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Amnesty International Blasts Sudan's State of Emergency Law

An international human rights group is criticizing the Sudanese government for its one-year extension of a state of emergency.

Sudan's state of emergency legislation, the latest round of which was enacted five years ago, enables the government to override certain sections of the constitution so that it can preserve law and order.

According to the Sudan News Agency SUNA, the Sudanese president is responsible "for preserving the security of the country in the face of the foreign threats that are targeting its unity and wealth, and to secure the internal front, unity, security, and stability in Sudan."

SUNA reported Tuesday that Sudan's parliament decided to extend its state of emergency for another year.

The London-based Amnesty International charges the Sudanese government is using its emergency legislation to hold onto power.

Sudan researcher Benedicte Goderiaux says the government is abusing the legislation, which enables the president and other authorities to arrest and detain anyone deemed to be a security risk to Sudan and to control the movement of people in the country.

"In Sudan, it [the legislation] has meant that the Sudanese authorities have been able to detain people indefinitely in detention and particularly political opponents or members of the civil society which they consider as a threat to them," said Benedicte Goderiaux.

Sudan Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohamed Ahmed Abdel Gaffar denied his government is using the legislation to abuse the rights of Sudanese.

Mr. Gaffar says the war in the Darfur region of western Sudan makes it necessary for Sudan to be under a state of emergency.

"There is an armed conflict and the government would like to control this and reach some sort of measures to reach peace - nothing to do with violation of human rights," he said.

Mr. Gaffar points to the recent deaths of Save the Children - UK staff members in Darfur and says his government will lift the state of emergency once the rebels stop attacking civilians and peace is restored.

Sudan researcher Ms. Goderiaux says it is the government's right to protect its own country.

"We are not asking the Sudanese government not to have a state of emergency," she said. "We are telling the Sudanese government that if you have to pass a state of emergency, you must do so in accordance with your human rights obligations under international law."

She urged the Sudanese government to formally charge and bring to trial anyone arrested under the legislation in keeping with conventions that the country has signed.