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Sudan Urged To Review Darfur Rebel Death Sentences

Top UN envoy urges Sudan to review death sentences against Darfur rebels

7 August 2008 - The top United Nations envoy to Sudan has called for a review of the death sentences passed by the country's counter-terrorism courts against 30 members of a Darfur rebel group found guilty of participating in an attack near the capital in May, amid concerns that they did not receive a fair trial.

"The United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) has concerns that the judicial process may not have met international standards," Ashraf Qazi, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Sudan, said in a statement issued today.

"It would appear that the accused were only given access to lawyers after the trials began; confessions were obtained while the accused were held incommunicado and in the absence of legal counsel and the court did not investigate allegations of ill treatment," according to information available to UNMIS, which is headed by Mr. Qazi.

The 10 May attack against the Sudanese Government was carried out by members of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in Omdurman, on the outskirts of Khartoum.

Mr. Qazi said that while the Government has the right and the responsibility to prosecute and sentence those who committed criminal offences, it must ensure compliance of proceedings with international legal standards.

"In capital punishment cases especially, the Government has an obligation to rigorously observe all fair trial guarantees set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Sudan is a State party," he stated.

The UN mission encouraged Sudan to abolish capital punishment, and, in the meantime, establish a moratorium on executions as called for by the General Assembly in November 2007.

Insecurity and unrest continue to plague Darfur, an arid and impoverished region on Sudan's western flank, and attempts to broker a peace deal have also been hampered by the splintering of the many rebel movements.

An estimated 300,000 people have been killed there since 2003, either through direct combat or disease, malnutrition and reduced life expectancy, while another 2.7 million people have been displaced from their homes.

Meanwhile, Henry Anyidoho, the Deputy Joint UN-African Union Special Representative for Darfur, will visit Nyala on 10 August, along with members of the hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force - known as UNAMID - that has been deployed in the strife-torn region since January.

The visit will include a meeting with the UN country team, talks with the sheiks (or traditional chiefs) in the Kalma camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs), as well as with the Wali (Governor) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in that camp.

While at Shangil Tobayi, the home-base of the UNAMID troops which were attacked in an ambush on 8 July, Mr. Anyidoho expressed his hopes for the quick recovery of the wounded and voiced his deep appreciation for the courage and commitment of the troops.

ENDS

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