Title: Sudan’s Security Services raid and order closure of Mahmoud Mohamed Taha Cultural Centre
Author: african centre for justice
Date: 01-24-2015, 02:50 AM
(23 January 2015) At 11am on 18 January, the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) of Omdurman, Khartoum state, raided the Mahmoud Mohamed Taha Cultural Centre whilst a ceremony commemorating the life of Mahmoud Mohamed Taha was taking place.
18 January 2015 marked the thirty year anniversary of the execution of Mahmoud Mohamed Taha, founder of the Republican Party in Sudan. The Republican Party proclaims to oppose Islamic fundamentalism and promote secularism. Taha was executed days after being convicted of apostasy in 1985 on the basis of his opposition to Sudan’s interpretation of Sharia law.
On the day of the raid, the NISS interrupted the memorial ceremony, confiscated the keys to the Centre, and told its chairperson, Asma Mahmoud Mohamed Taha, that the Centre would be closed. Ms. Taha was informed that the Centre was being closed because its license had not been renewed by the Ministry of Culture in Khartoum state and that formal notification would be received shortly. She had reportedly received a call earlier in the day from the NISS of Karari station, Omdurman, warning her not to proceed with the commemoration ceremony.
The Mahmoud Mohamed Taha Cultural Centre was registered with the Ministry of Culture in 2009. The Centre had not received notification of the acceptance or rejection of its 2013 application for yearly registration renewal. On 21 January 2015 the Centre received letter no. 1 – 2015 from the Ministry of Culture, cancelling its registration. The letter, signed by Egbal Al Hassan Mahjoub, stated that the registration was cancelled on the grounds that the Centre’s activities contradicted the National Cultural Groups Law 1996. Under article 8, the Ministry is empowered to cancel registration if a) the registration was based on false information b) the organisation violates its mandate or c) the group has less than 25 members. No further information on the grounds for the closure was provided.
Other events commemorating Mahmoud Mohamed Taha’s life were cancelled by the NISS on 18 January, including an event organised by members of the Sudanese Republican Party at Al Ahfad University.
The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) has long-standing concerns that Sudanese authorities, including the NISS and regulatory bodies governing the work of organisations and associations, such as the Ministry of Culture and the Humanitarian Affairs Commission (HAC), have sought to impose severe restrictions on the operation and mandates of independent civil society organisations.
The closure comes amidst increasing restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly in Sudan and the routine obstruction of the work of independent civil society organisations. Severe formal and informal restrictions have also been placed on political opposition parties and their members, including the application of broad and vaguely worded offenses to censor perceived critics of the ruling party.
Sudan’s Political Parties Affairs Council (PPAC) rejected an application from the Republican Party, founded by Mahmoud Mohamed Taha, to register as a political party on 1 May 2014. The PPAC argued that the Republican Party’s political ideology contradicted the constitutional provision that law in Sudan be based on Islamic Sharia law and the conditions for the establishment of political parties in Sudan.
Three prominent public figures, including human rights lawyer Dr. Amin Mekki Medani, and political activists Mr. Farouq Abu Eissa and Dr. Farah Mohamed Ibrahim Mohamed Alagar, have been detained without charge since their arrests on 6 and 7 December 2014. The men were arrested by the NISS after returning from political negotiations in Addis Ababa between Sudanese political and armed opposition groups which led to the adoption of the “Sudan Call”, a declaration that commits signatories to work towards the end of the conflicts raging in different regions of Sudan, and also pledges to work towards legal, institutional and economic reforms. The three men were detained incommunicado at NISS offices in Khartoum for 15 days before they were transferred to Kober prison and permitted family visits on 21 January.
On 21 December 2014 seven members of the NISS raided the offices of the Sudanese Human Rights Monitor (SHRM) in Khartoum, a human rights organisation founded by Dr Amin Mekki Medani. A workshop on the Universal Periodic Review of Sudan taking place on the premises was stopped and participants were required to leave. One participant, Mr. Mohamed Al Fateh Hima, was arrested by the NISS and released later the same day without charge. Mr. Hima is a journalist at Al Midan newspaper and a member of the secretariat of the independent Sudanese Journalist Network. A number of laptops and documents were confiscated. The SHRM did not receive any formal communication from the HAC, under which it is registered, concerning the raid.
Contact: Mohamed Badawi, Human Rights Monitoring Programme Coordinator, on mailto:[email protected]@acjps.org or +256 788695068