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Coronavirus: African Centre calls on Sudan to release more prisoners

April 9 - 2020 NEW YORK
Musa Hilal's sons, arrested in North Darfur, arrive in Khartoum, November 26, 2017 (RD)
Musa Hilal's sons, arrested in North Darfur, arrive in Khartoum, November 26, 2017 (RD)

The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) urges the Sovereign Council to release more prisoners in Sudan, in order to prevent Covid-19 from spreading in jails across the country. ACJPS also expresses its concern for the continued detention without trial of members of the Border Guard Forces militia, including their leader Musa Hilal.

In a press statement today, the New York-based ACJPS welcomes the release of 4,217 male prisoners from El Hoda Prison in north-west Omdurman three days after the Sovereign Council passed a resolution, on March 23, to prevent the coronavirus from spreading in Sudanese detention centres.

The centre urges the Sovereign Council to extend these measures to women’s prisons and other reformatory centres in Sudan.

Musa Hilal

Despite the release, ACJPS expresses deep concern for the continued detention without trial of 250 officers from the Border Guard Forces militia, including their leader Musa Hilal, who were detained and charged between August and December 2017.

They were arrested in their stronghold in the area of Misteriya in North Darfur, following the issuance of a Presidential Decree (No 419/2017) by former President Omar Al Bashir in August 2017.

The decree ordered a government-led campaign to disarm civilians in Darfur and Kordofan. The campaign was carried out by the Rapid Support Forces, Sudan’s main government militia, under the command of the current deputy chairman of the Sovereign Council, Lt Gen Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemeti’.

“ACJPS urges Sudan’s transitional government to drop charges and release all detainees, or in the event that the charges are not dropped, authorities must ensure that detainees are promptly brought before an independent and impartial court to stand trial and challenge the legality of their detention,” the centre states.

In the end of last year, the family and supporters of Musa Hilal organised several vigils and demonstrations in the country in protest against the prolonged detention without charges of their leader, his relatives, and his followers.

'Legal reform needed'

The African Centre points to the fact that “Sudanese authorities have always relied on powers of arrest provided for under the National Security Act 2010, Criminal Procedure Act 1991 and the Emergency and Protection of Public Safety Act of 1997 to give effect to these arrests and continued detention.

“The laws in question grant competent authorities with wide grounds for arrest and detention and lack the requisite safeguards against arbitrary arrest and prolonged detention. The transitional government must undertake comprehensive legal reform in relation to provisions on detention and repeal provisions allowing for indefinite detention without any judicial oversight,” ACJPS concludes.

In February, Human Rights Watch (HRW) also urged Sudan’s transitional government to accelerate legal and institutional reform and progress on domestic justice initiatives.

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