It is with great sadness that the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) mourns the passage of Osman Hummaida, Sudanese human rights activist and Executive Director of the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies. Osman died of natural causes on April 17, 2014.
Osman was a passionate and committed human rights advocate who dedicated his life to the promotion and protection of human rights in Sudan. His commitment an be traced over decades, from his days as a student activist in Khartoum, to the founding of the Sudan Organisation Against Torture, to his most recent role as founder and Executive Director of the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies. Having been a refugee in the UK, he was a vibrant example of how those in exile can both become professionally successful, serving as the head of a human rights organisation, and also give back to the countries from which they come.
Activism came at a huge personal and professional cost to Osman. In 1990, shortly after the accession to power of the current regime in Sudan, he was arrested and held for 18 months alongside a large number of other activists. In 2008, Osman and several colleagues were again arrested and suffered mistreatment and torture in detention. They were only released following the mobilization of significant international pressure.
Osman personally, and the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies institutionally, have been important partners and allies in much of IRRI’s work. In that context, Osman worked closely with IRRI and other member organisations to set up the Darfur Consortium (now renamed the Sudan Consortium). Not only did Osman lend his deep understanding of the political situation in Sudan and the context of the conflict to the discussions of policy and refining of areas of focus, he also helped to make contacts between Sudanese activists and their counterparts from all over Africa in the Consortium.
Osman was also an early and vocal supporter of international justice, generally, but also specifically regarding Darfur where he was one of the first to call for accountability for international crimes committed there. His support for accountability reinforced those of other human rights organisations in this area. He was an eloquent spokesperson of the views of Sudanese on the need for justice in their country.
As a leader in the community and an eloquent defender of human rights, Osman cannot be replaced. However, it is our hope that we can continue to support the activists and activitism that he inspired and supported and ensure that the fight for a just and peaceful Sudan, to which Osman dedicated his life, is not in vain.
May Allah receive his soul!