Darfur rebels say death sentences threaten talks

Darfur rebels on Wednesday condemned a death sentence on two of its members by a Khartoum court, saying it endangered the peace process.

Two Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) members were sentenced to death on Tuesday for their part in an attack on Khartoum in 2008.

They and 103 others also awaiting execution were due to be freed under a goodwill agreement last year, when JEM released 82 prisoners.

“This constitutes a clear violation of the goodwill agreement and the timing of this on the same day we arrived in Doha sends a clear message that the government does not want peace,” said JEM spokesperson Ahmed Adam.

“This is a declaration of new war,” he added.


He was speaking to Reuters from the capital of Qatar, where stalled peace talks between the JEM and the government were due to restart. “The aim of this sentence is to spoil the political process.”

Khartoum said JEM was trying to cover up plans for a new offensive in Darfur. “We are ready to sign a monitored cessation of hostilities,” Amin Hassan Omar, a member of the government talks delegation, told Reuters.

JEM fighters drove across desert and scrubland to within striking distance of the presidential palace in 2008 before they were stopped by government troops.

Sudan says more than 200 people, many of them civilians, were killed in the raid.

Since rebels took up arms in early 2003, the United Nations estimates 300 000 people have died and more than two million have been driven from their homes after a counter-insurgency campaign by Khartoum.

The International Criminal Court last year issued an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for war crimes in Darfur. He rejects the court’s authority and puts the death toll at 10 000.

Adam said the joint United Nations-African Union mediation team should condemn the violation of the goodwill agreement.

“We urge the mediation to condemn this sentence … otherwise this is going to raise a lot of questions about the mediation itself,” he added.

Mediators were not immediately able to comment but have previously urged restraint to build trust between the foes.

Rebel divisions and continued fighting on the ground have stalled peace talks with JEM, who are the most militarily powerful of the Darfur’s insurgent groups. — Reuters

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