ACJPS: Militia holds 72 people incommunicado in West Darfur
The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) has expressed its “deep concern” for the well-being of 72 people arbitrarily detained and held incommunicado without charge by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF)”.
The 72 men were detained at the Sudanese border while on transit to El Tina in Chad. All are under RSF custody in El Geneina, capital of West Darfur, the New York-based ACJPS said in a statement on Wednesday.
The Governor of West Darfur State issued a new decree in accordance with the 1997 Emergency Law on June 29. The resolution stipulates that the people detained should be imprisoned for a period of six months, on suspicion of committing crimes of human trafficking, illegal immigration, and plundering.
“The RSF detention centre consists of several cells that were built using local materials. Much as the detention centre is overcrowded, the authorities have not taken into account preventive measures or precautions against COVID 19 in terms of sanitization, isolation and social distancing policy in case of infection,” ACJPS says.
The detainees who have been in custody since June 29 have not been formally charged or brought before a court of law to challenge the legality of their detention.
“The continued incommunicado detention without charge, of detainees violates various rights including the rights to liberty and fair trial guaranteed under the 2019 Constitutional Charter and regional and international treaties ratified by Sudan.”
ACJPS therefore calls upon the Government of Sudan to grant the detainees “immediate and unequivocal access to their lawyers and family members”, “order their immediate release in the absence of valid legal charges” or, “if such charges exist, bring them promptly before an impartial, independent and competent tribunal” and “ensure that steps are taken to protect the detainees form COVID-19”.
“The legal framework for emergencies as set out in the Emergency and Protection of Public Safety Act of 1997, read together with the Emergency and Public Safety Bylaw of 1998, permits preventive arrest and detention on vague grounds. These include the belief of the authorities that the person in question has acted or may act in a way that “affects public security, or public safety, or … participated in any crime related to the declaration”. The 1998 Bylaw provides neither time limits for this type of detention, nor judicial oversight, and therefore authorises prolonged if not indefinite detention,” the African Centre explains.
“The broad powers given to the Executive under the 1997 Act and 1998 Bylaw “have repeatedly given rise to concerns over arbitrary arrest and detention, ill-treatment and torture, and violations of the right to a fair trial, which are facilitated by the virtually complete absence of safeguards and judicial oversight.”
Officially, the RSF militia, set up by the ousted Al Bashir regime in 2013, was integrated into the Sudan Armed Forces in August last year. At the same time however, the militia stays a force unto itself, commanded by ‘Hemeti’, who also is Deputy President of Sudan's Sovereign Council.
The RSF, which grew out of the Janjaweed militiamen who fought for the Sudanese government in Darfur since the war broke out 2003, is widely believed to be responsible for atrocities in Sudan in the past six-seven years. The RSF are also held accountable by many for the violent break-up of the Khartoum sit-in in June 3 last year.
Tens of thousands of RSF troops have joined the Saudi-led campaign against the Houthi rebels in Yemen since 2015.
The RSF militia has reportedly built up a vast business empire that captures not only a large part of the country’s gold industry, but has huge interests in many sectors of the Sudanese economy as well.
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