Annual Report: Sudan 2010

May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Sudan 2010

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A new National Security Bill, adopted by parliament in December, retains the power of the NISS to detain people without charge for four and a half months and maintains immunity from prosecution for security officers.

  • On 21 October, Adam Suleiman Sulman, one of the 103 defendants sentenced to death by special counterterrorism courts (see below), died in a police hospital in Khartoum two days after he was taken there from Kober prison. He was still in shackles. Adam Suleiman Sulman had been tortured during his detention. He also had a mental disorder that was reportedly exacerbated by his detention and torture. He died of tuberculosis and was denied adequate health care, despite warnings by his lawyer that he needed urgent medical attention.

Unfair trials - special courts

Between July 2008 and June 2009, 103 individuals were sentenced to death by special counter-terrorism courts. The defendants were convicted collectively after unfair trials of crimes relating to their alleged participation in the JEM attack on Khartoum in May 2008. The special courts were set up in the aftermath of the attack in application of the 2001 Counter- Terrorism Act. The "confessions" of most defendants were allegedly extracted under torture and were accepted by the courts as the main evidence to secure their conviction. Many defendants were only given access to a lawyer after their trial had begun. All but one defendant, who died in custody (see above), were awaiting the outcome of appeals at the end of the year.

Death penalty

In addition to those sentenced to death by the special courts, at least six people were sentenced to death by ordinary courts and nine were executed.

  • Nine men accused in relation to the murder of newspaper editor Mohamed Taha, who was found beheaded in September 2006, were executed on 13 April after the Supreme Court upheld their death sentences. Although all nine retracted their confessions in court alleging they had been extracted under torture, the Appeal Court accepted their "confessions" as evidence against them. All nine were from Darfur.
  • Four men were sentenced to death in June by the Court of First Instance in Khartoum for the killing of USAID employee John Granville and his driver Abdel Rahman Abbas on 1 January 2008. After the family of Abdel Rahman Abbas pardoned the four men, as they are entitled to do under Islamic law in Sudan, the Court of Appeal sent the case back to the Court of First Instance which upheld the death sentences on 12 October. Three of the defendants alleged that their confessions had been extracted under torture.

Enforced disappearances and incommunicado detention

Around 200 of the approximately 1,000 people arrested following the attack by the JEM on Khartoum in May 2008 remained unaccounted for, according to a June report by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan. At the end of 2009, the government had still not named the detainees, clarified their status or whereabouts, or allowed them access to their families and lawyers.

Freedom of expression - freedom of the press

The print media was heavily censored in the first nine months of the year. The NISS visited newspapers daily and censored articles they considered harmful to the government or ruling party, or covered sensitive issues such as the ICC or Darfur. This prompted protests by journalists and media owners, including the voluntary suspension of their publications. A new press law, passed in June, maintained restrictions on journalists, such as fines against journalists and publications for alleged press offences, and the powers of the National Press and Publication Council to close down newspapers. On 27 September, President Al Bashir lifted the censorship, imposed 18 months earlier by the NISS, and the government called on editors in return to adhere to a journalistic "ethical code" that could mean they would not address issues that would have been censored in the past.

Journalists continued to be intimidated and arrested by the NISS. Foreign journalists were harassed and expelled reportedly for covering issues seen as sensitive or harmful to Sudan.