17 April 2009 United Nations human rights experts have spoken out against the execution in Sudan of nine men found guilty of murdering a newspaper editor, whose confessions were extracted under torture and subsequent trial was unfair.
The nine men, accused of killing Mohamed Taha Mohamed Ahmed, belong to the Fur tribe of the Darfur region and were sentenced to death in November 2007. They were hung in a Khartoum prison on 13 April 2009.
The men had retracted their confessions, alleging that they had been obtained under duress. Requests by the defendants and their lawyers for medical examinations were rejected, and both the appeals court and the Sudanese Supreme Court upheld the verdict.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued an opinion last November, in which it raised serious questions about the trial of the defendants, who were detained for four months without contact with the outside world and showed visible signs of torture in their court appearances.
“No judicial system, and in particular, the judicial system of a country that ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on 18 March 1986, can consider as valid a confession obtained under torture and revoked before a court, and a sentence based on such confession,” the Working Group stated in its opinion.
Several UN independent experts – Manuela Carmena Castrillo, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Leandro Despouy, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers Sima Samar, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan and Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment – had appealed to the Sudanese Government to stay the executions until a fair trial or new trial had been held.
They said that they could not judge whether the nine men were guilty, but emphasized that “in cases involving capital punishment, the slightest doubt cast on whether due process has been followed makes an execution inadmissible,” Mr. Alston said, noting that the death penalty is irreversible.
Also in Sudan, top Swedish and United States officials are visiting Darfur. Marika Fahlen, Sweden's Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa, arrived in North Darfur's capital, El Fasher, to assess the humanitarian and security situation in the region. While in the war-ravaged area, she also seeks to gauge preparations for next February's national elections and seek solutions for the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their original homes.
During Ms. Fahlen's meeting with the Governor, or Wali, of North Darfur state, he informed her that local humanitarian ministries and agencies are doing their utmost to fill any vacuum left after the Sudanese Government ejected 13 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and suspended three national NGOs following the issuing of an arrest warrant last month by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
US Senator John Kerry is also in Darfur, where he was briefed on the overall political and humanitarian state of affairs on the ground. He said he will boost his efforts to enable the hybrid UN-African Union peacekeeping mission, known as UNAMID, to discharge its mandate in better conditions.
For its part, UNAMID reported today that its forces are continuing their routine duties and closely monitoring the situation in villages and camps housing IDPs.
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