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Amnesty International USA: Sudan Still Holding Hundreds Without Charge Months After Attacks Outside Khartoum

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 18, 2008
11:47 AM

CONTACT: Amnesty International USA
Ben Somberg, 212-633-4268
bsomberg@aiusa.org

 
Sudan Still Holding Hundreds Without Charge
Months After Attacks Outside Khartoum,
Amnesty International Says
 
NEW YORK - August 18 - Amnesty International today accused the Sudanese government of holding hundreds of people -- including women and a nine-month-old -- without charge or access to lawyers as they prepare to try another 109 individuals in sham courts over the armed attacks by the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) on May 10 in the outskirts of Khartoum.

The fate and whereabouts of most of those still held in Khartoum over the May 10 attacks remain unknown. Many are still unaccounted for and Amnesty International has received reports of torture and ill-treatment from people who were released. The organization fears those still detained are at high risk of torture or that they have been disappeared.

Amnesty International's charge comes after eight alleged JEM members were sentenced to death by Sudan's Anti-Terrorism Special Courts yesterday in trials that failed to meet international standards of fairness. The verdict brings the number of individuals sentenced to death in relation to the May 10 attack to 38.

"Sudan's Anti-Terrorism Special Courts are nothing but a travesty of justice," said Tawanda Hondora, Africa deputy director at Amnesty International. "Some of the people sentenced yesterday only met their lawyers for the first time during the trial, while several said they suffered torture when they were held incommunicado and that they were forced to confess to crimes."

"Those trials were clearly unfair and now Sudan is preparing to try yet more people with this system. How is that justice?" said Hondora.

One of the lawyers of those convicted on August 17 told Amnesty International that his request for an investigation into the allegations of torture and ill-treatment by his client was rejected by the court -- including an appeal for a medical examination despite the fact that "marks of ill-treatment were still clearly visible on their bodies" when the accused were facing the judge.

The defense lawyers have appealed all the verdicts within the limited period allowed by the Special Courts. The final decision -- expected to come in the next weeks -- has to be taken by a Special Court of Appeal. Thereafter, the president will have to sign the decision for the executions to be carried out.

"The Sudanese government has the duty to investigate crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice, but they must do it in accordance to international law and their own constitution, which guarantees fair trials," said Hondora. "We urge the Sudanese authorities not to execute these men and to review their cases immediately, according to Sudan's laws."

Amnesty International also urged the Sudanese authorities to reveal the whereabouts of all individuals held in the context of the May 10 investigation and said that all should be promptly charged or else released immediately. The organization also calls for all detainees to be given regular access to lawyers and family and to be provided with the appropriate medical attention.

Background Information

On May 10, 2008, the JEM launched an attack in the outskirts of Khartoum. In the weeks following the attack hundreds of individuals were arrested by Sudanese police and security forces. Amnesty International received reports that extra-judicial executions occurred during the waves of arrests.

Anti-Terrorism Special Courts were established on May 29 to try individuals accused of participating in the attack in Khartoum. The August 17 verdict is the fourth issued by the Special Courts.

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