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March 16, 2006

Human Rights First Condemns Forced Closure of Human Rights Organization in West Darfur

NEW YORK -- The Sudan Social Development Organization (SUDO), a human rights and development organization based in Khartoum, has been ordered to suspend its activities in West Darfur. SUDO received letters on March 12, 2006 from the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC), the Sudanese government agency which oversees all humanitarian organizations in Sudan, ordering the organization to suspend its activities in the region immediately.

"The Sudanese government's actions are an ominous sign for NGO's in Darfur," said Maureen Byrnes, Executive Director of Human Rights First. "SUDO is the first organization to be targeted under the controversial new legislation regulating non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that passed in the Sudanese parliament this February,”

The Organization of Humanitarian and Voluntary Work Act passed on February 20, 2006 and gives wide and vaguely defined powers to the government-appointed Commissioner General and Registrar General for Humanitarian and Voluntary work, including powers to periodically review the activities of non-governmental organizations, suspend their activities, and refuse to re-register them.

The director of SUDO’s Zalingei office was ordered to hand over the organization’s car and two motorcycles; close down their office, clinic and nutrition centers; and produce a full report on the income and expenditure of the organization. The HAC also sent a letter to the Agricultural Bank in Zalingei ordering it to close SUDO’s account and cease all transactions from March 13, 2006.

“We condemn these actions that constitute interference in the legitimate activities of a non-governmental organization and we urge the government of Sudan to let SUDO continue its important work in the region,” said Byrnes. “Organizations like SUDO are at the forefront of efforts to alleviate the suffering of civilians in Darfur.”

Human Rights First has been working very closely with Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, the head of SUDO, to call for a high-level envoy to reenergize the peace process in Darfur. More than two million civilians have been displaced by the violence in Darfur, and it is estimated that between 180,000 and 400,000 civilians have been killed in the region since 2003.