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Senior Sudanese judicial official slams immunity granted to president and VP

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September 6, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s deputy chief justice, Abdel-Rahman Sharfi criticized the absolute immunity granted to the president and the first vice president by article (60) of the 2005 interim constitution.

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Judge Abdel-Rahman Sharfi (Al-Alam news)

The article stipulates that the president and the first vice president are immune against prosecution except for crimes of high treason, serious violation of the constitution and misconduct.

Sharfi, who presented a paper on immunity laws from the perspective of Islamic Sharia’a law in the workshop organized by the justice ministry on Thursday, said that article (60) has crossed all the “red lines”, pointing that absolute immunity must not protect anyone against criminal accountability.

He stressed that the president must be held accountable while he is in power, emphasizing that granting absolute immunity to the president or anyone else will put him in the ranks of divinity.

He described the exception granted for the president to be prosecuted before the constitutional court as “wrong”, adding that he should be prosecuted before the regular courts.

Sharfi further acknowledged the negative impact of immunity and its misuse which hampers the course of justice.

The minister of justice, Mohamed Bushara Dousa, for his part, declared the formation of a committee for reviewing the current immunity laws, demanding the state to make the adequate balance between immunity and justice.

He announced amendment for the justice minister circular number (1) for the year 2005 which determines the government ranks that the attorney general is authorized to lift their immunity and those which must be referred to the justice minister in order to speed up the legal proceedings.

Dousa further disclosed that the recommendations of the workshop will be studied thoroughly by special committees before being forwarded to the concerned government bodies.

Last Monday, the opposition downplayed the impact of the workshop and said that recommendations provided by the ministry of justice will not be implemented due to structural problems in the nature of governance, emphasizing that legal reform would only take place through a transitional period involving truth and reconciliation.

The head of the opposition Democratic Lawyers Alliance, Amin Mekki Medani, blasted the Sudanese judiciary, saying it is not impartial and turns a blind eye to violations committed by security forces against activists and opposition.

Medani recalled that perpetrators of crimes against innocent citizens in Port Sudan in 2005 and Kajbar in 2007, which led to the death of more than 30 people, have yet to be prosecuted.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued arrest warrants for Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir, his defence minister, Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein, and the governor of North Kordofan, Ahmed Haroun, in connection with war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide allegedly committed in Sudan’s western Darfur region.

The Sudanese opposition asserts that the ICC rulings are further evidence about the weakness of the local justice system.

In 2004, the UN Security Council (UNSC) formed a commission of inquiry headed by former president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Antonio Cassese, to look into Darfur abuses.

The commission concluded that Khartoum and government-sponsored Arab militias known as Janjaweed had engaged in “widespread and systematic” abuse that may constitute crimes against humanity.

They further said that Sudanese judiciary is “is unable or unwilling” to prosecute those crimes and thus recommended referring the situation to the ICC.

In a bid to deflect criticisms over Darfur and convince the UNSC to freeze proceedings against Bashir, Sudan has appointed several special prosecutors and established a number of special courts over the years. However, to date no high-profile prosecutions have taken place.

(ST)

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