SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: December 07, 2016

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):University of Khartoum

Region & Country:Northern Africa | Sudan

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On December 7, 2016, Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) officers reportedly detained Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, a professor of engineering at the University of Khartoum.

Dr. Mudawi is an internationally recognized human rights defender, known for his part in exposing human rights violations in Darfur. He founded and was Chairperson of the Sudan Social Development Organization (SUDO), which engaged in human rights advocacy, health projects, and humanitarian activities in southern Blue Nile, Darfur and greater Sudan. SUDO was closed in 2009 and continues to be denied permission to resume its activities. In 2004, Dr. Mudawi reportedly spent seven months in police custody after being charged with committing offences against the state in connection with his human rights work. He was later acquitted. He was reportedly imprisoned twice in 2005, and was reportedly arbitrarily arrested by Sudanese authorities in 2010.

On December 7, 2016, Dr. Mudawi and his driver, Mr. Adam El-Sheikh, were reportedly detained by the NISS and transferred to an unknown location. Following his arrest, several NISS officers reportedly conducted a search of Dr. Mudawi’s house. On December 12, NISS officers reportedly arrested Nora Abaid, an accountant for an engineering company run by Dr. Mudawi.  Members of Dr. Mudawi’s family have expressed concern that he and his colleagues are at risk of torture or other ill treatment.

On January 5, 2017, a vigil was organized in support of Dr. Mudawi and his colleagues outside the NISS headquarters in Khartoum. Security forces on the scene dispersed the attendees and reportedly detained Dr. Mudawi’s daughter, several of his relatives, and a number of university students. All were reportedly released later that day, except for one student who has detained overnight.

On January 22, Dr. Mudawi reportedly began a hunger strike in protest of his detention, during which he has reportedly experienced beatings and other ill-treatment. As of this report, Dr. Mudawi and his two colleagues remain in detention. Charges have not been disclosed.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary detention of a professor and two other individuals, apparently in retaliation for non-violent exercise of the rights to free expression and association, conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sudan is a party. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine society generally. State officials have an obligation to comply with internationally recognized standards of free expression and association, due process, and fair trial.

Update: On May 11, 2017, a court charged Dr. Mudawi with “undermining the constitutional system” and “waging war against the State.” If convicted, he could face the death penalty.


Sudan: Arrest of leading human rights activist underscores crackdown on dissent