“Torture, Persecution, Arbitrary Arrest: Khartoum’s Tyranny Continues”
As the international community focuses on the Machakos peace process, and efforts to end the world’s most destructive civil conflict, it is important that the continuing gross human rights abuses of the Khartoum regime not be ignored. To be sure, an agreement on the cessation of offensive military activities continues to hold, and humanitarian access appears to be unimpeded for the present. But as the courageous Sudan Organisation Against Torture (SOAT) has made clear with a series of very recent press releases, torture, religious persecution, and arbitrary arrest and detention remain brutal facts of life for many in Sudan. Nor are these facts of life irrelevant to the Machakos process: the Khartoum regime’s ongoing tyranny defines the reality behind the negotiating presence at Machakos. Soon this representative of that tyranny will be attending various “seminars” to be held in the United States. We must hope that US policy toward Sudan does not lose sight of the vicious nature of the junta, already amply rewarded for its savage survivalism with present control of Sudan’s oil development and oil revenues.
Eric Reeves [December 3, 2002]
Northampton, MA 01063
According to an Agence France-Presse report of November 27, 2002, oil revenues “contributed 527 million dollars to Sudan’s treasury in the first nine months of 2002, accounting for 41 percent of total revenue.” The source of the numbers was a published account by Finance Minister Al-Zubair Ahmed Hassan, who indicated that he hoped these revenues would continue to grow with expanded production. These petrodollars represent a huge increase in available funds, and Khartoum has not had far to look for those eager to do business. Military acquisitions in particular have accounted for an exceedingly large percentage of petrodollar expenditures. Revealingly, despite Sudan’s standing as one of the world’s very most indebted nations, there has been no meaningful effort to reduce external debt. Indeed, the most recent report from the IMF indicates that Khartoum’s external debt is up this year to US$22.7 billion from US$21.5 billion last year.
What are companies like Austria’s OMV (oil company), Sweden’s Lundin Petroleum, Germany’s Siemens, Great Britain’s Rolls Royce and Weir Pumps, the British-Italian concern Alenia Marconi, India’s Oil and Natural Gas Company (ONGC), and a host of other business concerns doing in Sudan? One thing they are doing is turning a blind eye to what is represented by the National Islamic Front’s appalling human rights record—not just in Southern Sudan but in other marginalized areas, and in Khartoum itself.
Today (December 3, 2002) the Sudan Organisation Against Torture (SOAT) reported yet again on the “arrest, torture, and disappearance of students.” Excerpts from today’s press release include:
“On 13 November 2002, Mohamed Awad Abdalla, 21 years old, and Hussam Aldin Yousif, 23, were arrested by security officers from a farm in Shambat area belonging to Mr Awad’s family. Both of the men are agriculture students at Khartoum University’s Shambat campus.
“The arresting officers were members of the branch of the security forces concerned specifically with students. The officers arrived in 5 cars to make the arrests.
“The men were taken firstly to offices belonging to the political section of the security forces near Maghabir Farough in Khartoum, and were later transferred to the Executive Security offices inside the building of the Army General Command Headquarters (Alghiyada Ala’amma). They were tortured by beating with water hoses and were whipped with ‘soots’ (leather whips).”
“Mohamed was transferred to Kober prison, where he remains in detention without charge or trial.”
“Another student arrest was made on 22 November 2002. Atif Alsouni, a 25 yr old student at Khartoum University’s Faculty of Arts was arrested at 7 pm from the Alrank student association building in Abu Sie’ed, Omdurman.”
“The whereabouts of Atif Alsouni are unknown, and SOAT fears that he may be at high risk of torture.”
In another very recent press release (Dec 2) SOAT reported on the “arbitrary arrest of three brothers in Khartoum,” in particular that:
“In the early hours of 29 November 2002, a group of armed security officers arrested three brothers after raiding their house in Al Kalakla Algubba, Khartoum.
