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UN expert on human rights in Sudan calls for release of detained journalists and human rights activists

GENEVA (17 December 2010) – The independent expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, Mohammed Chande Othman, expressed serious concern Friday about the continued detention of eleven human rights activists and journalists by the Government of the Sudan.

“I am concerned that the arrests and detentions of these eleven persons may be linked to their legitimate activities in defense of human rights, said Mr. Othman. “Sudan has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Covenant’s guarantees of freedom of expression and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention are an integral part of the Bill of Rights of the Interim National Constitution of the Sudan”, he added.

The eleven were arrested by Sudan’s National Security Service between 30 October and 3 November 2010 and have reportedly been held incommunicado since then. The Government has not specified the charges brought against them, provided them with access to legal counsel, nor brought them before a judge to review the lawfulness of their detentions. The independent expert notes the observations made by the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur on Torture that incommunicado detention increases the risk of ill treatment and torture.

The independent expert, who undertook his first fact-finding mission* to the country earlier this year (23 January to 11 February 2010), called on the Government to respect its international obligations including by promptly bringing the eleven persons before a court of law or to immediately release them.

The independent expert stressed that he remains concerned about the increasingly difficult situation for human rights defenders across the country, particularly at this crucial moment as the Sudan prepares for its historic referendum on self determination for the people of Southern Sudan.

Justice Mohamed Chande Othman was first appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in October 2009. As Independent Expert, he serves in his individual capacity, independently from any government or organization. The Independent Expert is currently a Justice in the Court of Appeal of Tanzania, and formerly worked as Prosecutor-General in East Timor. He was also a member of the High Level Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon and Chief of Prosecutions at the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

(*) Check the end-of-mission statement by the Independent Expert (11/01/2010): http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=9813&LangID=E

OHCHR – Country Page: Sudan: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/SDIndex.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact Joseph Bonsu (Tel. + 41 22 928 9417 / email: jbonsu@ohchr.org) or write to sudan@ohchr.org.