On 4 May 2021, I wrote a letter to the Government of Sudan on the killing of human rights defender Faisal Yousef Mohamed and the sentencing of woman human rights defender Waad Bahjat.
In the communication, we expressed our grave concern over the killing of Mr. Mohamed which we fear may have been in retaliation for his work to promote and protect the rights of internally displaced persons. We also expressed concern at the prosecution of Ms. Bahjat, which we fared may have been sought in retaliation for her work as a woman human rights defender.
Mr. Faisal Yousef Mohamed was a human rights defender and legal trainee from West Darfur. He was a member of both the Hay El Ameerya Resistance Committee, which organizes peaceful demonstrations to promote civil and economic rights in Sudan, and the El Geneina Paralegal Network, which works to improve access to legal assistance for internally displaced persons living in camps in West Darfur.
On 16 January 2021, armed men belonging to Arab communities attacked the Krinding camp for internally displaced persons in West Darfur, targeting people mostly from the Masalit ethnic group. In subsequent clashes between the communities, a reported 163 people were killed and 217 injured, with an estimated 50,000 persons displaced from the camp to nearby areas in a situation of dire humanitarian need. Some of these events were witnessed by Mr. Mohamed, who was working with internally displaced persons at the Krinding camp at the time.
On 17 January 2021, at approximately 10 pm, members of an armed group involved in the violence at the Krinding camp entered Mr. Mohamed’s home in El Geneina, West Darfur, where they killed him and two of his family members, while making death threats against other relatives of the human rights defender who were present. As of the finalizing of the communication (4 May 2021), an investigation into the killing of the human rights defender and his family members had reportedly not been carried out.
Ms. Waad Bahjat is a woman human rights defender, as well as an engineer and a blogger, who focuses her writings on women’s rights in Sudan. She is a member of the Umdba Resistance Committee, which peacefully mobilizes for the promotion of civil and economic rights in Sudan, and against public corruption in the country.
On 9 November 2020, Ms. Bahjat was arrested at a petrol station in the Al-Amarat neighbourhood of Khartoum by a member of the Sudanese police. The arrest was carried out in the presence of an officer of the Sudanese Armed Forces. At the moment of her arrest, the woman human rights defender was broadcasting a live video on social media in which she alleged that women at the station were being discriminated against by members of the Sudanese police and armed forces. She was subsequently brought to Al-Imtedad Police Station, where her mobile phone was confiscated and she was interrogated and subjected to threats and ill-treatment, including physical abuse leading to injuries to her shoulder.
Ms. Bahjat was released on bail the following day after having had access to her lawyer. She was charged with publishing false news, public nuisance, insulting a public servant exercising judicial proceedings and with defamation, under articles 66, 77, 116 and 159 of the Sudanese Criminal Act, 1991.
On 3 December 2020, the first hearing in Ms. Bahjat’s case was held at the Criminal Court in Khartoum, where charges and witnesses accounts were presented against her by the Public Prosecutor. A second hearing in her case took place on 10 January 2021, with the Criminal Court dismissing the charges of defamation, insulting a public servant exercising judicial proceedings, and publishing false news, while maintaining the charge of public nuisance and admitting a further charge of using criminal force, under article 143 of the Sudanese Criminal Act.
On 31 March 2021, after at least one postponement in her case, the Criminal Court convicted Ms. Bahjat and sentenced her to six months imprisonment (suspended) and a fine of 10,000 Sudanese pounds (approx. 22 EUR) on the charges of use of criminal force and public nuisance. Following the sentence, she was temporarily held in the police station attached to the court, before being released on the same date after having paid the ordered fine. The women human rights defender plans to appeal to the decision of the court.