A Sudanese opposition leader has been arrested after calling on Sudan’s president to present himself to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and face his responsibility for crimes under international law that have been committed in the conflict in Darfur.
Hassan Al Turabi, the leader of the Popular Congress Party (PCP), was taken from his home in Khartoum by armed agents of the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), on 14 January. He has since been held incommunicado and without charge.
Al Turabi’s arrest came two days after he addressed journalists in the PCP offices. He told them that President Al Bashir should present himself to the ICC and face trial, to spare Sudan further internal crisis and collapse.
He said that, because President Al Bashir was in power, he was politically responsible for crimes such as killing, rape, displacement and the burning of villages, which have been taking place in Darfur since the conflict started in 2003.
Turabi is the latest in a series of individuals, including human rights activists and others, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression in Sudan.
Some of those arrested and detained were tortured and otherwise ill-treated.
These arrests have been happening especially since 14 July 2008, when the ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo applied for a warrant of arrest against President Al Bashir, for 10 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Neither Al Turabi’s family nor his lawyers have been officially informed of the reasons for his arrest. His family do not know how he is being treated, or how his health has been affected.
First held at an NISS detention centre, Al Turabi was then moved to Kober prison in Khartoum.
His family initially followed him to the NISS detention centre, but were not allowed to go in with him. The NISS have since refused to allow them to see him, to give him his medicine and special food. Al Turabi is about to turn 77 and requires medication as well as a special diet.
Amnesty International considers that Al Turabi’s arrest is arbitrary, carried out in response to his 12 January statement to journalists. The organization has urged the Sudanese authorities to charge Hassan Al Turabi with a recognisable criminal offence or else release him immediately. It has also urged them to allow Al Turabi immediate access to his family, legal representation and any medical treatment he may require.
Amnesty International has also called for an immediate stop to the harassment and unlawful arrest of human rights activists and members of the opposition for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and assembly.
Al Turabi was one of the key figures behind the 1989 coup d’état that brought President Omar Al Bashir to power. He fell out with the president in the late 1990s.
He was imprisoned in Kober from February to May 2001, after which he was put under house arrest until October 2003, when he was pardoned by presidential decree. He was never brought to trial. He was again incarcerated between 2004 and 2005.