“나는 심문 받을 때마다 매번 똑 같은 말을 듣는다 – ‘우리는 언제 어디서든 너를 죽일 수 있다. 그저 시간문제일뿐이다.’ – 파이잘 엘바기르(FaisalElbagir)수단에서 20년간 언론인으로써 활동했던 파이잘 엘바기르는 수없이 구금 당하고 자신의 직업에 대해 심문을 수없이 받았다. 하지만 최근 심문을 받으면서 그의 목숨이 즉각적인 위험에 처해있음을 감지했다.
2009년 2월, 국제형사재판소(ICC)가 전쟁범죄 및 인류에 대한 범죄 혐의로 오마 알 바시르(Omar Al Bashir) 수단 대통령에 대한 구속영장을 발부할 무렵 엘바기르의사무실에서는 심문이진행됐다.
수단 당국은 강화된정치반대세력에 대한탄압수위를 높임으로써 재판소의 판결에대응했다. 이는 ‘국가안보’ 요원들이 전국의 인권 활동가들에 대한단속을 강화한다는 의미였다.
지난 7일 제네바에서수단에 인권전문가를파견하기 위해 유엔과로비 중이었던 엘바기르는 “구속영장 발부 이후 보안 당국은 ‘나라를 배신한’ICC 지지자들이 죽음을 면하지 못할 것이라고 발표했다. 당국은 지지자들의 손과귀를 자를 것이라고 말했다”며 “수단을 떠나기하루 전 나는 심문을받았고 그들은 나를‘적’이라고 불렀다.그들의 메시지는 매우확실했다. ICC에 정보를 흘렸다는 거짓 혐의로 나를 감금하거나, 나를 암살하려고했다”고 국제앰네스티에 전했다.
엘바기르는 정치 언론인으로써의 20년의 경력은 물론이고 아내와아들을 뒤로 한 채 인접 국가로 망명한 상태이다.
Sudanese journalisttells of harassmentby ‘brutal’ securityforces_7 June 2010
“Whenever I’minterrogated I’malways told the samething – ‘we areready to kill you when we want, and where we want. It’sjust a matter oftime.” – FaisalElbagir
In more than 20years working as ajournalist in Sudan,Faisal Elbagir haslost count of the number of times he has been detainedor interrogated forhis work. Yet thelast time ithappened, he sensed that his life
was in immediatedanger.
The interrogationtook place inElbagir’s office inFebruary 2009, justbefore Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir had beenissued with anarrest warrant forwar crimes andcrimes against humanity by the InternationalCriminal Court(ICC).
The Sudaneseauthoritiesresponded to theruling by steppingup their repressionof political opponents.It meant human rightsactivists across thecountry were beingpaid visits byfeared ‘National Security’ agents.
“After the arrestwarrant, the head ofsecurity announcedthat thosesupporting the ICC would not be allowed to live,that they were’betraying thenation’. He said hewould cut theirhands and cut their ears,”
Elbagir told AmnestyInternational onMonday from Geneva,where he is lobbyingthe United Nations to keep a human rightsexpert in Sudan.
“The day before Ileft Sudan, I wasquestioned and toldI was an ‘enemy’.The message was very clear: they were eithergoing to put me inprison on falsecharges, by saying Iwas passing information to the ICC, or they weregoing to assassinateme.”
Elbagir fled to aneighbouringcountry, leavingbehind his wife andson, along with the political journalism
career that had beenhis life for morethan two decades.
This week, he isurging the UN not toremove itsIndependent Expertfrom Sudan. He hopes a continued monitoring presencein the country willhelp end theclampdown on freedomof expression that forced him out of his home.
“It’s difficult toexplain how it feelsto leave. Since Iwas first detained,in 1989, I’ve been doing my best to stay. I believe thebest place for ajournalist or humanrights activist isto work inside his or her country. So when you are forcedto flee, it cutsyour heart,” hesays.
“It’s not just me,any human rightsdefender unluckyenough to fall intothe hands of National Securitygets the same. But on theother hand I amlucky, as I haven’tlost my life – yet.Many others have.”
At least 23 peoplehave been arrestedand interrogated bythe NationalIntelligence and Security Services (NISS) for theirhuman rights orpolitical activitiesin north Sudan sofar this year,including 4 journalists.
On 11 February,student MohamedMoussa Abdallah Bahrel Din was founddead, with traces of torture,the day after beingarrested by NISSagents outside hisuniversity inKhartoum. In May,two journalists from the Rai Al Shaabnewspaper werereportedly torturedwhile in NISSdetention.
Elbagir is theGeneral Secretary ofthe Khartoum Centrefor Human Rights and
Development, whichwas shut down afterPresident AlBashir’s arrestwarrant was issued.He is also theSudanese correspondent for ReportersWithout Borders.
Since leaving, thethreats againstElbagir havecontinued, while helives in fear forthe welfare of hisfamily.
“I’m still not 100per cent safe. Istill receiveregular calls fromsecurity agents,asking me where I am, what I’m doing andtelling me they canreach me wherever Iam,” says Elbagir.
“We are facing abrutal institution -National Security -so we can never besure that our families will not pay for ouractivities. This ispsychologicaltorture.”
Despite the risks,Elbagir is committedto continuing hisfight for humanrights in his homeland. He hopes his visit to Genevawill be a steptowards improvingthe human rightssituation in Sudan, especially by paving the way forfree voting in thesouth Sudanindependencereferendum inJanuary 2011.
“The UN human rightsbodies need to helpbecause we’ve justhad rigged electionsand soon there will be an importantreferendum. Thepeople there need tobe able to decidefreely. Right now, they are not allowed that right,”said Elbagir.
“I will continue towork because I havedone nothing wrong,so I will not hide.I’m not afraid of beingkilled, I have to live mylife. And my life ishuman rights andfreedom ofexpression. So I’m optimistic. And Ihave to keep my optimism tocontinue mystruggle.
“I still have greathope for Sudan, andthat one day I’ll begoing back home.This dictatorship and oppression of thepeople will notcontinue forever.One day, the sunwill rise in Sudan.”