rights activist Rudwan Dawod and other activists in national security custody, and investigate allegations of ill-treatment and torture, Human Rights Watch said.

Security officials detained Dawod, a 35-year-old dual Sudanese-American citizen, on December 6, 2017, in the El Jereif neighborhood in Khartoum. A witness told Human Rights Watch that plainclothes security agents arrested Dawod after he visited the area to show solidarity with local community protests against government land expropriations. He is being held in an unknown location, without access to a lawyer or his family.

“Sudan locks up activists for weeks on end, holds them incommunicado, and subjects them to abuse, including torture,” said Jehanne Henry, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Authorities need to end these detentions and grant all detainees full access to family, lawyers, and medical care.”

Sudan’s National Security and Intelligence Service (NISS) officials are holding an unknown number of other activists, according to local rights groups. Known detainees include Nasreldin Mukhtar, a prominent Darfuri student activist who was arrested on August 22, and eight Darfuri students arrested in mid-September while protesting NISS detentions of two other students. NISS is well-known for abusing and torturing detainees in their custody. Mukhtar’s sister said in a video statement that she saw visible physical injuries on him when she visited him in October.

“His face was full of bruises and injuries and he was trembling and very sick because of the detention and extensive beatings,” she said. “His situation was very bad.”

Human Rights Watch has documented dozens of similar cases in recent years. During a crackdown on “civil disobedience” in November 2016, a NISS official beat a member of the Sudanese Congress Party (SCP), who was detained for 50 days, so badly that he required surgery. In December 2016, a British journalist and his Sudanese-American translator who entered Darfur to investigate allegations of chemical weapons were tortured, including beatings, use of electric shocks, and mock executions. Dawod was among the scores of activists arrested during popular protests in July 2012 and beaten and tortured in detention.

In October 2017, the United States lifted decades-long economic sanctions on Sudan, following a January executive order citing improvements in a number of key areas that did not explicitly include human rights reforms. Human Rights Watch has urged the US to put human rights benchmarks at the heart of its engagement with Sudan. Chief among them should be ending the practice of arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, and torture.

“Torture and prolonged, arbitrary detention are still routine practice in Sudan, used as a means to stifle dissent and dialogue,” Henry said. “These tactics are further evidence of Sudan’s appalling rights record.”

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