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Cablegate: London-Based Human Rights Ngo Corrupt, Co-Opted by Ncp Say

VZCZCXRO8416
OO RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1280/01 2351114
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 221114Z AUG 08 ZDS
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1694
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0079
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 001280

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, A/S FRAZER, SE WILLIAMSON
NSC FOR BPITTMAN AND CHUDSON
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (GARBLED TEXT)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC PGOV PREL KPKO SOCI AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: LONDON-BASED HUMAN RIGHTS NGO CORRUPT, CO-OPTED BY NCP SAY
ACTIVISTS

REF: KHARTOUM 847

KHARTOUM 00001280 001.2 OF 002


1. (U) Summary: Human rights advocates and Khartoum-based lawyers
have revealed that Sudan's highest-profile international NGO,
London-based Sudanese Organization Against Torture (SOAT), has
stopped transferring grant funds to its Sudan-based representative
organizations. Accusing SOAT of falling victim to GOS and NISS
interference, activists in Khartoum have released internal documents
that reveal an organization internally divided, plagued by petty
corruption, and unable to carry out its mission in Sudan. The
corruption and stalled funding has effectively shut down the
operations of several formerly-effective local human rights NGOs in
Khartoum, El Fasher, and Nyala. End summary.

2. (SBU) According to Amir Suleiman, director of the Khartoum Center
for Human Rights (KCHR), SOAT's key partner organization within
Sudan and sister organization to the Amol Centers of El Fasher and
Nyala, SOAT ceased transferring funds regularly at the beginning of
2008, and has haltingly fulfilled its obligations since then.
Calling SOAT a "problematic partner," Suleiman described his
organization as deep in the red because corruption within SOAT has
drained international funds earmarked for essential human rights
work in Sudan. KCHR depends on SOAT for operational funding
guaranteed through an EU grant, funding the organization's monthly
rent of $3,000, and $25,000 monthly for salaries and administration
costs for KCHR and the centers in Darfur. SOAT's most recent funds
transfer, in June 2008, paid KCHR's rent for the first half of 2008,
but KCHR received no administrative funds for the same period.
Suleiman estimates that KCHR staff, including its full-time lawyers,
social workers and physicians, last received their salaries in
March.

3. (SBU) KCHR employees gave Poloff a sheath of documents in English
and Arabic which detailed embezzlement within SOAT, and a copy of a
letter signed by 25 Sudanese human rights advocates in which they
protested the re-appointment of Dr. Nageeb Najmeldin to the post of
general coordinator for SOAT. Najmeldin had been dismissed in 2007
by the SOAT's board of trustees under suspicion of embezzlement.
Chief among his transgressions include skimming 40,000 Euros off an
account meant to support the Amol Center for Human Rights in El
Fasher; forging documents to overcharge KCHR for a Toyota Land
Cruiser by $20,000; and withdrawing $25,000 from a London bank
account for personal use.

4. (SBU) In addition to tracking human rights violations and
assisting detainees and victims of torture, KCHR runs a
comprehensive information campaign informing the public of their
rights under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in northern
Sudan and the Nuba Mountains. The $115,000 program, funded in part
with assistance from the National Endowment for Democracy and the
U.S. Institute of Peace, remains under funded by $80,000, money
which Suleiman suspects no longer remains in SOAT's London coffers
awaiting transfer to Khartoum. KCHR has managed to achieve some
modest successes with its program, widely distributing copies of
the CPA's Bill of Rights, but the program's more ambitious and
wide-researching components that increase awareness of the CPA -
including magazines, television and radio programs - go unrealized
due to embezzlement within SOAT.

5. (SBU) Salih Mahmoud Osman, a well-known Sudanese human rights
advocate, told Poloff that he saw trouble coming within the
organization several years ago, in 2005. He said he no longer
cooperates with SOAT, as he believes the organization is fully
co-opted by the GOS. Osman claimed he personally discovered
discrepancies in payments made from SOAT to UNHCR to increase legal
access in IDP camps in Darfur, and further lost faith in it as it
dismissed honest administrators in favor of its current incompetent
director and corrupt General Coordinator. "Najmeldin was given the
job to destroy the organization from the inside, and he has done his
work well," Osman said, adding that while he intends to begin a new
organization, SOAT's lost credibility forces the KCHR and the Amol
Centers to scale back their operations.

6. (SBU) In August, SOAT announced it had awarded Liz Hodgkin of
Amnesty International with its Nazik Osman Award for human rights
advocacy, but the London-based activist refused to accept the award,
citing the conflict that has drastically reduced KCHR's operations.
Speaking by telephone with Poloff, Hodgkin described the crisis as a
disaster for the cause of human rights in Sudan. "Nothing good will
happen to SOAT now, because it has sacked its best people. Khartoum
Center for Human Rights is forced to operate without the cover of a
formal channel, leaving it in a state of trauma." Hodgkin noted that
she has publicly shied away from condemning SOAT, but remains

KHARTOUM 00001280 002.2 OF 002


concerned that international funding to support the cause of human
rights in Sudan will continue to be channeled through the
compromised organization.

7. (SBU) Comment: SOAT's partner organizations carry out essential
work in Khartoum and Darfur, one of the few organizations providing
both legal aid and medical care for victims of GOS brutality and
torture. KCHR has incurred large debts already in 2008, spending a
significant amount of money treating 20 Darfuri students beaten in a
GOS attack on their university dormitory (reftel). Due to their
financial woes, the Amol Centers in El Fasher and Nyala are
preparing to cease operations in the coming months. SOAT's internal
corruption is a huge blow for human rights in Sudan, not only
weakening watchdogs in Darfur, but also cutting off what had been a
dependable and essential stream of funding from Western donors to
Sudanese causes. Post will continue to monitor the situation and
seek to find alternate funding for these critical human rights
advocacy NGOs in Sudan.

ASQUINO

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