Time to Change the National Security Law
By: Ahmed El Zobier
Machiavelli once advised his Prince on the ancient dilemma that faced many past rulers, especially autocratic ones – whether it is better to be loved or feared. He wrote, “The answer is of course, that it would be best to be both loved and feared. But since the two rarely come together, anyone compelled to choose will find greater security in being feared than in being loved”.
Since 1989 the Government of Sudan has taken that advice literarily and they have subjected the unfortunate inhabitants of Sudan to unprecedented waves of terror. The government survival strategy is based simply on the use of naked violence to instill fear. Draconian laws, personal and unlimited access to finance, have all been recruited to achieve the ultimate goal of silencing those who dare to dissent. Those who support justice and human rights are always among the most vulnerable under this state organized oppression.
On 28 November 2008, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported that: “In Khartoum and other parts of Northern Sudan, the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) systematically use arbitrary arrest and detention against political dissidents”. The report argued that according to Sudanese law, NISS agents acting without a warrant may arrest and hold someone for up to three days without informing a judge or prosecutor. The amendments made to the National Security Forces Act in 2001 give the NISS Director the authority to detain suspects for up to six months without judicial review, and an additional three months if approved by the National Security Council.
Amnesty International has also criticized the Government of Sudan in the past. With special attention to article 31 of the National Security Forces Act, which governs arrests by the NISS and allows prolonged incommunicado detention without charge or trial. Amnesty highlights the embedded contradiction between the NISS act and article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Sudan, which states that, “anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge”.
The NISS’s Act is a blatant contradiction of the current Sudan Interim Constitution. However, various cabals within the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) felt they could not ensure their own personal safety or that of their regime without the current draconian web of laws they have created and maintained, despite the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) or the Interim Constitution. But times have changed, the national mood has changed, the new hypertext world and the communication revolution make it more difficult to hide or to monopolize information and it is harder now than ever to construct a totalitarian or dictatorial regime and treat your own people like a mindless herd.
Last week through a peaceful demonstration on December 7; for the first time the Sudanese people dictated the term of negotiation between the NCP and SPLM. As the two parties agreed, after endless futile indoors discussion, on crucial laws related to Referendum in South Sudan, Referendum in Abyei and the People’s Consultation in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile. Yes, a simple demonstration involved most political parties and civil society in the country made the impossible possible. Now, for the amendment of the rest of the democratic transformation laws before next year’s election– including NISS act– the opposition should not think for a moment that “power will concede without a fight.”