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Cablegate: Update On Political Prisoners From Jem Attack

VZCZCXRO2638
OO RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1675/01 3221043
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 171043Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2334
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 001675

DEPT FOR AF A/S FRAZER, SE WILLIAMSON, AF/SPG, AF/C, DRL
NSC FOR PITTMAN AND HUDSON
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: UPDATE ON POLITICAL PRISONERS FROM JEM ATTACK

1. (SBU) Summary: While 42 detainees who participated in the May 10
attack of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) on Omdurman wait
to see if their death sentences will be commuted, authorities are
trying 87 more individuals in five special anti-terrorism courts.
Lawyers and UNMIS Human Rights are alarmed and charge that the
trials are deeply flawed, noting that that among those 87 are nine
defendants under the age of 18. Advocates report that up to 500
Darfuris still remain unaccounted for, and released detainees have
reported torture during their confinement. End Summary.

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77 DETAINEES ON THE DOCKET, UP TO 500 MISSING
---------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) After taking a break for Ramadan, Sudan's five special
anti-terrorism courts returned to session in mid-October, charging
87 detainees with participating in the May 10 JEM attack on
Omdurman. According to UNMIS Human Rights and lawyers with the
independent Darfur Bar Association (DBA), authorities are trying 32
defendants at two courts in Khartoum, 42 defendants at two courts in
Omdurman, and 13 defendants at one court in Khartoum North, in
trials that are currently underway. Authorities have granted the
detainees limited representation by lawyers offering their services
pro-bono under the auspices of the DBA, but the Sudanese Ministry of
Justice has restricted contact between the accused and their
lawyers. Defense attoney Isa Abdulmoneim told poloff that
prosecutors are requesting the death penalty for all 87 detainees,
despite the fact that nine defendants are under 18 years of age, and
two are mentally-ill. International observers have confirmed
reports from defense lawyers that Sudanese prosecutors are basing
their cases on the testimony of children detained following the
attacks, and other findings produced three weeks after the attack
and days after authorities displayed evidence at an open-air
military fair.

3. (SBU) 42 detainees sentenced to death in August for participation
in the attacks await execution in a prison in Port Sudan, but
lawyers with the DBA and human rights advocates believe authorities
may commute the sentences, d releasing the detainees rather than
executing them in anticipation of negotiations with JEM. In one
public speech, President Omar al-Bashir said he intended to grant
the detainees a blanket amnesty, but no amnesty has been forthcoming
as the regime considers when and if to play this card in its game
with the Darfuri rebels over the nature of peace talks. For its
work defending the detainees and assisting their families, the DBA
has received a US$20,000 grant from the Democracy and Human Rights
Fund to continue its pro-bono defense.

4. (SBU) Since the attacks, the non-governmental advocacy
organization Khartoum Center for Human Rights and Environmental
Development (KCHRED) has quietly conducted an investigative campaign
to determine the number of "secret" detainees held in Sudanese
prisons, according to Amir Suleiman, director of the KCHRED
(protect). Suleiman estimates that between 450 and 500 individuals
are currently in custody who were arrested in Omdurman in May, held
without charges since then, and not named in any official documents
related to the JEM attack and subsequent trials. Suleiman reported
that following the attack, authorities rounded up thousands of
Darfuris living in Khartoum and Omdurman. d Since then, hundreds,
if not thousands of detainees have been surreptitiously released
without charges. Through UNMIS Human Rights, KCHRED submitted the
names of those still unaccounted for to the official GoS Advisory
Council for Human Rights; while the GoS has yet to openly
acknowledge that it is holding detainees incommunicado, Suleiman
said the council does perform its due diligence in checking with the
security services to determine which individuals are being held and
by whom. "If they don't respond," he said, "then we know we are
right."

--------------------------------------------- --------
LAWYER TORTURED BY NISS, INTERVIEWED BY GHOSH HIMSELF
--------------------------------------------- --------

4. (SBU) Abdulshakur Hashem Dirag, a Darfuri public advocate living
in Omdurman, spoke with Poloff of his prolonged detention and
torture following the May 10 JEM attack. Heavily armed officers
with the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) arrested
Dirag on May 14 after ransacking his Omdurman office, on suspicion
of ties to his wife's relatives, including Suleiman Sandal, deputy
general commander of JEM, and Haggar, JEM field commander. Dirag
recounted being beaten immediately upon his arrest, as he was thrown
to the floor in the backseat of a waiting car, and stomped on by
seated officers. During his interrogation, as security officers
attempted to ascertain his connections to JEM, Dirag lost
consciousness three times due to the beatings he sustained, and was

KHARTOUM 00001675 002 OF 002


revived each time by a cold shower. Following two days of intense
questioning and regular beatings, on Friday, May 16, NISS director
Salah Ghosh personally interviewed Dirag in a seated, one-on-one
meeting. According to Dirag, Ghosh smoked and drank coffee as he
agitatedly asked, "What is the alternative plan?" Dirag replied, "I
don't know the plan. How can I know the alternative?" After fifteen
minutes of questioning, in which Dirag insisted that he was not
active in JEM, and not in close contact with relatives active in
JEM, Ghosh put his cigarette out in his coffee, stood up, and
advised Dirag, "You have a chance. Do not miss it." In Ghosh's
absence, NISS officers brought him outside and beat him, as he put
it, "harder, more severely, longer than usual."

5. (SBU) Several weeks following Dirag's arrest, NISS also arrested
his wife, and, as she was still nursing, their 9 month-old baby as
well. Mother and child were held for nine weeks in a cell at Kober
prison. Dirag himself attended an administrative hearing a week
after his interview with Ghosh with six uniformed NISS officers who
warned him, "If you don't cooperate, we will take you to where we
usually do the shooting." Dirag continued to protest his innocence,
and authorities freed him after 14 weeks in detention, and with no
charges filed against him. Other detainees with whom poloff spoke
had received similar treatment, and all reported that their fate is
far from clear at the moment. Released on their own recognizance,
detainees must report every two weeks to NISS headquarters in
Khartoum to register their continued presence in the capital.

6. (SBU) Comment: By relying on children as witnesses in show
trials, by rounding up hundreds of people based on their ethnicity,
and by institutionalizing torture, the ruling regime has shown the
dark side of maintaining power in Khartoum. While hundreds have now
been released, many of them should never have been detained in the
first place. On a slightly more positive note, after several stalled
prosecutions of those accused of committing war crimes in Darfur,
the Sudanese did manage to formally arrest, detain and try large
numbers of people accused of engaging in acts of war on Sudanese
territory. Whether such trials will be fair is very much open to
question. Post will continue to monitor the situation of detainees
and press Sudanese authorities for fair trials, proper treatment of
prisoners, and the release of those still detained without charge.
Post will also ask for the names of all those who have been
detained. We do expect that the harshness or leniency of the
treatment of detainees and of convicts is very much a political act
which will track with the regime's efforts to woo Darfur rebel
groups into a political process which could - at least superficially
- bring about a comprehensive peace treaty for Darfur.

FERNANDEZ

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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