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SUDAN: Arbitrary detentions remain widespread - HRW

سودانيزاونلاين.كوم
sudaneseonline.com
9/7/2005 7:43am

NAIROBI, 7 Sep 2005 (IRIN) - Arbitrary arrests and detentions remain widespread in Sudan despite President Omar al-Bashir's promise to release all political prisoners and lift the nationwide state of emergency, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday.

"The government promised [on 30 June] that the north-south peace accord would usher in a new day in Sudan, but we have yet to see it in the field of human rights," Peter Takirambudde, Africa director at the international advocacy organisation, said in a statement.

"Beyond the conflict in Darfur [where the state of emergency remained in place], Sudanese across the country still remain at risk of arbitrary arrest, detention and torture," he added.

Death sentences, the statement noted, were often carried out without notice, and many of the trials leading to the sentences lacked basic fair-trial protections for the accused.

The human rights watchdog urged the Sudanese government to rescind sentences for all those sentenced to death, estimated at more than 300 persons, instead of executing them before the new government of national unity is established.

New parliamentarians were appointed last week, but most government positions remained to be filled in line with the power-sharing quotas agreed upon under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

Khartoum should also ensure full and unimpeded access for international monitors to all conflict-related and political detainees throughout the country, in accordance with the recommendations of the United Nations' International Commission of Inquiry for Darfur, presented to the UN Security Council in January, the statement added.

"The situation is still the same as some months ago. We are having ongoing bilateral negotiations with the Sudanese government to grant us access," Paul Conneally, communication coordinator for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), told IRIN on Wednesday.

"Sudan has incorporated the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other human rights treaties into its interim national constitution," said Takirambudde. "But such steps will be meaningless if Sudanese citizens continue to suffer arbitrary arrests, torture and death sentences after unfair trials."

In January 2004, Al-Tayeb Ali Ahmed, a 36-year-old policeman, was accused of participating in the rebel insurgency in Darfur and given the death penalty, based on a confession extracted through torture, HRW reported. At his trial, he had no lawyer and no opportunity to call witnesses in his defense.

The execution was halted only 10 minutes before it was scheduled to be carried out, after his family filed an appeal to the constitutional court.

On 1 and 2 August, during the unrest that followed the death of south Sudan’s leader, John Garang, in a helicopter crash, more than 1,500 people were reportedly arrested in Khartoum. Many of those who were detained had not been charged, and HRW feared that some might face torture and ill-treatment.

"As far as I know, nobody has had unimpeded access to this particular group of detainees," Leslie Lefkow, researcher for HRW’s Africa division, said. "However, we know that mistreatment is fairly routine in certain detention facilities."

The ICRC said it had not sought access to this group of detainees, as they were not being held in relation to armed conflict.

Meanwhile, the ICRC on Tuesday reported the release and return home of three people held by the Eastern Front opposition group, which consists of the rebel Beja Congress, the Free Lions and the Justice and Equality Movement.

The three were all deputies of the Red Sea State legislative council in East Sudan and were seized in the area of Kassala on the 23 May 2005.

"They arrived last night [Tuesday] in Port Sudan in good condition," Conneally noted. "They were immediately united with their family."

The ICRC was continuing its confidential dialogue with the Eastern Front on the whereabouts, status and condition of the other persons currently held by the group, it said in a statement.

"The ICRC does not question the reasons for detention," Conneally added. "We are looking at the conditions under which people are being held."


[ENDS]

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