UN human rights rapporteur to investigate in Sudan
UN Freedom of Opinion and Expression Rapporteur Abid Hussein was expected late Monday to start a week-long enquiry into issues such as the closure of newspapers, the summons of opponents by security authorities and bans on political activities.
President Omar al-Beshir's regime, backed by the Moslem fundamentalist National Congress (NC), was poised to defend the closure of papers held to be threats to national security and a clampdown on what it sees as unlawful politicking, according to reports.
However, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) official Ali Mahmoud Hassanain said the DUP would cite "concrete examples" of rights violations. He pointed to the recent shutdown of the Al-Rai Al-Akher daily, the detention and imprisonment of a number of people in Dongola in northern Sudan and a ban on opposition political parties, Monday's independent As-Sahafa daily said.
Hassanain, a senior DUP member, earlier told AFP that eight people were sent to jail for six to two months while more than 35 persons had been placed in custody for protesting against what they saw as the failure of Northern State authorities to maintain embankments aimed at protecting Dongola from floods.
The River Nile burst its banks this month and devastated the capital of Northern State, leaving some 50,000 people homeless, cutting off essential services and wrecking more than 8,000 houses and other buildings, press reports said last week.
Another DUP official, Ali Ahmed al-Sayyed, said that the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) believed that the existence on paper of laws providing for freedoms "is useless in view of the numerous violations perpetrated by the authorities", As-Sahafa said.
The NDA groups northern opposition parties, which were banned after General Beshir came to power in a June 1989 coup, with the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), which has been fighting since 1983 to end northern domination of the mainly animist and Christian south.
A senior NC official criticised opposition statements and asserted that the freedom of the press as exercised in Sudan "is not available in the world's most advanced nations".
NC Consultative Authority Rapporteur Ibrahim Habbani, speaking to As-Sahafa, defended Beshir's indefinite closure of Al-Rai Al-Akher, saying it was prompted by "a threat to national security", without elaborating.
Regarding the arrests and trials in Dongola, Habbani said they arose from "a flagrant act of subversion for political ends or for personal disputes with the local authorities" and said that those who were jailed were convicted in court of rioting.
He has denied that a ban on political parties exists, arguing that any 100 people could apply to form one.
However, Habbani said: "The parties which hold up arms abroad for overthrowing the regime will not be permitted to practice politics unless they lay down arms."
Parliamentary Human Rights Committee Chairman Siraj Eddin Hamid expressed "anxiety" over the coincidence of Al-Rai Al-Akher's closure with Hussein's visit, saying that "the tremendous international reaction to the decision will give it a priority on the agenda of the rapporteur".
However, Hamid said he was satisfied with "promises" he said he had obtained from unnamed "senior officials" regarding the settlement of the question of the newspaper before Hussein leaves on Sunday.
Copyright (c) 1999 Agence France-Presse
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 09/20/1999 06:00:44
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