Eight political prisoners have been released in Sudan and President Omar al-Bashir stated that he has ordered all others be freed as well, following a call for a “national dialogue” there. The United States welcomes the announcement before the Sudanese Parliament and looks forward to a peaceful, free airing of the nation’s differences. Such talks are critical to Sudan’s progress and long-term stability.
Six men and one woman were released from prisons in Khartoum April 2 under the government’s amnesty announcement. They included Abdul Aziz Khalid, who was arrested in January on charges of trying to overthrow the government because he attended a meeting of Sudanese dissidents in neighboring Uganda. Another freed prisoner was the head of an opposition political group, the Islamic Centrist Party.
The Sudanese government has long been accused of stifling dissent by detaining its critics and political opponents. In his speech to lawmakers April 1, President al-Bashir said he wanted to create an atmosphere for freedoms.
Release of the seven prisoners is a hopeful step in that direction, but we remain concerned about the many others who still remain in custody. Detention on political grounds contravenes all international standards of freedom of expression, and we support the people of Sudan and their fundamental freedoms. We will continue to monitor the status of those who are still detained.
We urge that the national dialogue envisioned by President al-Bashir begin without delay and include all political organizations, including armed groups with which the government is contending. This hopefully can be followed by a fair and transparent constitutional process that will include all Sudanese voices and opinions. The country faces serious challenges that cannot be solved by suppressing dissenting views.
The U.S. remains committed to promoting a peaceful, just and inclusive Sudan, which would benefit both of our countries and peoples.