Two weeks ago, US ambassador Susan Rice and UK ambassador Mark Lyall Grant lead a Security Council trip to Sudan and some neighboring countries. While in Darfur, leaders of internally displaced persons camps apparently discussed with the delegation the deteriorating humanitarian conditions of these camps and human rights abuses by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).
According to the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, after the Council delegation left, the NISS sought to hunt down and arrest 16 IDP leaders who met with the Council. Those 16 were able to escape, but two others who spoke with Rice and Grant were arrested.
On 8 October, NISS agents entered Abu Shouk and Al Salaam IDP camps to arrest 16 IDPs, all of whom were able to evade arrest and interrogation by going into hiding. The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) has documented the identities of this group of 16. The group included two IDPs, Alhafize Edress Mohamed and Zahra Abdulrahman Musa, who had been detained for over a year until their release in September. In recent days, the NISS has managed to locate and arrest other IDPs. On 10 October, Mohamed Abdall Mohamed of Abu Shouk IDP camp was arrested for a speech he made at a demonstration in El Fashir calling for the Security Council to implement outstanding resolutions on Sudan. Abdalla Eshag Abdul Razig of Abashed IDP camp was arrested and interrogated by the NISS for his interaction with the US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice in the market of Abashed camp. As of today, both remain in detention.
A group of Sudan and anti-genocide activist organizations wrote a letter to the Council urging them to take up this issue, which is how it first came to my attention.
According to U.S. government official with whom I spoke the United States first learned about these arrests last week and has been actively pursuing the release of the detained, though out of the public view. “We have been working this through various channels – direct communication with the Sudanese, through our Embassy, through the UN, and in conjunction with other Security Council Member States, including the UK,” the U.S. official said.
On Monday, the Security Council is holding a high profile meeting on Sudan. According to this official, the arrested IDPs will be on the agenda.
Good for the United States. If these individuals were brave enough to speak candidly to the Security Council about their plight, it would only be appropriate for the Council to make a big deal about their arrest and harassment. If not, I can hardly imagine vulnerable people will be willing to speak up the next time the Council visits a similarly hostile environment.
Hopefully, having the full weight of the Council on the case can help secure their release.