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Court sentence on artists raises questions about needed reforms of justice in Sudan


Minister Elboushi (2d L) meets imprisoned artists including Duaa and Hajooj besides her at Omdurman prison on 19 September 2020 (ST photo) September 19, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - The ruling of a Khartoum court imprisoning young artists has sparked widespread controversy on social media and among youth groups about the need for swift reforms to the legal system inherited from the former Islamist regime and the police apparatus in Sudan.

On 17 september, the Khartoum Central Criminal Court imposed a two-month prison sentence and a fine of 5 thousand pounds on 5 members of the (Civic Lab) art centre, on the grounds of “disturbing public peace” and “public nuisance,” last August.

Among the sentenced artists known for their support for the revolution Hajooj Kuka who a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which awards the Oscars in the United States of America.

The prison sentence which has become a "political affair" in Khartoum has been condemned by several Resistance Committees groups, Sudanese Women Union, the Sudanese Professional Association and the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa among others.

According to the supporters of democratic change in Sudan, the case shows that the same old laws that were made during the past 30 years by the former regime to oppress Sudanese are still in place, said the SPA.

In the same vein, SIHA said pointed out to the "absence of an objective and fair justice system, and demonstrates that the legal frameworks and institutions of Sudan are designed to criminalise civilians in order to maintain the dominance of the militant Islamist ideology (...)".

Among the convicts Duaa Tariq, a Sudanese female artist who accused the Public Prosecution of refusing to file a case against a police officer for slapping her after she refused to photograph her in a police detention centre.

The head of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front advance delegation in Khartoum, Yasir Arman called for a swift legal solution for the case.

"There is a need for a legal solution that complies with the requirements of the prevailing democratic climate in the country," said Araman in a statement to Sudan Tribune after expressing their solidarity with "Duaa and Hajooj as well as their colleagues".

The case goes back to last August when a group of artists were rehearsing a play and a group of neighbours asked the artists to stop the noise caused that night. The issue could have been settled instantly as the artists made their excuses and reduced the sound.

The developments of the case and mistreatment of the artists are detailed in a statement SIHA issued on Friday, available at the press statements section at this link. Performing arts is not a Crime - Assaulting women and artists is!

On Saturday, Youth and Culture Minister Walaa Isam Elboushi met with the sentenced artists in Omdurman Prison to show her solidarity with them.

In a statement released after the visit, the youth affirmed their rejection of any mediation, violation of laws, or petition for their release.

They stressed they will follow the legal procedures and appeal the sentences "in a manner that achieves justice for them and contribute to the process of legal and institutional reforms".

They also expressed their determination to take legal action towards those who committed violations against them, stressed the statement alluding to the police officers.

International support

International film industry professionals have issued a statement calling for the release of five Sudanese artists, including prize-winning filmmaker Hajooj Kuka, after they were sentenced to two months in prison for causing a "public nuisance."

The solidarity statement was signed by Mike Downey and Marion Döring, President and Director European Film Academy, Orwa Nyrabia and Cees van‘t Hullenaar, Artistic Director and Executive Director International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.

Also among the signatories, Alberto Barbera, Artistic Director Venice International Film Festival, Cameron Bailey and Joana Vicente, Artistic Director and Executive Director Toronto International Film Festival, Tricia Tuttle Director BFI London Film Festival, Jihan El-Tahri, General Director DOX BOX and Julie Trébault, Director Artists at Risk Connection, PEN America.


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