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Sudan’s chief justice order witness protection in trials of crackdown on protests

September 12, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan’s Chief Justice Sunday issued a decree ordering to step up witness protection in the trial of security officers accused of killing peaceful protesters during the popular uprising before and after the fall of the Bashir regime.

Neemat Abdallah Mohamed Khair (ST photo)To avoid any intimidation of witnesses, it is commonly admitted that the judge should make abstraction of the principle of open justice which in sensitive cases can act as a bar to successful prosecutions.

Courts in such cases take special measures such as screening the witness from the accused; evidence by live link; evidence given in private.

"The courts have to take precautionary measures to provide the necessary protection for witnesses, victims, informants and experts who testify, provided that the protection according to the circular shall include their relatives and all relevant persons," reads a circular issued by Nemat Abdallah Khair, Chief Justice of Sudan.

The circular authorizes the courts to take one or more measures to conceal the identity of the protected persons and not to divulge information about them without prejudice to the right of accusation and defence in their discussion before the courts.

The decision further provides to ban photographing the witnesses during the testimony without permission from the court. Also, it prohibits to photograph them inside and outside the courtroom, and prevents the entry of phones and cameras, except for authorized media.

This decision was issued after threats against witnesses in the trial of a member of the security service and the Rapid Support Forces accused of assassinating a protester Hanafi Abdel Shakour during the popular protests last year.

In a letter to the Chief Justice on August 31, the Resistance Committees requested to consider the need to take adequate measures to protect witnesses against intimidation during the trials of security officers accused of grave human rights violations and atrocities against protesters.