Sudanese security service carries out brutal campaign against opponents

“I was planning to kill myself that night… Every hour I was at risk.  I knew it was a matter of time until they [the security service] reached me”*

The Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) is carrying out a brutal campaign of arbitrary detentions, torture, and mental and physical intimidation against opponents and critics of the government, Amnesty International has said in a new report launched today.

Agents of Fear documents the institutionalized human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detentions, ill-treatment, unlawful killings and enforced disappearances that have been perpetrated for years by the NISS in Sudan.

“The NISS rules Sudan by fear.  The extensive, multi-pronged assault on the Sudanese people by the security services has left the critics of the government in constant fear of arrest, harassment or worse” said Erwin van der Borght, Africa programme director.

“The Sudanese authorities are brutally silencing political opposition and human rights defenders in Sudan through violence and intimidation. NISS agents benefit from total impunity for the human rights violations they continue to commit.”

During the first half of 2010 Amnesty International documented the arrest of at least 34 individuals by the NISS, including journalists, human rights activists and students.

Arrests have peaked at times of political tensions, such as following a major attack by a Darfur armed group on Khartoum in May 2008, before and after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against President Al Bashir in July 2008, and following the elections in April 2010.

NISS agents have systematically used intimidation and various forms of ill-treatment, including torture, against supporters of the political opposition, students, human rights defenders, civil society activists, staff of national and international NGOs, and anyone seen as posing a threat to the government.

The report documents a variety of torture methods used by the NISS: beating detainees while held upside down against a wall, electric shocks, whipping, sleep deprivation, kicking and stamping on detainees and beating them with water pipes.

Ahmed Ali Mohamed Osman, a doctor also known as Ahmed Sardop, was arrested by the NISS on 20 March 2009 in Khartoum after he wrote a web article critical of the government’s decision to expel humanitarian organizations from Sudan and rapes in the Darfur region.

“They leaned me over a chair and held me by my arms and feet while others hit me on the back, legs and arms with something similar to an electrical cable”, he told Amnesty International.

“They kicked me in the testicles repeatedly while they talked about the report on rape in Darfur.”

Ahmed Sardop filed a complaint with the police and was examined by a doctor who confirmed his allegations of torture.

A few days later, he started receiving telephone death threats: “We will soon find you and we will kill you.” He now lives in exile.

Families are often threatened and harassed by NISS agents to put further emotional pressure on the victim.

Women have also been harassed and intimidated by law enforcement agents and the NISS, and sexually assaulted while in their custody.

Since the presidential and parliamentary elections in April 2010, the NISS has renewed its clampdown on freedom of expression.

NISS agents have resumed the pre-print censorship of the Sudanese press with daily visits to newspapers offices and printing houses.

Opposition newspapers have been closed, forced to stop printing, or have stopped printing themselves in protest against censorship. Some journalists have been arbitrarily arrested and detained.

Abuzar Al Amin, the editor-in-chief of Rai Al Shaab, a newspaper affiliated to the Popular Congress Party, was arrested at his home on 15 May 2010.

He was taken into NISS detention where he was interrogated about his writings and journalistic work, and tortured. He was beaten and kicked, and electric shocks were administered to his body.

NISS agents continue to benefit from extensive powers of arrest and detention and have immunity for all the violations they commit, under the 2010 National Security Act.

“The National Security Act must be reformed so that agents are no longer provided with extensive powers of arrest and detention. All immunities should be removed,” said Erwin van der Borght.

“Allegations of human rights violations must be promptly and effectively investigated and those responsible prosecuted for the crimes they commit. Victims must be given reparations”.

“Without these changes, Sudan’s NISS agents will continue to be agents of fear”.

Note for editors

This report is based on research carried out between May 2008, following the Justice and Equality Movement’s attack on Omdurman, and June 2010.  Amnesty International focused on cases of violations by the NISS mostly in Khartoum, and in Darfur.

Amnesty International has relied on testimonies from witnesses and survivors of human rights violations as well as on information published or provided to Amnesty International by individuals and non-governmental organizations.

Information, including testimonies, was obtained during research visits to Uganda in 2010 and to Eastern Chad in 2009. Amnesty International has not been granted permission to visit northern Sudan for fact finding missions since 2006.

* Human rights defender, who survived torture, days before he fled the country.