Title: Sudan’s Ministry of Culture orders the closure of the Sudanese Writer’s Union
Author: african centre for justice
Date: 02-03-2015, 07:10 PM
13:10 PM Feb 3,2015
african centre for justice
(3 February 2015) On 29 January 2015 the Registrar of Cultural Groups within the Sudanese Ministry of Culture cancelled the registration of the Sudanese Writers Union (SWU). The cancellation order, no. 1/2015, signed by the Registrar of Cultural Groups, Ms. Egbal Alhassan Mahjoub, provided brief notification of the cancellation in a couple of sentences without citing reasons or relevant legislation.
The SWU was originally founded in 1985 in Khartoum. It was forced to close in 1989 following the military coup led by President Omar Hassan al Bashir, and was not allowed to re-open until 2006, one year after the signature of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The SWU describes its mandate as working through culture to promote dialogue and seek solutions to conflicts, with an emphasis on the freedom of expression and diversity. It convenes meetings of writers and its members publish in print and online media.
The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) has long-standing concerns that Sudanese authorities, including the National Intelligence and Security Services (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.
ACJPS calls on the Government of Sudan (GoS) to immediately allow the SWU to re-open and continue its peaceful work in support of civil society initiatives to promote democracy and cultural diversity in Sudan, and to respect the right of Sudanese people to fully exercise their rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression, as recognised in the Interim National Constitution of 2005.
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.
At 11am on 18 January, the NISS of Omdurman, Khartoum state, raided the Mahmoud Mohamed Taha 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 21 January 2015 the Centre received letter no. 1/2015 from the Ministry of Culture, cancelling its registration.
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.
Other cultural groups and forums have been forced to close in the past years by the Ministry of Culture, including the Sudanese Studies Centre, a group working to promote dialogue on culture and democracy, in late 2012. On 11 February 2014, the NISS of Al-Gadarif State, eastern Sudan raided the premises of Al-Shrooq Cultural Forum in Al-Gadarif town, obstructing a planned discussion that day on a recently published book entitled ‘Development and Sustainable Peace in Eastern Sudan’. On 24 June 2014 the Ministry of Justice cancelled the registration of the Salmmah Women’s Resource Centre in Khartoum. Officials reportedly ordered staff of the organisation to leave their offices, seized company documents and assets, and closed the organisation.
Contact: Mohamed Badawi, Human Rights Monitoring Programme Coordinator, on mailto:[email protected]@acjps.org or +256 788695068
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