Search

 

Cablegate: Defense Lawyers, Unmis Srsg and Others Criticize Gos Trials

VZCZCXRO6592
OO RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1284/01 2351253
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 221253Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1701
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 001284

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, A/S FRAZER, SE WILLIAMSON
NSC FOR BPITTMAN AND CHUDSON
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC PGOV PREL KPKO SOCI AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: DEFENSE LAWYERS, UNMIS SRSG AND OTHERS CRITICIZE GOS TRIALS
OF FIFTY ALLEGED JEM ATTACKERS

1. (SBU) Summary: Sudanese courts have sentenced fifty people to
death for participation in the May 10 JEM attacks. Defense lawyers
criticized the proceedings as flawed and unconstitutional, and UNMIS
SRSG Ashraf Qazi issued a statement questioning the
constitutionality of the courts and proceedings. The defense
attorneys said the prosecution had committed grievous violations of
judicial norms by forcing adolescents to testify, denying access to
legal counsel before the court date, and denying proper medQQ care
to the condemned, some of whom are mentally ill. A journalist
released after a two-month detention described his torture and
further GOS attempts to silence him. A representative for JEM vowed
that JEM will respond to these GOS actions. End Summary.

--------------------------------------------
50 SENTENCED TO DEATH WITHOUT PROPER COUNSEL
--------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Sudanese lawyers acting on behalf of suspects charged in
the May 10 JEM attack on Omdurman confirmed to poloff on August 21
that Sudanese courts had sentenced 12 more suspects to death August
20, in addition to the 38 condemned the preceding week. Abdelrahman
Gasim, Salih Mahmoud Osman and Isa Abdelmoneim, all prominent
Darfuri lawyers working pro-bono to defend the suspects, strongly
criticized the government's case as based on insufficient evidence
and the testimony of children. According to the defense lawyers, the
prosecution has relied on boys as young as twelve - many showing
symptoms of prolonged use of inhalants - to testify that they were
kidnapped from West Darfur by the accused, who then forced them to
fight in the May 10 attacks. Lawyers surmise that the young
"witnesses" are in actuality street children seized after the
attacks, and later participated in the trials in exchange for their
release from custody.

3. (SBU) According to Gasem and Abdelmoneim, Sudanese authorities
have neglected to follow international judicial norms for the
trials, denying the accused proper access to defense lawyers. The
defense lawyers said that many of the accused were subjected to
torture during their detainment (in order to extract admissions of
guilt from them). They have also accused Sudanese authorities of
denying the accused proper medical care. They said that four of the
men already sentenced to death are mentally ill and show signs of
developmental disabilities. Gasim estimated that among the 50 who
have been condemned to death, no more than 20 are members of the
Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) who took part in the assault on
Khartoum, and the rest are most likely Darfuris who were brought by
JEM to Omdurman in May, or Darfuris resident in the capital who were
rounded up by security forces in the aftermath of the events. On
Wednesday, eight suspects were released; four of them are boys under
18, and Abdelmoneim credited international pressure with forcing the
GOS to release some suspects to give the process the appearance of
fairness.

4. (SBU) The defense lawyers have filed an appeal of the death
sentences before the Constitutional Court of Sudan, objecting that
the laws under which the suspects are being tried are
unconstitutional. "The court is applying laws in contradiction to
the Interim National Constitution," said Osman. "These anti-terror
procedures were made by the Minister of Justice specifically for the
JEM cases, but as a member of the executive branch, the Minister has
no right to create laws to try suspects." Lawyers consider they have
a strong appeal justified by Sudanese constitutional law, but they
do not expect that the constitutional court will accept the appeal,
as the court is controlled by judges favorable to the National
Congress Party (NCP).

