Human rights defenders detained in North Darfur

A member of the Darfur Bar Association (DBA) and other lawyers were detained in Kutum, North Darfur, on Wednesday, while they were providing legal aid to people in the area. The jurists strictly followed the legal procedures, the association stresses.

Kutum in 2013: Army soldiers guard the market of Kutum as policemen are absent (File photo)

A member of the Darfur Bar Association (DBA) and other lawyers were detained in Kutum, North Darfur, on Wednesday, while they were providing legal aid to people in the area.

Yesterday, the DBA reported that Madani Abdelrahman and his colleagues were intercepted in Kutum, when they were searching for the places where people arrested for alleged involvement in recent attacks in Kutum are being held.

They were strictly following the legal procedures, the association stressed.

The DBA considers the detention of the lawyers “a clear message”, confirming that the authorities are continuing the oppressive practices of the former regime.

“The state governments and security committees have not been cleansed yet of Al Bashir supporters. The new government ignored this important part of the Revolution,” the statement reads. The arbitrary detention of the jurists shows “the absence of the Rule of Law and the failing performance and abuse of power of the officials in the area”.

The DBA will investigate “all abuses and human rights violations practiced by the authorities in Kutum locality” and “take the required legal measures against offenders”.

Militia attacks

On July 12, demonstrators in Kutum torched the town’s police station in protest against the inability of the authorities to stop the recurrent attacks by gunmen in the area. The next day, militiamen stormed the sit-in at the Fata Borno camp for the displaced near Kutum. Ten people were killed.

The North Darfur government sent extra military and police forces to Kutum locality to contain the situation.

On Wednesday, a delegation from Khartoum, headed by Sovereign Council member Lt Gen Ibrahim Jabir, arrived in Fata Borno for a visit to the camp.

After hearing the demands of the sit-in, the delegation told the displaced yesterday that a federal commission will investigate the militia attack on the camp’s sit-in.

The delegation members further promised the camp residents yesterday to deploy “a force of 50 vehicles headed by a major general”, to protect the people in the locality, as well as the farmlands during the rainy season.

The force will also be tasked with the removal of illegal settlers from the farms of the displaced, and collecting weapons, motorcycles and four-wheel drive vehicles from the many former militiamen in the area.

The spokesperson for the Fata Borno camp told reporters after the meeting on Thursday, that the two parties also agreed to restore the police station and appoint a public prosecutor in Kutum. Furthermore, two water stations will be constructed, in addition to a building for the Women’s Development Centre.

A committee with members from the Sudan Armed Forces, the prosecution, and people from the area will follow up the implementation of the agreement. The sit-in will only be lifted after the demands have been met on the ground, the spokesperson concluded.

Ghost town

Residents described Kutum in September 2012 as a ghost town, after the police station of Kutum was torched by militiamen. Because of the rampant insecurity in the area, the army imposed a curfew in the town. People did not dare to leave their homes, and military vehicles were seen all over the place.

Two years later, people in Kutum locality complained again about an “unprecedented increase” in attacks, while police forces remained absent. Members of the government-backed Border Guards and Central Reserve Police militias tightened their control on vital roads in North Darfur, imposing fees and levies at randomly set-up ‘toll gates’, and providing ‘public transport’.

In the following years, militiamen continued to wreak havoc in the area without being punished. In 2015, they were reportedly in control of all water sources in Karnoi, Um Baru, and Kutum localities. In 2016, people told Radio Dabanga that the ’toll gates’ in the area reappeared six months after they were removed by the authorities.

Killing, abductions, and robberies continued in 2017. After the arrest of former janjaweed leader Musa Hilal and hundreds of his followers among the Border Guards between August and December that year, less violent incidents occurred in the area. Yet, reports about rapes, attacks on displaced farmers and returned villagers, and armed robberies continued to reach Radio Dabanga until this date.

The International Federation for Human Rights and the African Center for Justice and Peace Studies urged the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on July 16 to continue to provide support to Sudan’s transitional authorities.

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