i) Recent arrest and torture of student supporters of SLA/Abdul Wahid
In a more recent incident documented by UN agencies, bodies and programmes operational in Darfur, several students were detained and reportedly tortured by officials of the NISS after they participated in a demonstration by a student organization affiliated with the Abdel Wahid al Nour branch of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA/AW), one of the non signatories to the Darfur Peace Agreement. They were held for ten days and reportedly tortured during the initial two days of detention. They were released on bail on 29 September 2007, pending trial on charges of public order offences. At the time of writing, the students had again been arrested by the NISS and their whereabouts were unknown at the time of the writing of the present report.
More than 100 supporters of Abdel Wahid reportedly participated in a demonstration in central Khartoum on 20 September 2007, three days after activities had taken place in over 30 countries on the occasion of the “Global Day for Darfur”. Protesters in Khartoum called for an end to the killings in Darfur, the disarmament of government armed militias, and for the provision of security to allow IDPs to return to their homes, in the context of the forthcoming start of peace negotiations in Libya. The march was dispersed by police using tear gas, resulting in minor injuries to some protesters. Some eight students were arrested by NISS officials in different parts of Khartoum after they had left the demonstration, suggesting that they had been under surveillance and followed after the demonstration was dispersed. They were taken to a NISS detention facility in north Khartoum where they had to remove their shirts which were then used to blindfold them before being taken into the building. They remained blindfolded in this way for most of the two days during which they were interrogated in NISS detention. During this time they were allegedly tortured and ill treated. The torture ceased when they were transferred to police custody on the third day of their detention. According to reports, the students were beaten with plastic pipes on the bare skin of their backs, on their legs and on their hands, as well as with wooden sticks on the ankles. Reports indicate that one detainee was strangled until he lost consciousness and two others fainted after having been repeatedly tortured with electric shock. In addition to being subjected to physical violence, the detainees were reportedly also threatened with death. The interrogation reportedly focused on whether Abdel Wahid supporters in Khartoum held weapons, and on their kind and location, as well as on the channels through which they obtained funding. Under threat of death, some of the detainees were forced to make statements, such as about weapons and funds which the SLA/AW allegedly brought to their supporters in Khartoum. The detainees were also reported to have been insulted on account of their Darfurian origins and told that the Fur would not share political power in Sudan.
ii) Allegations of torture and ill treatment of Darfurians detained in the context of a murder investigation
The verdict in the trial on the murder of newspaper editor Mohamed Taha, who was killed on 6 September 2006, was expected to have been delivered by mid November 2007. The police investigation into the murder was focused mainly on the Darfurian community in Khartoum. According to police records, a total of 73 people were arrested and detained, starting from mid September 2006. The vast majority of them, according to information received, were of Darfurian origin. There have been widespread allegations of torture by those detained in the context of the investigation. The allegations related mainly to detention in the custody of police, who were in charge of the murder investigation, but there have also been reports of abuses committed by NISS officials who participated in the investigation.
Most suspects were released following up to five months of detention. Nineteen people, all but one of them of Darfurian origin and most belonging to the Fur community, have stood trial for the murder of Mohamed Taha. While several of those who were charged with the murder appear to have maintained links with Darfurian political groups, others had no discernible political allegiances and may have been arrested merely because of their Darfurian origins.
Due to lack of evidence, nine defendants were acquitted and released on 27 August 2007, after having spent nearly one year in detention. The prosecution has appealed the acquittal. The remaining ten, all of them Darfurians, continue to be detained pending delivery of the judgment. The prosecution has alleged that the defendants plotted to murder Mohamed Taha because defamatory articles against Fur women had been published in the newspaper Al Wifaq, which was edited by him. After they failed to win a lawsuit for defamation, the defendants allegedly plotted to murder him. The case of the prosecution relies almost exclusively on written statements obtained by police during the pre trial investigation from the ten defendants who remained in detention.
According to testimonies from some of those detainees who have been released, reports by lawyers and family members, and statements made by the defendants in court, the statements were extracted under torture and other forms of ill treatment during the initial period of detention. During this period, the defendants were held incommunicado in the police run Forensic Evidence Department and Criminal Investigations Department, as well as in NISS detention facilities in Khartoum. Defendants have stated in court that during the police investigation they were forced to make statements in front of a judge who registered them as “confessions”. All of those who registered “confessions” later retracted their statements in court, saying that they had been tortured and told by the police investigators what to say.
According to reports by former detainees, the prosecutor responsible for overseeing the police investigation failed to respond to evidence that the detainees were being subjected to torture and ill treatment. Some of the detainees reportedly still bore traces of torture when they were brought to trial, but the court failed to order medical examinations of the detainees to determine their causes, despite being requested by defence lawyers. While the court did not order investigations into the allegations of torture, it has recognized that the statements of the remaining ten defendants were extracted under duress and will be given less weight in court evidence. Released defendants who reported that they had been subjected to torture stated that they will not be lodging complaints because they did not believe that such complaints would be investigated by the Sudanese judiciary.
iii) Lack of accountability for summary executions, arbitrary detention, forced disappearances and torture
The group of experts received various allegations of arbitrary detention and forced disappearances, torture and summary executions during recent months, including the following examples: On 30 June 2007, in Nyala (South Darfur) market, two secret policemen, wearing civilian clothes arrested nine men. They detained them in a secret police office next to Nyala Wasat police station. Six policemen allegedly severely beat all of the men with sticks. They were arrested due to suspicion of stealing and released on 1 July 2007. In Al Daein, South Darfur, three men were being held on suspicion of possessing stolen goods. They were first arrested and detained by Military Intelligence and later transferred to the custody of the NISS before being handed over to the police. One of them reported that he had been severely beaten while being interrogated by Military Intelligence personnel. The other two did not report any ill treatment. After spending a total of nine days in various detention facilities, the men were released on bail after the police failed to bring charges against them. Their detention exceeded the time limit allowed by law. The men had been released on bail pending police investigation but no formal complaint had been filed against them.
On 14 July 2007, in Omdurman IDP camp, El Salaam, one 30 year old civilian was shot. On the same day, in Al Daein, South Darfur, three men including two national staff of an international NGO were arrested by Military Intelligence on suspicion of stealing a car. The men were interrogated but were never charged with an offense. Nevertheless, military intelligence continued to hold them in detention. Friends and relatives have been granted limited supervised access to visit them in detention.
Since 19 July 2007, a 50 year old community leader from the Baggara tribe has been in detention in Zalingei accused of murdering an IDP from the Taiba IDP camp in spite of a recommendation by a state prosecuting attorney that he should be released for lack of evidence. Various reliable sources indicated that state officials were under pressure to keep the man in detention because the complainant in the case came from an influential tribe. The complainant’s tribesmen have also reportedly threatened to abduct the detainee’s family members should the Zalingei authorities fail to find him guilty of murder.
On 31 July 2007, the northern Rizeigat group many dressed in the uniforms of the Border Intelligence mounted an attack on the Tarjem group which left at least 68 people dead.
In late July, a 32 year old Fur male and member of SLA/AW continued to be held in the National Security detention since 1 June without being charged of any crime and accused him of holding a meeting with some Sheikhs in Kalma IDP camp.