AI decries crackdown on civilians speaking out in Darfur

Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- Amnesty International (AI) has demanded the immediate and unconditional release of people it said were arrested and detained by the Sudanese authorities in North, South and West Darfur detained "simply for expressing their opinion about the situation in Darfur".
In a statement issued Tuesday, the London-based rights body said scores of people had been arrested since the end of June 2004 in various parts of Darfur for talking to foreign government leaders, including US Secretary of State Colin Powell and French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier.
They were also under persecution for speaking to members of the African Union (AU) Ceasefire Commission and independent journalists, AI charged.
"The Sudanese government should give assurances that none of those arrested will be tortured or ill-treated while in detention and that Sudanese people can speak freely about Darfur without fear of reprisals," the organisation said.
It listed what it said were recent cases of intimidation and arrests of civilians and displaced persons in various parts of Darfur.
In North Darfur, AI said at least 47 persons were reportedly arrested between 26 June and 3 August by the security services or the Sudanese army mostly after speaking to members of foreign delegations.
The case was also mentioned human rights lawyer Abazer Ahmad Abu al-Bashir, who was allegedly arrested in South Darfur by the National Security and Intelligence Agency in the town of Nyala last 24 July after submitting a petition to the governor urging an end to the conflict in the area.
In West Darfur, AI said four leaders from the Masalit ethnic group were reportedly arrested on 17 July in Ardamata camp, a suburb of Al-Jeneina for warning their displaced communities against returning to their villages until it was safe and for talking to "foreigners".
The four were later released on 3 August.
AI urged Khartoum to stop arresting those who speak out on human rights abuses, insisting that "the need for human rights access, monitoring and reporting remains ever more crucial in Darfur.
" It called for an immediate and unimpeded access to all areas and people of Darfur, including detention centres, for lawyers, ceasefire observers, human rights monitors, humanitarian workers and journalists.

10 august 2004 12:32:00

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