UN concerned at Sudan anti-terror courts

The United Nations on Thursday raised concerns Sudanese anti-terrorism courts which condemned 30 Darfur rebels to death did not meet international standards and urged the appeals courts to review the sentences.

Defence lawyers have asked Sudan’s Constitutional Court to overturn the sentences, saying the special courts formed to try those alleged to have been involved in a May attack on the capital were unconstitutional.

“It would appear that the accused were only given access to lawyers after the trials began; confessions were obtained while the accused were held incommunicado and in the absence of legal counsel, and the court did not investigate allegations of ill treatment,” a statement from the head of the UN mission in Sudan, Ashraf Qazi said.

He added there was an extremely limited appeals process and encouraged Sudan to abolish capital punishment.

The accused are allowed one appeal within one week under the rules of the special court while in normal Sudanese judicial proceedings they would have up to four chances to appeal over a much longer time period.

“In capital punishment cases especially, the government has an obligation to rigorously observe all fair trial guarantees set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Sudan is a State party,” Qazi’s statement added.

“[Qazi] urges the appeal court to thoroughly review the 30 death sentences in line with the Interim National Constitution and the Bill of Rights,” it added.

The unprecedented May attack killed more than 200 people and injured hundreds others. The Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) were stopped only at bridges crossing the Nile to the presidential palace and army head quarters.

Authorities arrested thousands of Darfuris and others following the attack, in a move condemned by rights groups. Many were released but more than 100 are expected to stand trial.

State news agency Suna said the verdict in the case of senior JEM commander Abdel Aziz el-Nur Ashr was expected on August 17.

The International Criminal Court moved last month towards indicting President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Last year it indicted a junior Cabinet minister and an allied militia leader for war crimes.

Sudan refuses to cooperate with the ICC and says its judicial system can handle crimes in Darfur.
This week the justice minister appointed a special prosecutor for Darfur.

Other Sudanese rights lawyers dismissed the move, saying Nimr Ibrahim Mohamed cannot prosecute the same crimes as the ICC because war crimes and genocide do not exist in Sudanese legislation. - Reuters

Client Media Releases