REDRESS: Sudanese laws need reform to ban torture-tainted evidence

The UK-based REDRESS organisation has urged “a future legitimate and democratically elected Sudanese government” to reform its laws to curtail the use of torture in custodial settings and prohibit the use of information extracted by torture in trials.

Various Sudanese police forces lining up (Darfur Network for Monitoring and Documentation)

The UK-based REDRESS organisation has urged “a future legitimate and democratically elected Sudanese government” to reform its laws to curtail the use of torture in custodial settings and prohibit the use of information extracted by torture in trials.

In general, “allegations raised by accused persons that they were forced to confess have historically been systematically ignored by judges,” REDRESS said in a briefing last Monday.

Defence lawyers say that judges routinely tell them the only way to address the issue of “torture evidence” and/or the act of torture itself is to initiate separate proceedings against an alleged perpetrator(s), and not in the case against the defendant.

“As a party to the UN Convention against Torture since August 2021, Sudan must prohibit, prevent, punish, and provide reparations for torture and other ill-treatment,” the NGO stated. “Sudan must ensure that evidence elicited through torture or other ill-treatment is excluded from legal proceedings. Despite this, Sudanese authorities continue to rely routinely on evidence obtained through torture and other ill-treatment in criminal and other proceedings.”

In the briefing, REDRESS refers to the case of 17-year-old Mohamad Adam (aka Tupac) who was detained from a hospital in eastern Khartoum in mid-January, after sustaining injuries in a demonstration, on charges of stabbing a police brigadier to death during the protest. Fellow protesters Mohamed El Fateh, Ahmed El Fateh, and Musab El Sherif were also detained in relation with the killing.

Adam’s defence lawyers said that he and the other defendants were subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment, while held in incommunicado detention by security forces, and that their confessions were extracted by torture.

In the first session of the trial, on 29 May, the defence lawyers in the case requested a medical examination to prove the issue of torture. This time however, the presiding judge granted the defence team’s request, a decision subsequently upheld by Sudan’s High Court.

Another case is the one concerning nine members (including minors) of the resistance committee of the Burri El Lamab neighbourhood in Khartoum, who were accused of killing a paramilitary of the Rapid Support Forces during the June 3 massacre of 2019, lawyers alleged that confessions were extracted through torture.

Though the defendants were acquitted on other grounds after proceedings in October 2020, the judge declined to address the allegations of torture through the proceedings and in his judgment.

According to REDRESS, these cases “are consistent with a long history of the use of torture for the purpose of extracting confessions by Sudan’s security forces, and highlight the significant work needed in Sudan to ensure the absolute prohibition of torture and other forms of ill-treatment”.

The NGO therefore recommends “a future legitimate and democratically elected Sudanese government” to amend the Criminal Law Act 1991 and Criminal Procedure Act 1991.

The African Center for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) reported on Saturday that a young human rights defender was arrested, tortured, and charged with defamation over a Facebook post in Central Darfur last week. He was reportedly held in Zalengei, and tortured and racially berated by police officers before being released on bail.

A Sudanese psychiatrist told Radio Dabanga in end June that the number of victims of maltreatment and torture by the authorities is rapidly increasing in the country.

At the end of his second visit to Sudan in June, the UN Expert on Human Rights in Sudan, Adama Dieng, expressed his deep concern at the human rights situation in the county. On September 2, the UN Secretary-General said in his report on the situation in Sudan between 6 May to 20 August 2022 that the human rights situation continues to deteriorate.