Document - AI News Release - Sudan: Torture and detention of government opponents despite government claims
AI Index: AFR 54/11/92
0001 hrs gmt Wednesday 15 April 1992
£SUDAN: @TORTURE AND DETENTION OF GOVERNMENT OPPONENTS
DESPITE GOVERNMENT CLAIMS
Torture and detention of government opponents take place daily in Sudan,
said Amnesty International in a report released today.
"Torture, brutal beatings and short term detention in secret
detention centres, known as 'ghost houses', are the Sudan government's
standard reaction to dissent," said Amnesty International. "The Minister
of Justice recently denied the government holds political prisoners - in
reality at any one time it holds hundreds.
"Torture is a normal part of the interrogation of government
opponents at the security headquarters in Khartoum. Prisoners have been
shackled and suspended from their cell walls, sometimes upside down, others
have had their testicles crushed with pliers or been subjected to mock
executions. On arrival at 'ghost houses' prisoners immediately face
'reception committees' who beat them mercilessly, leaving many
Amnesty International's latest report on human rights in Sudan
documents a new pattern of gross human rights abuse since April 1991, when
the government announced it was releasing all political prisoners. The
following month 299 political prisoners were freed, but others, including
prisoners of conscience, remained in detention without trial. Since then
the authorities have apparently switched the emphasis of repression of
dissent from long-term detention in civil prisons to short-term secret
detention and torture in 'ghost houses'.
Those few prisoners who have been taken to courts and charged did not
get fair trials. Alleged coup plotters arrested in August 1991, for
example, were subjected to unfair military trials which led to 46 people
Far from the capital, in the war zones of western and southern Sudan
where the government has been fighting the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Army
(SPLA) since 1983, "disappearances" and extrajudicial executions of alleged
SPLA supporters are common. In late 1991 in Darfur in the far west, the
security services also held at least 120 prisoners, described by government
sources as "armed bandits". At least one of them has since been executed
and 10 others sentenced to be hanged and then crucified under the
government's interpretation of Shari'a (Islamic) law, which also provides
for judicial hand-and-foot amputations and public floggings.
The SPLA has also detained its own dissidents. In January 1992 it
released 56 prisoners but still holds at least 14, some of whom it alleges
were involved in attempts to overthrow the SPLA leadership. A breakaway
faction of the SPLA has been responsible for gross human rights abuses,
including the massacre of over 2,000 villagers near the town of Bor in the
south in late November 1991 .
Despite its claim to have implemented a general amnesty of all
political prisoners in April 1991, the Sudanese authorities did not release
around 60 long-term political prisoners. Many southerners have remained in
detention, including Deng Mesham Angai, a trade unionist, detained without
charge since January 1990.
For others the experience of freedom was short-lived. Yacoub al-Fil,
a member of the banned Sudan National Party, was thrown back in prison
within days of his release. Adnan Zahir Surur, a lawyer, was re-detained
in June 1991 for two weeks, was tortured and detained again in August for
four months, and has been back in prison since February 1992.
President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and other government officials have
branded critics of its human rights record "colonialists" who are compiling
"fake" lists of prisoners. The government claims that detention now only
takes place under judicial supervision and that after three months every
case is reviewed by the Security Council.
"These supposed safeguards still fall far short of international
standards for protection from arbitrary detention", said Amnesty
International. "Furthermore, not a single former prisoner that Amnesty
International has spoken to was aware of any judicial supervision of his
case and none was aware that his case was reviewed. The government is
systematically violating basic human rights. Its denials of torture and
arbitrary detention of opponents do not have credibility."
EMBARGOED FOR 0001 HRS GMT WEDNESDAY 15 APRIL 1992