(This report covers the period January-December 1997) Hundreds of suspected opponents of the government, including prisoners of conscience, were detained without charge or trial for periods ranging from a few weeks to several months. More than 50 political prisoners received unfair trials. Torture and ill-treatment by security officials and police remained common; at least two prisoners died after being tortured. Courts imposed judicial punishments of flogging and amputation. Hundreds of women and children were abducted by paramilitary forces; the fate of hundreds of children abducted in previous years remained unknown. Scores of people were extrajudicially executed in the war zones. At least 11 prisoners were sentenced to death. Armed opposition groups were responsible for human rights abuses. The government of President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir faced intensified armed opposition from the military wing of the National Democratic Alliance (nda), an umbrella grouping of banned political parties and trade unions. In January the Sudan Alliance Forces (saf) led by Abdel Aziz Khalid and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (spla) led by John Garang de Mabior captured territory in eastern Sudan, close to a dam that provides Khartoum, the capital, with most of its electricity. Between March and May the spla gained hundreds of kilometres of territory and encircled Juba, the largest city in southern Sudan. Meanwhile, the spla, saf and the Beja Congress, another armed opposition group, captured territory along the Eritrean border. The Sudanese Government accused the Eritrean, Ethiopian and Ugandan governments of mounting an invasion. The Sudanese authorities continued to support Ugandan armed opposition movements responsible for gross human rights abuses and to allow them to use bases in Sudan (see Uganda entry). Approximately 4.5 million people remained internally displaced. Tens of thousands fled the fighting in eastern Sudan in January; approximately 5,000 crossed into Ethiopia. Over 60,000 refugees in Uganda returned to southern Sudan in April, after their camps were attacked and the Ugandan authorities refused to allow food rations to be distributed in surrounding towns and villages. In April the government followed the peace charter signed in 1996 by concluding a peace agreement with the South Sudan Independence Army, a group calling itself the spla led by Kerubino Kuanyin Bol that had been operating as a government militia in Bahr al-Ghazal, and four little-known southern Sudanese groups. The southern signatories merged their armed forces into a new organization, the South Sudan Defence Force. In November peace talks in Nairobi between the government and the spla, mediated by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (igad) countries (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda), adjourned without progress. In January the UN Special Rapporteur on Sudan arrived in Khartoum just as a clamp-down on political opponents began (see below). The authorities indicated that they were unable to guarantee his safety, as a result of which he was forced to leave the country. However, he was able to return to Khartoum in September. In April the UN Commission on Human Rights expressed deep concern at continuing grave human rights violations and abuses in Sudan and alarm at the large numbers of forcibly displaced in the country. For the third year running, the Commission recommended the placement of international human rights field officers. Once again they were not in place by the end of the year. In May a commission of inquiry established by the government in 1992 into events in Juba in which over 200 people "disappeared" reported that five employees of foreign organizations, including the UN, had been executed after being tried by military tribunals. The trials did not conform to international standards of fair trial. Eighty-nine others brought before the tribunals were either executed or given prison sentences; 11 men were acquitted. However, the report, which contained a number of internal inconsistencies, failed to account for the remaining 135 people who "disappeared" (see Amnesty International Report1997). Hundreds of suspected opponents of the government, including prisoners of conscience, were arrested during the year and detained without charge or trial for periods ranging from a few weeks to several months. In Khartoum most prisoners were held in a section of Kober prison run by the security services. However, secret detention centres notorious for torture, known as "ghost houses", were also in use. Many suspected political opponents, including recently released prisoners, had to report daily to security offices where they were made to wait until sunset. Within hours of the military incursion by the spla and saf in January, scores of suspected political opponents in Khartoum and other northern Sudanese cities were detained. President al-Bashir described the arrests as a precautionary measure that would "end when the foreign threat is removed". Among the first to be arrested were former members of the banned organizations that made up the nda in exile. They included Abdel Mahmud Haj Saleh, a former Minister of Justice and member of the Umma party; Sid Ahmad al-Hussein, a former Deputy Prime Minister and member of the Democratic Unionist Party; and Awad al-Karim Mohamed Ahmad, a trade unionist and member of the Sudan Communist Party (scp). In the days and weeks that followed, hundreds of less well-known people were arrested. They included adherents of traditional Sufi orders of Islam, former members of banned political parties, students, workers, trade unionists, doctors, lawyers, businessmen, engineers, civil servants and Eritrean and Ethiopian nationals. By the end of February, more than 250 suspected political opponents were in detention Although at least 100 further arrests took place in March and April, the authorities also began to release prisoners. For example, Saudi Darraj, a former member of the banned scp, and nine other trade unionists and left-wing activists were released in Khartoum in March. However, at the end of the month Jalal Ismail Awadallah, Abd al-Rahman al-Amin and two other trade unionists were detained in Port Sudan. In May the authorities announced the release of all political detainees and issued a list of 71 men freed in the middle of the month. Most detainees held in Kober prison in Khartoum had been released by the start of June However, as with similar announcements in previous years, not all political detainees were actually released. George Berhane Kidane, a Sudanese of Ethiopian origin, and Abubakr Abbas al-Zein, an engineer in the eastern town of Damazin, who were both originally detained in January, remained in prison with at least 