Sudanese Activists Threatened
Sudanese Activists Threatened as NYC-based International Citizens' Trial of Sudan's President Bashir is Announced
Sudanese participants in the international citizens' trial of President Omar al-Bashir have received threatening messages from individuals they identified as Sudanese government agents. The threats were prompted by the posting of information about Judgment on Genocide: The International Citizens' Tribunal for Sudan (JOG Tribunal) on www.sudaneseonline.com, a website widely viewed in Sudan and by Sudanese expatriates around the world.
The five-hour trial is being convened by a coalition of grassroots groups and anti-genocide activists to try Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and his regime for genocide and crimes against humanity. It will take place Monday, Nov. 13, at 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at United Nations Church Center, 777 UN Plaza (First Avenue & 44th), 2nd floor, New York City, N.Y. A press conference announcing the verdict is scheduled to follow the trial at 2:45 p.m. At this time, trial participants, including the Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, will be available to answer questions from the media. Due to limited audience seating, admission to the public is by invitation only.
An indictment, detailing the crimes of the regime, is being delivered to the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, Nov. 9, by Sudanese refugee Ghada Abdelmoumin.
According to Mohamed Elgadi, a member of the JOG Tribunal advisory board, who lives in Amherst, MA, hours after the posting, he and other Sudanese activists now living in the U.S. received anonymous menacing threats written in Arabic, which they felt were death threats, warning them of danger if they dared to return to Sudan.
"A person writing under a nickname 'eyes of liberty' called me 'a western agent, mercenary,'" said Elgadi. "He/she said, I took a bribe to be part of such action and ended by a threat 'we are waiting for you at the people's court in Sudan.'"
Another person, believed to be a Sudan government agent, Elgadi said, phoned an activist with "a very hateful message." The call was from an unidentified international number. The recipient, who has close relatives still in Sudan, was told, "You s.o.b, wait until you come to Sudan, if you dare to, to see what will happen to you."
There are more than 800,000 Sudanese forced to live outside of Sudan and many have family members still in Sudan and Darfur, noted Elgadi. "We want them to know that this is happening, to give them hope."
According to Elvir Camdzic, trial director, silencing those who wish to uncover the truth about government involvement in atrocities in Darfur has been ongoing. "Since coming to power by a military coup in 1989, the regime of Omar al-Bashir has done everything in its power to prevent the truth about its crimes from becoming known to the world," he said. "The regime has used intimidation, torture, murder, deception, and manipulation.
"The JOG Tribunal will expose Bashir and his accomplices for who they really are - ruthless criminals who choose any means to keep their illegitimate hold on power and carry out their racist policy of forcefully Arabizing Sudan."
Slovenian writer and human rights activist Tomo Kriznar, a witness at the trial, is an example. The Slovenian President's former Special Envoy for Darfur, Kriznar was recently released from a Sudanese prison where he was held for six weeks on spying charges after coming across evidence showing the Sudanese government's intent to cover up its crimes in Darfur.
The trial will include all of the regular components - a prosecuting attorney, a defense attorney, a panel of distinguished judges and eyewitness and expert testimony. The evidence will be presented and the judges will deliberate before the verdict is delivered.
The JOG Tribunal has drawn upon the expertise of more than 20 scholars, law professors and lawyers, foreign policy specialists and non-governmental organizations to produce the indictment and construct the case and tribunal. Survivors of genocide, including refugees from Sudan, and expert witnesses will present evidence in support of the indictment.
The government of Sudan was invited to present a defense, but did not respond. In addition, several Sudanese attorneys from the U.S., Canada and England declined to take on the case. Kelly Dawson and G. Garry MacDonald, international criminal defense attorneys from Canada, have agreed to present the defense.
Besides Dawson, MacDonald and Wole Soyinka, who will serve as presiding judge, the trial participants will include:
• David Kilgour, Canadian Secretary of State for
Africa and Latin America between 1997 and 2002 and a former
member of the Canadian House of Commons, who will serve as
the Chief Prosecutor;
• Beth Van Schaack, Assistant Professor of Law at the Santa Clara University School of Law, who will serve as a Prosecutor;
• Rev. Gloria White-Hammond, M.D., Co-Founder of the Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur, who will serve as a Judge;
• Eithar Abutah, exiled Sudanese lawyer, who will serve as a Judge;
• Michael Newton, Professor of Law at Vanderbilt University, who will serve as a Judge;
• Obang Metho, Director of International Advocacy for the Anuak Justice Council, who will serve as Judge;
Additional witnesses include Mohamed Elgadi, who was jailed and tortured for human rights work in Sudan in the early 1990s before being rescued by Amnesty International; Susannah Sirkin, Deputy Director of Physicians for Human Rights; Chad Curlett, a member of the State Department Atrocities Documentation Project which interviewed Darfuri survivors in Chad in 2004 and resulted in the State Department's finding that the Darfur atrocities are genocide; and Robert Collins, Professor Emeritus at University of California Santa Barbara and one of the world's foremost experts on the history of Sudan. In addition, three Sudanese refugees, who are eyewitnesses of the regime's crimes in Darfur and whose names are being withheld at present for security reasons, will testify.
"The Tribunal will reveal, for the first time anywhere, the full extent of the criminality of the military dictatorship of President Bashir - the longest ruling genocidal regime in modern history," said Trial Director Camdzic. "Bashir and his co-perpetrators must face justice for the crimes they have committed against the people of Sudan. It is absurd and morally reprehensible to negotiate peace agreements with this regime or to seek their permission to protect the victims of their crimes," Camdzic added.
While the JOG Tribunal admittedly has no legal authority, it will demonstrate the importance of the ongoing investigation on Darfur at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague and provide a forum for those who have been victimized to speak out. These crimes, which are currently under an investigation by the ICC, are in contravention of international criminal law and international treaties to which Sudan is a state party.