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Cablegate: Mass Arrests, Torture Threaten Darfuris in Khartoum

VZCZCXRO5571
OO RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0866/01 1621448
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 101448Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1004
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000866

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, A/S FRAZER, SE WILLIAMSON, DRL
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN
ADDIS ABABA ALSO FOR USAU

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL SOCI SU

SUBJECT: MASS ARRESTS, TORTURE THREATEN DARFURIS IN KHARTOUM

REF: A. KHARTOUM 847
B. KHARTOUM 859
C. KHARTOUM 857
D. KHARTOUM 788

1. (SBU) Summary: Following the May 10 JEM attacks on Omdurman,
there are reliable reports that the GoS has detained and tortured
thousands of Darfuris living in Khartoum. Sudanese civil society is
scrambling to document the names of the detainees, and Sudanese
opposition has formed the "May 10 Committee" to provide for their
legal defense. End summary.

2. (SBU) Sudanese and international human rights organizations
confirm that over 250 individuals, ethnic Darfuris resident in
Khartoum, are known to be in the custody of Government of Sudan
(GoS) authorities following the May 10 Justice and Equality Movement
(JEM) attacks in the capital. Currently, all detainees are in the
custody of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).
Khartoum-based organizations and activists have compiled their names
independent of GoS cooperation. Not yet charged, all known
detainees sit in holding facilities in the Khartoum area or in a
prison on Sudan's Red Sea coast.

3. (SBU) In addition, Human rights organizations report
"disappearances" of many more unidentified Darfuris following recent
raids of neighborhoods in Omdurman, a Khartoum suburb with a large
Darfuri population. All released detainees testify to having been
beaten and tortured. Most disturbing, several former detainees
report that they were released from a military prison, Al Sigin al
Harabi, where over 3000 Darfuris allegedly are being held.

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EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS SUGGEST TORTURE, 3000 IN ONE PRISON
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4. (SBU) All of the many arrest accounts following the GoS response
to the May 10 attacks involve ethnic profiling and torture by GoS
authorities. One story, judged credible by lawyers and a surgeon
from a well-known Khartoum-based human rights group, was reported to
them by a 25 year-old construction technician working in Khartoum.
Although from the Masalit tribe of Darfur, the young man was raised
as an IDP in the east of Sudan. On the morning of May 11, while he
was taking refuge from the Omdurman fighting with coworkers, the
group was arrested by uniformed officers in the National
Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).

5. (SBU) Upon arrival at a police station, NISS officers began
interrogating and torturing the group. The young man described
being chained to the wall, kicked and punched, beaten in the
testicles with water pipes, and subjected to a mock execution - all
between 8 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. One of approximately 500 detainees
transported to NISS headquarters, he was brought before a captured
JEM officer, who was randomly "assisting" NISS in separating JEM
combatants from the crowd. Although the man had never seen the JEM
officer before, he was identified as having been part of JEM, and
sent with others to Al Sigin al Harabi military prison.

6. (SBU) Arriving at the prison, the young man said was put in a
room measuring only ten meters by five meters with 247 people.
Prisoners received insufficient amounts of food and water, and
lacking facilities, detainees urinated and defecated on the floor.
The detainee recounted seeing numerous similar rooms at this prison,
and estimated that 3000 people were held there, all from Darfur.
One lawyer, not affiliated with other witnesses, confirmed these
conditions at the prison, and reported that authorities separated
the 3000 detainees according to tribal and ethnic affiliation.
Conditions at the prison deteriorated for four days, after which
they received buckets for bodily functions and barrels of drinking
water. After seven days, the young Masalit man was judged as having
no affiliation with JEM, and was released on bail. Authorities
provided him with money to buy clothes and shoes, and within days he
reached out to the human rights organization for medical treatment,
where he related his experiences.

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SUDANESE OPPOSITION ORGANIZES FOR LEGAL CHALLENGE
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7. (SBU) Sudanese civil society has quickly coalesced to oppose the
arrests and torture. Most prominent is the "National Committee for
the Protection and Defense of Individuals/Groups Affected by May 10
Events." Among its 61 prominent signatories are Darfur rebel leader
and Government of National Unity Vice President Minni Minawi; SPLM
chairman Yassir Arman; and former Sudanese foreign minister and
prominent opposition leader Farouk Abu-Essa. The "May 10 Committee"

KHARTOUM 00000866 002 OF 002


aims to provide a political counterweight to the GoS's heavy-handed
reaction to the JEM attacks, while also providing legal support for
the detainees and financial support for their families.

8. (SBU) In an interview with Poloffs at his Khartoum home, Abu-Essa
estimated that his organization is mobilizing hundreds of lawyers
for eventual legal challenges to the detentions. "The government
will continue searching for plotters," Abu-Essa said, "and the
number of detainees is increasing day by day." Abu-Essa called the
scale of arrests in Khartoum unprecedented, adding that race plays a
central role in the motivation behind the arrests. Abu-Essa
appealed for international pressure on the GOS to release the names
of the Darfuri detainees, and for them to be transferred from NISS
custody to of that of the Sudanese police, where under Sudanese law
they have access to legal recourse.

9. Independent legal activists expressed similar hopes for the
international community. Speaking with Poloff at the Al-Khatim Adlan
Center for Enlightenment and Human Development, human rights lawyers
outlined their strategy. Forced by international pressure to
release the names of all the detainees, the Sudanese legal system
will then have to process the multitude of briefs, bringing it to a
halt, and thereby forcing authorities to release detainees not
connected with the JEM attacks.

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GOS TRIUMPHANT IN PRESS, CENSORSHIP ON RISE
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10. (SBU) The GoS has adopted a triumphant tone in the press,
promising to root out "all JEM supporters," which observers
interpret as a threat to all Darfuris living in Khartoum.
Censorship continues, with the newspaper "Al-Wahn" still banned from
publication, and independent newspapers forced to excise even
uncontroversial articles. When one English-language newspaper
attempted to print the Department of State's 2008 Trafficking in
Persons report for Sudan, NISS censors removed the article before
publication. Most ridiculously, an op-ed piece by a GoS official
accused Amnesty International of conspiring with Khalil Ibrahim and
JEM against the GoS.

- - - -
Comment
- - - -

11. (SBU) Last week's government-orchestrated violence against
Darfuri students at Khartoum University (Ref. A) is directly
connected with the recent arrests of Darfuris living in the capital.
As evidence emerges that thousands of Darfuris are being detained
at an NISS-run mass lock-up on the outskirts of Khartoum, the sheer
scale of the arrests indicates that the GoS is responding to the JEM
attacks by extending its violent campaign in Darfur indiscriminately
to Darfuris living in Khartoum as well. In his speech at the June 8
ceremony presenting the new Abyei accord (Ref. B), Government of
National Unity First Vice President Salva Kiir pointedly alluded to
the issue and called on his NCP partners to protect the rights of
all citizens and not to violate those rights based on ethnic origin.
The GoS may bend to international pressure to release the names of
the Darfuri detainees, but it shows no signs of ending its
month-long campaign of arrests, torture, harassment and orchestrated
violence against Darfuris in Khartoum.

DATTA

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