“The three brothers are Al Shafe’e Altayeb Yousif, 27 years old and a teacher at Al Sudan School in Al Kalakla Algubba, Khidir Altayeb Yousif, 20 years old and a second year student of engineering at Sudan University, and Hashim Altayeb Yousif, 23 years old and a fourth year math student at the University of Khartoum. The three were arrested by the security forces and taken to an unknown place.
“Security forces have told their family that the three men would be held until their elder brother Lenin Altayeb presented himself to security officers. The Altayeb family believe that the three brothers are being held as hostages until security forces find Lenin.
“Lenin Altayeb is a former student leader at Al Nilein University, and a well known member of the Sudanese Students Democratic Front (SSDF). Lenin has been arrested on 3 previous occasions, the first of which was in September 1996 when he was arrested with 19 other student leaders of the SSDF and severely tortured as a result of his name.”
In yet another recent press release (November 26, 2002), SOAT speaks of the conviction of 17 women from a village near Nyala (Darfur Province) who were convicted of adultery in a summary court proceeding and sentenced to 100 lashes by whip:
“Between 12 and 20 November 2002, 17 women from the village of Munwashi, 8 km north of Nyala in Darfour, Western Sudan, were convicted of adultery and each sentenced to 100 lashes of the whip.
Information about these women was obtained by “the ‘Popular Committee’ in the village of Munwashi and then passed on to the Police who arrested the women from their homes and from the marketplace in Munwashi:
“Charges were brought against the women and they were tried in front of a summary court (Muhaakama Ijaaziya) under article 146 of Sudan’s 1991 [Islamic] Penal Code which is as follows:
‘Whoever commits the offence of adultery shall be punished with:
[a] execution by stoning when the offender is married (muhsan)
[b] one hundred lashes of the whip when the offender is not married (non-muhsan)'”
“Summary trials (muhaakma ijaaziya) were held on November 12, 14 and 20 to try the women, none of whom were given any legal representation. Sentences were passed on [thirteen] women on 12 November; Zahra Hassan Ali and Gadah Abdelgabar were sentenced and punished on 14 November; and Asma Mohamed Ahmed and Zakia Altayeb were sentenced and punished on 20 November. All of the punishments were carried out on the same day as sentencing, giving the women no opportunity to seek legal advice or to make appeals.
SOAT also reports on two previous “adultery” cases within the past year: “Abok Alfa Akok was initially sentenced to execution by stoning by the Special Court on 8 December 2001, for the crime of adultery. However, after a successful appeal by a SOAT lawyer, Abok, who was 18 years old and pregnant at the time, was sentenced to 75 lashes by the Criminal Court in Nyala on 12 February 2002. On 4 June, 2002, Alawiyah Mohamed Abdullah was also found guilty of adultery and sentenced to 100 lashes of the whip by the Special court in Nyala.”
SOAT concludes about these vicious incidents that:
“SOAT condemns this kind of punishment, and is gravely concerned that the government of Sudan is increasingly carrying out punishments of this nature against the people of Darfour, notably women. Punishments such as lashing, stoning, and amputation constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment according to the UN Convention Against Torture and the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.”
And what has been the response of Khartoum to this pattern of vicious abuse? and to student protest in Khartoum? Agence France-Presse reports (November 22, 2002) that, “Sudanese riot police were congratulated and rewarded for forcibly suppressing recent riots at the University of Khartoum, independent newspapers here reported Friday.”
And President Omer Beshir rapturously celebrated shari’a (Islamic law) in a very recent broadcast on “Republic of Sudan Radio,” Omdurman (in Arabic 17:05 gmt, November 22, 2002 BBC Monitoring)—making clear that there was no room for compromise on the issue of shari’a, even as it remains central to the conflict that has riven Sudan for almost 20 years.
These are but a few telling glimpses of the cruel, savage reality that is the National Islamic Front. Numerous human rights reports have detailed hundreds of other examples of this reality. And of course there are countless other such cases that have never been reported on, and—given the efficiency of Khartoum’s security forces—likely never will. Those who must negotiate with this ruthless regime may ignore such realities only at the risk of their integrity.