Sudan: Policy of repression lies at root of human rights catastrophe, says Amnesty in memorandum to government

The rule of law and traditional mechanisms for resolving conflict between different ethnic groups have been destroyed by the government’s support for the ‘Janjawid’ militia groups, its failure to arrest anyone accused of attacking and killing villagers from sedentary groups, and its persecution of those thought to be critical of the government.

Amnesty International said:

'On the one hand the government has armed the Janjawid militia groups and turned a blind eye to their killing, raping, looting and forcibly displacement of people from their homes.

“Meanwhile the harassment, arbitrary detention, torture and summary trials of people who have simply expressed peaceful opinions and called for an end to the killing in Darfur is destroying the integrity of the whole Sudanese justice system.”

Torture is frequently reported in Darfur. Dr Ali Ahmed Daoud, a veterinary surgeon, and Ali Hussein Dossa, a member of the South Darfur State Assembly, were arrested in Nyala on 15 March with 20 others during a meeting in which they were reportedly discussing lobbying against Janjawid attacks. Both men were severely beaten with sticks and cables. They have been in detention in Kober Prison since March and have not been charged with any offence or brought to trial.

Arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention is widespread. Those detained include lawyers, journalists, human rights activists and students - many are prisoners of conscience arrested solely for expressing their opinions without advocating or using violence.

Dr Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, director of a human rights organisation with branches in Darfur, went on hunger strike five weeks after his arrest in Khartoum on 28 December 2003 demanding to be brought to trial or released. He was then charged with nine offences including some carrying the death penalty. The “evidence” against him includes possessing public documents from Amnesty International. His trial is continuing.

Amnesty International continued:

“Whilst we recognise the need of governments to act to protect citizens against threats from armed groups, it must be done in a way consistent with international humanitarian and human rights law.”

Amnesty International is calling for:

  • the release of all prisoners of conscience
  • the charge and trial, otherwise release, of all political prisoners
  • an immediate end to incommunicado detention; the registration of all detainees; and their detention only in recognised places of detention
  • investigations into all allegations of torture and perpetrators to be brought to justice
  • the widening of the remit of the Darfur Commission of Inquiry to include the investigation of human rights violations by government authorities.

Background

In 2001, the Sudanese government, faced with a growing security problem, including inter-ethnic attacks and a rise in banditry, set up Special Courts in North, South and West Darfur states, after declaring a state of emergency in the region. Trials in the Special Courts are deeply flawed. The presence of members of the security forces as judges calls into question the independence of the judiciary. Trials in these courts are summary and death sentences have been handed down after trials which lasted only an hour.

Conflict in Darfur has intensified since February 2003 when the SLA (Sudanese Liberation Army) and later the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) took up arms against the government. They complained about lack of government protection for agricultural ethnic groups from attacks by nomad militias and the marginalisation and underdevelopment of the region. The Sudanese government then gave free rein to the nomadic militias known as the Janjawid to attack the villages of the mainly agricultural ethnic groups, such as the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa.

The Janjawid are now supported and funded by the government; they wear uniform and continue to attack, kill, rape and abduct civilians. About a million people have fled from their burnt villages and have taken refuge in towns in Darfur, while more than 120,000 have crossed the border into Chad.

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