Home | News    Thursday 30 April 2009

Sentenced to death, Darfur men face ‘horrific treatment’

April 29, 2009 (KHARTOUM) – The 82 Darfuri men sentenced to death by special courts in Khartoum are being held in inhumane conditions and many have been tortured, according to a rebel group and Amnesty International.

The men were captured and imprisoned when rebels attacked Sudan’s capital city in May 2008. A group of 50 was sentenced to death during July and August 2008, 10 more on April 15, 2009, 11 on April 22, and another 11 on April 26. Lawyers for those convicted more recently have a week in which to appeal.

According to Ahmed Husain Adam, spokesperson for the Justice and Equality Movement, prisoners are being kept at ghost houses of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). He appealed for authorities to transfer the captives to “the same prisons where all suspects awaiting trial are detained.”

Adam explained that the men face "horrific treatment" at the hand of their captors, adding that many of the detainees had no role in the May 2008 assault.

“Up to eight detainees are kept in cells of 2 by 1.5 meters wide, each originally designed for one prisoner. The cells are badly ventilated and detainees have to take turn to sleep. Detainees are prevented toilet facilities between 4pm to dawn and are fed foul food and dirty water.

"This has resulted in horrendous health problems including numerous cases of kidney infections,” he said.

Local lawyers and human rights activists questioned by Amnesty International said that the men’s trials were grossly unfair, that they were deprived of legal counsel until their trials had begun, many were tortured or otherwise ill treated, and many confessed under torture.

But confessions under torture are admissible under Sudanese law, according to Article 10(i) of the Law of Evidence of 1993, which states that "… evidence is not dismissed solely because it has been obtained through an improper procedure, if the court is satisfied that it is independent and admissible." However, Amnesty International argues that the special courts used to try the men, which were set up under a 2001 law, contravene the 2005 Interim Constitution.

The detainees are prevented contacts with the outside world with the exception of a single fortnightly visit of 30 minutes, said Adam.

Amnesty International urged supporters to contact Sudanese authorities calling on them to overturn the death sentences, investigate allegations that the men were tortured, and bring those responsible to justice.

For its part, JEM responded by appealing to relevant international bodies to investigate “current maltreatment of Darfur War Captives and continuous breaches of international conventions by the Government of Sudan,” asking the UN and human rights organizations to institute regular visits to the detainees to “ensure full compliance with international conventions.”

During the period immediately following the May 2008 attack on the capital city area, there were widespread reports of arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial executions, summary executions, questionable judicial proceedings, racial violence and restrictions on freedom of the press, all conducted by the National Intelligence and Security Service.

The captured Darfuri fighters had been one subject of preliminary negotiations between the rebel JEM and the government, before the rebels pulled out of the talks.

Nine Darfuri men claiming innocence were recently hanged April 9 at Kober prison in Khartoum-North, charged with killing a journalist. They had been held in detention for four months without contact with the outside world and bore visible signs of torture when they appeared in court.