Vigil for special courts for martyrs held before Sudan’s Chief Justice

On Thursday, families of people killed during protests against Sudan’s former regime and military junta organised a protest vigil in front of Sudan’s Attorney General and Judiciary, rejecting the alleged decision to abolish the special courts for the martyrs.

Families of people killed during protests against Sudan’s former regime and military junta organised a protest vigil in front of Sudan’s judiciary in Khartoum yesterday, rejecting the alleged decision to abolish the special courts for the martyrs.

Zadia Seif, Lawyer for the December 2018* Martyrs’ Families Organisation, told Radio Dabanga that the Martyrs’ Claims Prosecution Office informed them that it will make an official announcement about martyrs El Fateh El Nimeir and Babiker Abdelhamid.

Special Courts for Martyrs’ Cases were created to speed up the remaining investigations and trials. Seif explained that the special court, which was established during the term of Sudanese Supreme Court Judge Nemat Abdallah, has processed the cases of six martyrs so far.

In December 2020, Abdallah confirmed that the cases of three killed protestors had been brought to court. In her address to protestors in front of the judicial authority, who included the families of martyrs and dozens of members of resistance committees and activists, she said that she had supervised the formation of special court constellation composed of the best judges in the country to try those accused of killing the martyrs.

The director of the office of the Chief Justice said that no decision had been issued by the Chief Justice to cancel the Courts for Martyrs’ Cases when he met the families of protesters killed during the vigil, Seif reported.

He asked them to submit a written letter to the representative of the Martyrs’ Claims Prosecution Office, indicating that they are in the process of requesting more information about the special courts.

Maria El Tayeb, mother of El Nimeir, told Radio Dabanga that the families reject the alleged abolition of the special courts for the martyrs. She said that the aim of the vigil is to bring attention to the special courts.

The December 2018 Martyrs’ Families Organisation, in cooperation with the Association of Sudanese Abroad, launched a campaign to demand the ratification by Sudan of the 1998 Rome Statute and the transfer of all indictees to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for trial on March 23. Khartoum signed the Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding treaty, in 2000, but has not ratified it to this date.

Most of Sudan’s resistance committees have been against any form of collaboration with the military institution since the coup d’état, in part because many families of martyrs and pro-democracy protesters killed by security forces fear an agreement that might allow the military to escape accountability.

Abdelsalam Kesha, father of a young protester killed during the demonstrations against the military junta, told Radio Dabanga that any agreement with the military means a betrayal of the revolution. “Any agreement will not be successful as long as there are no revolutionary parties involved. We are advocates of radical change and will not be part of any upcoming agreement,” he said last month.

At the time, the mother of another martyr, Amira Kabous, noted the difficulty of implementing transitional justice in Sudan: “Transitional justice cannot be achieved without the perpetrator confessing his crimes and then asking for forgiveness.”

According to human rights defender Abdelbagi Jibril, the military’s demand for immunities means that they fear the consequences of the crimes they have committed.

* From mid-December 2018, Sudan experienced a nationwide popular uprising calling for the overthrow of the Al Bashir regime. Demonstrations were met with violent resistance from the government and a number of protesters were killed. Yet, the sheer volume of public support as well as organisational support by the Sudanese Professionals Association and other signatories to the January 1 2019 Declaration of Freedom and Change resulted in the uprising reaching critical mass. On April 11, the 30-year dictatorship of Omar Al Bashir was overthrown by a military coup. The large sit-in set up in front of the Military Command in central Khartoum some days before however continued, as the demonstrators demanded the military hand over power to a civilian government. On June 3, the sit-in was was broken up with excessive violence. More than 186 people were reportedly killed.