In a letter to President Omar El Bashir of Sudan released today, Human Rights Watch criticizes the arrests of political opposition figures.

The timing of the arrests and statements by high government officials suggests that the bombings served as a pretext to stop opposition political parties from reopening inside Sudan, where they would challenge the de facto one-party state.

In violation of the accused's fair trial rights, the government television showed three men "confessing" to the bombing conspiracy and implicating some of the accused.

In an effort to stifle protests of these arrests, on July 7 a leading defense attorney was detained. After a homily critical of the arrests, on July 13 another imam and five members of the Ansar sect and were detained. One of the accused died in jail, allegedly a suicide.

Human Rights Watch calls on the government:

  • to ensure the physical and psychological integrity of those in detention and permit them access to their advocates and families;
  • to release immediately those against whom no charges are brought. If charges have been brought, provide the means to judicially test the adequacy of the evidence prior to trial;
  • if the accused complain of torture, to conduct a judicial hearing and if torture is established, exclude from use at trial the evidence procured from the torture victim, and prosecute those responsible for the torture ;
  • to try all cases in a pre-existing civilian court, not in a military, emergency, or other ad hoc court;
  • to refrain from imposing the death penalty and cruel and inhuman punishments such as crucifixion or amputation to those found guilty;
    to respect all fundamental rights and liberties of the accused, particularly their rights to fair trial and free speech'
  • to permit a forensic autopsy conducted by experts independent of the government of the death in detention;
  • to refrain from further harassment of defense advocates; and -- to respect freedom of association and permit the reopening of political parties