It was one year ago Thursday, the Sudanese government closed three national human rights and humanitarian organizations. On the same day, it revoked the licenses of 13 international humanitarian groups.
The Sudanese government took the action after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for President Omar Al Bashir, who’s accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from the Darfur conflict.
Amnesty International’s Sudan researcher Rania Rajji says on the one year anniversary of the closings, “We are asking for the NGOs, the three NGOs, that are humanitarian and human rights Sudanese organizations, to reopen and resume their activities should they choose to.”
The Khartoum Center for Human Rights and Environmental Development, Amal Center and the Sudan Social Development Organization were closed March 4th, 2009.
“We are also calling on the government of Sudan to stop the harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders throughout the country,’ she says.
Amnesty says the human rights situation in Sudan has deteriorated.
“These organizations were providing very significant human rights services in terms of monitoring and reporting and legal aid to an extent,” she says.
Rajji says the remaining human rights defenders in the country “are not able to exercise their activities freely. And so with the absence of these NGOs, and the limitations that are forced upon human rights defenders, there is a very big gap in terms of words reaching outside the country about the violations that are happening, in terms of monitoring these violations on a daily basis.”
Any chance of reinstatement?
Rajji says some of the groups were “trying to pursue the legal remedies that they have in terms of appealing the closure decision.”
There has been public lobbying calling on the Sudanese government to reverse its decision.
“In April 2009, Amnesty International organized the campaign that was launched in different capitals of Africa trying to put pressure with the voices of African organizations,” she says, “addressing the Sudanese government and asking for the decision to be reversed.”
The Sudanese Foreign Affairs ministry has labeled the ICC as a political court rather than a legal one as elections in South Sudan approach. It says much of the international community opposes the court.
Recently, an appeals chamber of the International Criminal Court said the pre-trial chamber should have considered the charge of genocide against Mr. Bashir when it issued the arrested warrant.