Some Sudanese regions rife with arbitrary arrest and detention, says UN report

28 November 2008

Arbitrary arrest and detention are rife in many parts of Sudan, and are often linked to further serious violations such as torture, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) says in a report released today.

Arbitrary arrest and detention are rife in many parts of Sudan, and are often linked to further serious violations such as torture, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) says in a report released today.

The 51-page report covers the capital Khartoum and other parts of northern Sudan, southern Sudan, and the three central areas of Abyei, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile state. It does not cover the western region of Darfur, which has been the focus of previous OHCHR reports.

According to the report, intelligence and security services, police, and the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), as well as the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in the country's south, have all committed violations of Sudanese and international law in the form of arbitrary arrests of civilians, in the length and manner of their detention, and in the physical treatment of detainees.

“In Khartoum and other parts of northern Sudan, the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) systematically use arbitrary arrest and detention against political dissidents,” states the report. The NISS has reportedly been responsible for a large number of cases involving ill-treatment and torture, including attempts to intimidate detainees, punish them, extract information or force them to incriminate themselves or others.

The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the Government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) explicitly limits NISS' mandate to an advisory role, focusing on information and analysis.

The report also notes that UN human rights officers have encountered many cases in which SPLA soldiers illegally arrested and detained civilians. Some prisoners have been detained for prolonged periods without charge, denied family visits or legal help, and kept in very poor living conditions, with insufficient or inadequate supplies of food, water and medical supplies.

The OHCHR report found “disturbing” patterns of arbitrary arrest and detention by police forces in the South including arrests of family members of suspects to pressure fugitives to turn themselves in.

The report also cites cases of women and children detained as a means of forcing their families to pay compensation in civil disputes, or in relation to dowry payments – especially in Southern Sudan, and cites examples of a 17-year-old girl sentenced to one year in jail in Yei for leaving her husband, and a 16-year old Dinka girl jailed for two months in Bor for running away from a forced marriage.

Impunity was an overarching concern in all of the areas covered by the report. “Even blatantly unlawful arrests rarely result in criminal or disciplinary actions against the officials involved.” However, it also says the problems “are not necessarily intractable,” adding that “reforming institutions is as important as changing individual attitudes.”

At the same time, the report also notes there have been “positive examples of judges, prosecutors, parliamentarians and police officers who have taken effective action against arbitrary arrest and detention.” The report cites cases where judges disregarded written confession statements that had allegedly been obtained under torture and acquitted defendants who had retracted their confessions in court.

OHCHR adds that the Government of National Unity and the Government of Southern Sudan have taken some positive steps to address the human rights concerns in the report. The Government of National Unity, for example, has announced its intention to table legislation to establish an independent human rights commission.

Meanwhile, the Government of Southern Sudan has established a human rights commission and is in the process of enacting legislation linked to its proposed functions.

OHCHR provides 28 specific recommendations designed to assist the authorities in their efforts to address the concerns identified in the report.

 

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