Amnesty International: Sudan
and arrests must be investigated
April 27, 2001 (M2 PRESSWIRE) -- Amnesty International today took note of the presidential decree pardoning 47 people arrested over last Easter and called for an impartial and independent investigation into the shootings, beatings and arrests by the Sudanese riot police on April 11, 2001. "Amnesty International is concerned that at least nine people, including children, were flogged as punishment, after being convicted with 47 others for causing 'public disturbance' in an unfair and summary trial." On 11 April, Christians gathered at All Saints Cathedral in Khartoum for prayers and to discuss the cancellation of a religious rally organized by church authorities on 10 April. Some students, angry at the cancellation, reportedly went outside the church with stones. When the riot police intervened, those outside the church ran inside. According to witnesses, police threw teargas inside the church making it difficult for people to breathe, and fired bullets at the crowd injuring many. Police then entered the church and indiscriminately arrested at least 56 people. One person, Edward Jemi, lost a hand from bullet wounds. At least two others were hit by bullets. It is reported that some, including women, were beaten and that one person was stabbed by the riot police. The 56 people arrested were brought the next day to a criminal court and charged with causing public disturbance.The judge refused to allow their lawyer to defend them. The trial lasted less than an hour. Six women and three children were sentenced to 15 and 20 lashes respectively and were flogged on 12 April and then released. The remaining 47 were sentenced to 20 lashes each and from seven to 20 days in prison. Other people present in the cathedral, including Church officials and a journalist, Alfred Taban, were also arrested. They were later released, apart from Alfred Taban, who was held incommunicado without charge until he was released on 17 April without explanation. "The government should conduct an impartial and independent investigation into the incident", Amnesty International said."And those responsible for unlawful shootings should be brought promptly to justice. All people detained by the police should be given the opportunity of fair trial including being defended by a lawyer of their choice." The human rights organization further urged the Sudanese government to take immediate action to ensure that its security forces comply with international standards, especially the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, thereby protecting the life and safety of civilians. The organization is also calling on the Sudanese authorities to refrain from inflicting torture such as flogging as punishment, especially for children. The Sudanese authorities should guarantee the right to free assembly and freedom of religious belief and practice. Background Church authorities in Khartoum had planned events for Easter and had invited a German evangelist to address a rally on 10 April in Green Square in central Khartoum, which they had booked. After threats by Islamic groups to disrupt the celebrations, the Sudanese authorities ordered the church authorities on 9 April to move the event to Haj Yusif in the outskirts of Khartoum. Because of the short notice, people turned up on 10 April in Green Square. Clashes ensued with the police. It is alleged that the police threw tear gas and shot at people. At least 50 people were arrested and later released. Clashes were also reported on the same day in Haj Yusif. Following these incidents, the church authorities decided to cancel the event and were discussing their decision with the Christian community the day after in All Saints Cathedral, when they were disrupted by the police. The use of excessive force by the Sudanese security forces has been reported several times in the past, as well as complaints by the Christian community of harassment and restriction of their right to freedom of religion.
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