SP supports Amnesty International action for Darfur

21 December 2004

SP supports Amnesty International action for Darfur

As part of an international write-in action for parliamentarians, Harry van Bommel has written to the Sudanese parliament expressing his concerns over the situation in the country, and above all in the province of Darfur.

Harry van BommelKnown as the People’s Assembly, the parliament will meet this week in the national capital, Khartoom, to discuss a possible prolongation of the state of emergency prevailing in the country. In his letter, Mr Van Bommel urges members not to prolong the state of emergency and instead to make good on the commitments into which Sudan has entered at the international level. The Dutch Parliament is to debate the situation on Tuesday.
Van Bommel’s letter is reproduced below.

Mr. Hasab al-Nabi Adam Dau al- Nour
People’s Assembly

Dear Mr Hasab al-Nabi Adam Dau al-Nour,

As a member of Dutch Parliament of the Socialist Party I hereby would kindly take the opportunity to express my concerns on the situation in Darfur.

I am well aware of the serious situation in Darfur and the ongoing human rights violations. In its 2 December 2004 report No one to complain to: No respite for the victims, impunity for the perpetrators, Amnesty International expressed concern about the failure of the legal system in Sudan to address the serious crimes committed against the civilians of Darfur. Flaws in the legal system in Sudan are partly due to the imposition of a state of emergency, which has become virtually permanent since 1989. It concerns me that the state of emergency has allowed the Sudanese government to restrict the human rights of its citizens, by introducing wide powers of arrests and detentions, with immunity, for the security forces. In 2001, following the declaration of a state of emergency in Darfur, the Sudanese authorities established Special Courts in the three states of Darfur.

As you are well aware Article 31 and 33 of the National Security Forces Act, passed by Parliament in 1999, allows the Sudanese National Security Agency to detain anyone incommunicado without charge or access to a prosecutor or a judge for up to nine months. Article 33(b) of the National Security Forces Act allows almost complete immunity to officers of the national security for any actions. Despite numerous reports of torture of detainees by the National Security Agency, no one has been made accountable, because of Article 33(b).

In March 2003, “Specialised Criminal Courts” replaced Special Courts instituted under a State of emergency in all three states of Darfur. Specialised Criminal Courts do not respect international standards of fairness and Sudan’s international treaty obligations. The Decree institutionalising Specialised Courts fails to ensure that confessions extracted under torture are not used as evidence against the accused, even if they are later retracted; and does not overrule Article 5 (g) of the Decree on the Special Courts, specifying that defence lawyers are not allowed to represent the accused and that only “friends” of the defendants can appear before the court to help. These Courts sentence hundreds of people to death or amputations, which we consider to be cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, for offences not always involving a lethal act. For example on 22 August 2004, Omer Hamid Suleiman, was sentenced to death by hanging for illegal possession of a gun. It is not known whether he appealed the sentence.

While I do not wish to deny the right of states to impose states of emergency, particularly if faced with internal armed conflict, I do wish to stress that it must do so in accordance with international human rights standards, including those set by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Sudan is a party and its panel of experts, the Human Rights Committee. The Human Rights Committee has stated the view that some of the core fair trial rights of Article 14 should be non-derogable. The African Charter, to which Sudan is a party, contains no emergency clause and therefore allows no derogation from fundamental human rights, such as the right to life.

Therefore, I kindly urge you not to adopt an extension of the state of emergency unless there are amendments to emergency laws, which conform to Sudan’s international obligations. In particular, Articles 31 and 33 of the National Security Forces should be abolished. The following provisions which are used in the Specialised Criminal Courts should also be abolished: the provision which only allows defence lawyers to act as “friends” of the accused, therefore legally recognising practices already operated by judges of such courts; the provision which prevents the accused from withdrawing confessions. Sudanese laws should re-establish the full rights of appeal of the accused, on all convictions and sentences.

I also would like urge you to demand that the Sudanese Government prepares its outstanding report to the Human Rights Committee, which monitors compliance with the ICCPR, to obtain assistance and guidance in implementing its human rights obligations. I sincerely hope that as a member of parliament you share our concerns on the abovementioned issues. I thank you kindly for your attention to my letter.

Yours sincerely,
Harry van Bommel

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