17 other suspected left-wing activists, including Awad al-Karim Mohamed Ahmad There were further arrests within days of the announced releases. For example, Abdelbasit Abbas, a paediatrician, and more than 20 other men were arrested at the start of June. Abdelbasit Abbas was released without charge in October, but Mauwia Ali al-Shafie, a doctor, and Kamal Abdulrahman, a lawyer, were among 13 men brought to trial in December on diverse treason-related charges. More than 50 political prisoners arrested in previous years received unfair military trials in which their rights to a defence and to appeal were infringed. The military trial of Colonel Awad al-Karim Omar Ibrahim al-Naqar and 30 others accused of waging war against the state, which began in August 1996, concluded in mid-1997. Nineteen defendants received prison sentences ranging from one month to 15 years; nine others were acquitted (see Amnesty International 1997). Twenty soldiers and civilians arrested in Port Sudan in August 1996 and accused of an attempted coup were court-martialled in proceedings that began in February and concluded in April. Six men were given prison sentences ranging from five to 20 years, five were given administrative sentences and nine were acquitted. Torture and ill-treatment by security officials and police remained common; detainees held in security offices and secret detention centres on suspicion of plotting against the government or having information about opposition activities were particularly at risk. Anti-government demonstrators were frequently beaten at the moment of arrest and on arrival at a security office. At least two detainees died after being tortured. In June Mauwia Awad Khojali died of burns sustained in a secret detention centre in May. In October Amin Bedawi Mustapha died in detention after torture. Courts imposed sentences of flogging and amputation. Flogging was common for offences against "public order" or "public decency", the latter an offence that was particularly applied to women. For example, in December, 25 women received 10 lashes each after they demonstrated against the conscription of secondary-school leavers into the armed forces. They received an unfair summary trial before a Public Order Court and were among 38 women arrested and beaten with batons and rubber hosepipes as they attempted to deliver a petition to UN offices. One woman received a further 30 lashes for wearing trousers and a shirt, which the court defined as indecent dress. In August, three men convicted of hiraba (armed robbery) were sentenced to amputation of the right hand and left foot by courts in Darfur. In November the Minister of Justice reported to the National Assembly that five sentences of limb amputation had been carried out since 1989. In March and April Popular Defence Force (pdf) paramilitary forces and other militia abducted hundreds of women and children during military operations in Bahr al-Ghazal and the Nuba Mountains. For example, in March over 100 women and children were abducted by pdf troops sent to reinforce Kerubino Kuanyin Bol's forces around Wun Rog. Hundreds of children abducted in Bahr al-Ghazal and the Nuba Mountains in previous years remained unaccounted for. Although the government continued to deny the existence of slavery, in July the Deputy Chairman of the National Assembly's Human Rights Committee said that children from northern Bahr al-Ghazal were being abducted for use as slaves A Ugandan armed opposition group, the Lord's Resistance Army (lra), armed and supplied by the Sudanese authorities, abducted hundreds of Ugandan children, who were then held captive along with thousands of children abducted in previous years, for use as child soldiers. They were held in bases in Sudan, next to Sudanese army positions and were frequently tortured and ill-treated. The Sudanese authorities made no attempt to intervene to free children held by the lra on Sudanese territory (see Uganda entry). Scores of unarmed civilians were extrajudicially executed by the regular army and the pdf and other militia. For example, in a military campaign starting in February, the army and pdf burned down homes and granaries in villages along the fringes of Jebel Limon in a sustained assault that was apparently aimed at depopulating one of the more fertile parts of the Nuba Mountains under spla control. At least six people were extrajudicially executed after they failed to escape, among them an elderly woman who was burned to death in her hut. Dozens of extrajudicial executions took place around Wun Rog and Gogrial in fighting in February and March. At least 11 people convicted of criminal offences were sentenced to death. In November the Minister of Justice announced that since 1989, out of 894 death sentences passed for murder and armed robbery, 112 executions had been carried out. Armed opposition groups were responsible for human rights abuses, including torture, abducting and ill-treating children for use as soldiers, and deliberate and arbitrary killings. The victims included some government officials captured during fighting. For example, in May the spla tortured and deliberately and arbitrarily killed Samuel Mabor Malek, a retired Major-General of Prisons, after they captured the southern town of Rumbek. Amnesty International urged both the government and armed opposition groups to end human rights abuses. The organization called on the government to release prisoners of conscience, to end detention without charge or trial and torture and to commute death sentences. In April Amnesty International published a report, Sudan: A new clamp-down on political opponents, which described the arrest of political opponents since the start of the year. A report published in May, In search of safety: the forcibly displaced and human rights in Africa,contained a chapter describing human rights abuses against the 4.5 million people internally displaced by war in Sudan and called for action from government, armed opposition groups and international organizations to secure their protection In September Amnesty International published a report, Uganda: Breaking God's commands the destruction of childhood by the Lord's Resistance Army, which described the Sudanese authorities' use of the lra as a militia and said that the Sudanese Government could be held responsible for many of the armed group's human rights abuses. Amnesty International called on the government to end its supply of weapons, bases and other support to the lra and to intervene to free abducted children. The government denied that it had links with the lra In December Amnesty International received a letter from the Minister of Justice inviting the organization to send a delegation to Sudan (see Amnesty International 1997).
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