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Another suspicious death in police custody shows rising police brutality and impunity

November 11 - 2022 KHARTOUM
A Sudanese policeman at the reception of a detention centre in El Geneina, capital of West Darfur (Albert González Farran Unamid)
A Sudanese policeman at the reception of a detention centre in El Geneina, capital of West Darfur (Albert González Farran Unamid)

A young man died in police custody after an arbitrary arrest, Al Jazeera reported on Wednesday. Officers did not give a consistent explanation for his death; they first said that Musasser Kamal (29) had died from natural causes before claiming that he had actually died from a drug overdose. Family saw scars and blood all over his body.

The police escaped any accountability for Kamal's death and family and activists say that the event highlights a rising trend of police brutality since Sudan’s military coup and a lack of accountability for the forces.

"In the early morning of October 11, a plain-clothes police officer arrested Mudasser Kamal after his vehicle broke down in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. The 29-year-old Sudanese-Ethiopian man was then taken to the police station. He did not come out alive," Mat Nashed wrote for Al Jazeera.

According to Kamal's family, police officers did not give a consistent explanation for Kamal’s death, first claiming that he had died from natural causes and then changing to the scenario of a drug overdose. 

"But when the family went to the morgue to identify Kamal’s corpse, they saw bruises, scars, and blood all over his body," the news outlet wrote.

Kamal's family believes the officers may have tortured him to extort money as Sudanese police have been accused of detaining young men, especially those perceived to be foreigners, to request bribes for their release. 

The young Sudanese-Ethiopian's death fits in a pattern of rising police brutality since the October 25, 2021, military coup. This Tuesday, a man was killed inside the military intelligence headquarters El Gedaref. Two protesters were killed during pro-democracy marches at the end of last month, and one of them was run over by a military vehicle after being shot.

At least 119 protesters have been killed during marches against Sudan's military junta and more than 7,000 were seriously injured in anti-coup protests before August this year. This excludes other police violence.

In September, an 18-year-old woman was shot dead in front of her family’s home during a police raid in Omdurman. After her death locals said unpunished violent behaviour is normal during police raids and believe that they are targeted because of their ethnic and tribal background.

The government has failed to credibly investigate the police killings, despite calls from the United Nations to do so, Al Jazeera explains. Police officers "enjoy total impunity to unlawfully detain, beat, and kill civilians" since the coup activists, lawyers, and rights groups told the news outlet.

'Police officers enjoy total impunity to unlawfully detain, beat, and kill civilians'

Police impunity

According to Article 45 of the country’s Police Forces Act and Article 35 of the Criminal Procedures Act, Sudanese police officers enjoy immunity for actions carried out while on official duty. The latter grants immunity to all civil servants, not just police officers, Al Jazeera explains.

These laws enable police to commit grave violations with total impunity, Emma DiNapoli, a legal officer for Redress, told Al Jazeera. She stressed that, in Sudan, “legal reform is the initial need because you can’t have a foundation of prosecutions unless the law permits those prosecutions".

The minister of interior affairs or a head of state can lift immunity from an officer according to Sudanese law. Al Jazeera asked the spokesman of the Sudanese Army, Nabil Abdallah, if any officer had lost their immunity for killing protesters since the military coup, but he declined to answer.

Abdallah did, however, express his opposition to labelling last year’s military power grab as a coup. Sudan’s Public Prosecutor Khalifa Ahmed also refused to respond to any calls or written queries from Al Jazeera.

'Both the law in Sudan and those who uphold it are tasked with protecting authorities at all costs' 

According to one of the lawyers representing Kamal’s family, El Kashef Hassin, both the law in Sudan and those who uphold it are tasked with protecting authorities at all costs".

The lawyer has legally requested several times that the warden of the police station where Kamal was killed be stripped of his immunity.

“The prosecutor always claims that there are procedural mistakes in my petitions, but I know that he’s just trying to protect the police,” Hassin told Al Jazeera.

This lack of accountability enables police officers to escalate violence against protesters, including killings, without facing prosecution.

"Like many families, Kamal’s loved ones believe that they have little chance of pursuing justice within Sudan’s legal system," Al Jazeera writes.

“I don’t know much about the legal process that is happening, but it’s taking too long,” Kamal’s mother told Al Jazeera. “I don’t trust the law, courts, or the prosecution.”


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