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SBA attacked by former regime lawyers, Sudan police crack down on Lawyers House

November 4 - 2022 KHARTOUM
Police in front of the Lawyers House in Khartoum (RD)
Police in front of the Lawyers House in Khartoum (RD)

Police prevented lawyers from the Sudanese Bar Association (SBA) from entering the Lawyers House, denied them food and water, and deployed additional reinforcements. This came after the house witnessed an attack by members of the former regime’s Lawyers Syndicate as authorities decided to reinstate unions from the Al Bashir era.

On Thursday, the police prevented lawyers from the Sudanese Bar Association (SBA) from entering the Lawyers House in Khartoum and deployed additional military reinforcements in the vicinity of the house after members of the former regime's lawyers syndicate violently confronted members of the SBA steering committee on Tuesday.

Lawyer Rehab El Mubarak told Radio Dabanga that the policemen in charge of securing the building of the Sudanese Bar Association prevented lawyers from entering the house yesterday morning. The police have surrounded the building.

These same forces prevented the entry of water and food for the lawyers present in the house on Wednesday in an attempt to force them to leave the house and close it. A number of the lawyers inside suffer from diabetes so food and water are essential.

Dozens of lawyers are protesting inside the house, refusing to leave and hand over the house to remnants of the former regime.

The Lawyers House witnessed an assault on Tuesday, at which point the lawyers released the following appeal: “The Sudanese Lawyers House lawyers are being attacked with batons and tear gas, stones were thrown at the house, and shots were fired by members of the dissolved National Congress Party regime and armed groups wearing civilian clothes”.

They called “on unions, other professional bodies, the resistance committees, and other revolutionary forces that reject the coup and believe in democratic and civil transformation to head towards the Sudanese Lawyers House in El Amarat Street 61, support those present in it, and provide protection to them in the absence of the police performing their duty”.

'The Sudanese Lawyers House lawyers are being attacked with batons and tear gas' - SBA

The police were allegedly involved in the attack and it took until Wednesday morning for the SBA steering committee to regain control of the building. The police forces however did not retreat and surrounded the building.

Lawyer Hala Abu Garoun told Radio Dabanga that a police force wearing civilian clothes carrying skewers, sticks, and stones stormed the Lawyers’ House after the members of the former regime’s union withdrew.  

This was after the Lawyers Syndicate members had entered the building and told the SBA lawyers to leave. They attacked lawyers by beating them and throwing stones.

Some lawyers sustained injuries.

Police Forces withholding food and water from SBA members inside the Lawyers House (social media)


Union reinstatement

The attack came after the SBA announced its rejection of the decision by the Supreme Court’s Appeals Committee to reject their appeal and thus reinstate Bashir-allied trade unions. Members of the former regime’s syndicate stormed the Lawyers’ House following the Appeals Committee's and wanted to retake the current SBA premises by force.

The current SBA appealed against the Supreme Court decree, issued on Oct 24, to reinstate the unions and federations that were dissolved by the now-disbanded Empowerment Removal Committee* in March 2019 and cancel all the procedures that resulted from ERC’s work, but the Appeals Committee rejected the appeal.

The ERC and its leaders have also been heavily repressed by the military junta and the committee is now officially defunct. The reinstatement of former unions could also lead to the targeting and dissolving of new unions that emerged after the Al Bashir-allied unions were disbanded.

'The battle is targeting progressive unions' - SBA lawyer Sati El Haj

Lawyer Sati El Haj, a member of the SBA defence team, said at the press conference that "the battle is targeting progressive unions, especially the Sudanese Journalists Syndicate, the Sudan Bar Association, and the Sudanese Engineers Union”.

In an interview with Radio Dabanga, El Haj said that the SBA “will follow all legal tracks to oppose the decision despite its politically-motivated nature, which aims to tip the scales towards totalitarianism”.

El Tayeb El Abbas, Secretary-General of the Committee, told Radio Dabanga that the SBA has “appealed to the High Court against this unjust and legally flawed decision”. "We have taken the legal path and the procedures that express the peaceful revolution."

Complaints and appeals

The SBA steering committee has asked the Khartoum state police for clarification about the current situation.

El Mubarak told Radio Dabanga that the steering committee submitted three requests to the attorney-general and the head of the judiciary yesterday and filed an appeal at the Court of Appeals regarding the cancellation of the laws that dissolved the former regime's unions.

El Mubarak explained that they also submitted a complaint against Judge Abu Sebeiha related to a lack of integrity, impartiality, and competence. The complaint submitted to the Chief of Justice included the request to expel Judge Abu Sebeiha from the committee considering the appeal.

UNITAMS statement

Many international, political, and professional forces and resistance committees condemned the attack on the SBA members in the Lawyers’ House on Tuesday evening.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Sudan and Head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), Volker Perthes, is deeply concerned by Tuesday’s attack against the office of the Sudanese Bar Association (SBA) in Khartoum.

“I strongly condemn the attack and any act of violence to settle political or legal disputes. The Steering Committee of the SBA, irrespective of its legal status, has played an important role in advocating for an inclusive discourse in the context of the current political process,” Perthes stated.

“The attack against the office of the SBA is a clear signal sent against ongoing efforts to reach an acceptable consensus among political forces and the military towards a genuine democratic transition in Sudan,” said Perthes, referring to the draft constitutional framework initiated by the SBA earlier this year, which received widespread endorsement and has served as a basis for consultations between Sudanese stakeholders.

'The attack against the office of the SBA is a clear signal sent against ongoing efforts to reach an acceptable consensus among political forces and the military' - Volker Perthes

“UNITAMS will continue to facilitate all Sudanese-led initiatives that support a peaceful transition. As the security and humanitarian situation is deteriorating day after day throughout the country, reaching a broadly accepted solution is more urgent than ever for the benefit of all Sudanese people,” Perthes added.

The workshop by the Sudanese Bar Association (SBA) envisioning a new transitional constitutional framework in August concluded with a set of recommendations, including distancing the military from politics. The workshop, however, was attacked by lawyers affiliated with the Al Bashir regime and associates of various other right-wing political groups.

Protesters on their way to the Lawyers House to support the SBA lawyers
 on Tuesday night (social media)


Spontaneous protests

On Thursday, Khartoum witnessed massive traffic congestion due to the authorities' closure of the Mak Nimir, El Manshiya, and Blue Nile bridges during unannounced demonstrations that took place after the attack on the Lawyers House and the announcement that Al Bashir-era unions would be reinstated.

The protesters also denounced the police support for the attackers

The closure of bridges coincided with the heavy deployment of military forces, the use of tear gas, and stop-and-searches of people on the roads.

* The full name of the committee is the Committee for Dismantling the June 30 1989 Regime, Removal of Empowerment and Corruption, and Recovering Public Funds. It was established by the government of Abdallah Hamdok at the end of 2019 with the aim to purge Sudan of the remnants of the Al Bashir regime. Empowerment (tamkin) is the term with which the ousted government of Omar Al Bashir supported its affiliates by granting them far-going privileges, including government functions, ownership of various companies, and tax exemptions.

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