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



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

being imprisoned.

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."


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