5. (SBU) The defense lawyers told poloff that they do not expect the
trials to be impartial. However, they were surprised at how hastily
the government has pQunced the death sentences, as the Sudanese
justice system generally proceeds at a glacial pace. While the
lawyers consider executions a "remote possibility," they are
prepared for more trials, as the GOS has announced that additional
suspects will be brought to trial in the coming weeks. Osman, head
defense counsel for the suspects tried at the court in Omdurman,
suspects the GOS has pushed for death sentences because it intends
to use those found guilty as a bargaining chip in future
negotiations with JEM. He added that "those fifty are among the
luckiest because they had trials - hundreds of others may have been
executed in the days after May 10."

--------------------------------------------- ---------
JEM CALLS SENTENCES UNCONSTITUTIONAL, THREATENS ACTION
--------------------------------------------- ---------

6. (SBU) Gibriel Fideil, representative of JEM in London, spoke with

KHARTOUM 00001284 002 OF 002


Poloff by phone August 21 and decried the death sentences as
detrimental to relations between JEM and the GOS. He noted that
Abdel Aziz Nur Ushar, half brother of Khalil Ibrahim, was among
those sentenced to death last week. "These death sentences will not
help bring peace to Sudan. These men are covered as prisoners of war
under the Geneva Conventions, and Sudan has no right to try them."
Fideil also echoed the defense lawyers' judgment that the Interim
National Constitution does not permit extra-constitutional courts
set up to enforce specific laws. Somewhat ominously, Fideil warned
that the GOS risked further conflict should they choose to carry out
the death sentences, adding, "We will not let them do that."

--------------------------------------------- -------
VICTIM OF TORTURE, JOURNALIST CONTINUES TO SPEAK OUT
--------------------------------------------- -------

7. (SBU) With the whereabouts of some Darfuri detainees still
unknown, including Abdelillah Widaa (reftel A), one former detainee
has described continued harassment from Sudanese authorities. Al
Ghali Shegifat, journalist for the independent Rai Al-shaab
newspaper and head of the Darfur Journalists Association, met Poloff
at the embassy on two separate occasions to describe his sixty-day
imprisonment following the May 10 attacks. Shegifat had received
numerous warnings in the past year to stop criticizing the GOS and
to stop reporting on the crisis in Darfur; his article on April 30,
2008 in Rai al-Shaab, published with his photo beside it, prompted a
personal phone call from the Wali of North Darfur, who warned him to
stop.

8. (SBU) On May 18 armed agents of the National Intelligence and
Security Services (NISS) arrived at his home in Omdurman and
arrested Shegifat. Over the next seven days, Shegifat was
interrogated by NISS agents and subjected to regular beatings over
his body, shackled to a wall and left in stress positions for long
hours, punched repeatedly in the face and head, and burned with lit
cigarettes. Following his torture, Shegifat was transferred to Kober
prison, where he was held in cramped cells with dozens of other
Darfuri prisoners. Prior to his release, Shegifat was warned not to
continue writing, but since his release he has written two articles
for Rai al-Shaab, one criticizing the government for the food
shortage in Darfur, and the other examining recent Darfur peace
initiatives. He still receives overt threats to his health and
safety by telephone, and is regularly followed by a surveillance
team.

-------
COMMENT
-------

9. (SBU) Ruthlessly efficient in enforcing its wishes, the Sudanese
regime is prepared to process as many detainees as possible through
its special terrorism courts, without observing international
standards such as access to defense counsel. UNMIS SRSG Ashraf Qazi
issued a statement criticizing the process following the sentencing
of the first 38 alleged attackers, which according to his staff
resulted in President Bashir cancelling a planned meeting with Qazi.
There is the potential for a blanket commutation of the death
sentences, but the regime would look for concessions in return. As
the torture and continued harassment of the Darfuri journalist
attest, an anxious GOS regime feels threatened even by non-violent
opposition. The environment following the July 14 ICC announcement
has only increased the sense of the regime that it is increasingly
under siege, though operating in crisis mode is standard procedure
for this government and often serves to strengthen the hand of
hardliners within the regime.

ASQUINO

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC