Saturday, October 22, 2005

Sudan detains lawyer defending refugees - Amnesty

22 October, 2005

KHARTOUM - Sudanese authorities have arrested and allegedly mistreated a lawyer defending the rights of refugees who live in camps outside the capital Khartoum, rights group Amnesty International said in a statement.

About 2 million people who fled regional conflicts in Sudan live in slums surrounding Khartoum. Police clashed with refugees in the Soba al-Aradi camp in May, leaving at least 30 people dead, including 14 policemen, rights groups and witnesses said.

The lawyer, Mohamed Ahmed Abdel Gadir al-Arbab, had helped provide information about many of those arrested and killed during the clashes. He had said earlier he feared for his life after being threatened by security forces.

"Allegedly he has been ill-treated in custody, and is at risk of further ill-treatment," Amnesty said in a statement on Saturday. "Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for his work in defense of human rights."

Amnesty has not seen the lawyer as it does not have international staff in Sudan and has tried unsuccessfully to get visas to visit. Amnesty employees, including Secretary-General Irene Khan, were granted visas for one visit after the British Foreign Minister Jack Straw intervened.

Authorities have denied opening fire in the camp but witnesses heard shooting and some camp residents said they had lost relatives who were killed by gunshot wounds.

Hundreds were arrested in the shooting‘s aftermath and an independent paper was suspended for printing reports on it.

Amnesty said Arbab had reportedly been charged for crimes including waging war against the state, murder and undermining the constitutional system. Two of the charges carry the death penalty.

Interior ministry officials declined to comment on Arbab‘s arrest and said they had not seen the Amnesty report.

Most refugees in the camps around Khartoum are from the war-torn south and remote Darfur regions. Authorities have often demolished their homes without warning, forcibly moving the refugees, a move condemned by the United Nations .

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