Sudanese government "repression" of its opponents and the media is threatening the chances of next month's elections being free and fair.
Sudanese government “repression” of its opponents and the media is threatening the chances of next month’s elections being free and
fair, Human Rights Watch warned on Sunday.
“Conditions in Sudan are not yet conducive for a free, fair, and credible election,” Georgette Gagnon, the US-based rights group’s Africa director, said in a statement.
Sudan is set to stage its first multiparty elections in 24 years from April 11 to 13 as part of a 2005 peace agreement that ended a decades-old civil war between north and south.
In the statement, HRW said major areas of concern included “restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression, freedom of the press, and equal access to the media”.
The media crackdown included a decision by the authorities to summon two editors for articles critical of President Omar al-Bashir.
Al-Bashir ‘a fugitive from justice’
He is standing for re-election despite being wanted for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in the conflict-ravaged western Sudanese region of Darfur.
Al-Bashir “is a fugitive from justice”, Gagnon said. “He should be in The Hague answering to charges of heinous crimes committed in Darfur, not flouting Khartoum’s obligations to cooperate with the International Criminal Court.”
Gagnon warned that “unless there’s a dramatic improvement in the situation it’s unlikely that the Sudanese people will be able to vote freely for leaders of their choice”.
The polls were originally due to take place in July 2009, but were delayed several times. Rumours are circulating in Khartoum of another postponement, but the electoral commission has yet to announce a new date.
On Thursday the Carter Centre, an organisation which Sudanese authorities have given permission to observe the polls, called for the elections to be put off for logistical reasons.
The Centre, founded by former US president Jimmy Carter, urged the electoral commission “to make a decision as quickly as possible about any delay in the election date so that all stakeholders have time to adjust plans”. - AFP