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Sudanese Security Forces Interrogate Rights Activist Over Relationship with ICC

One of three human rights activists detained last week by Sudan's security services warns that more people could be interrogated over their alleged role in supplying information to the International Criminal Court, which has been gathering evidence to support its indictment of President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes. For VOA, Blake Evans-Pritchard has this report from Khartoum.

Osman Hummaida, Amir Suleiman and Abdel Moneim were all taken in for questioning by Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Services last Monday. They have since been released, without charge, although fears remain that they could be taken in again for further questioning.

Suleiman, who is the head of Khartoum Human Rights Centre, told VOA that he has been questioned about human rights before, but this is the first time that his relationship with the International Criminal Court has also been scrutinised.

"In the previous times, we were interrogated about the human rights situation in Sudan, because we are working closely with the victims of human rights violations," he said. "This is the first time we are interrogated about the International Criminal Court and our relationship with the International Criminal Court. We sent reports and information to the International Criminal Court, especially our colleague Osman Hummaida. He provided the International Criminal Court with information about the victims and the situation in Darfur."

Suleiman said he expects others to face questioning from the security forces.

"I expect that. Actually, we were three arrested by the national security and also we know that there is another two [that were interrogated]: Hala Alkarip from the SIHA national organization and Abdulla Alkarip from the Sudan Monitor for Human Rights," he said.

Suleiman alleges that Abdel Moneim was badly tortured by the security forces.

Last Friday, the United Nation's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights published a report strongly condemning arbitrary detentions in Sudan, which it said are linked to more serious human rights abuses. Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the body, said that arbitrary arrests in the country are regularly used as a political weapon.

"The report shows that the National Intelligent Security Services systematically arrest people and detain them and they are doing this in particular with political dissidents. Detention by the NISS leads to serious human rights violations in some cases," he said. "Fundamentally the NISS is not supposed to act in this way at all. Longer term one would hope that the constitutional court could review the constitutionality of the National Security Forces Act. But in the meantime, until those more fundamental elements are sorted out, there should be much greater transparency."

Chief prosecutor of the ICC, Luis Moreno Ocampo, issued an arrest warrant for President Bashir in July. Judges at the ICC asked Ocampo to provide evidence to back up the indictment, by November 17. There is no fixed deadline for the Court to take a final decision about whether or not to press ahead with the charges.