August 19, 2014 (PORT SUDAN) – A 24-year-old man has died in custody in Port Sudan after being flogged and detained under public order laws.
According to the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS), Jilani Mohamed Ahmed Abdul Rasul, who was a member of the Beja tribe, was found dead on 10 August in Port Sudan prison where he was serving a one-month sentence after being subjected to 40 lashes for drinking alcohol. Prior to his transfer to prison he had been held overnight on 22 July at the Diem Mayo public order police station in Port Sudan.
His death follows that of two other detainees who died in mysterious circumstances within two days of each other after being held in hot and crowded cells at the same police station and then subjected to 40 lashes each.
Hussein Hadab, a 45-year-old businessman and member of the Beja ethnic group, and Khamis Koko, aged 60 and from the Nuba ethnic group, were both convicted in a Port Sudan court on charges of drinking alcohol and public nuisance. The men were held in the public order police cell and died immediately following their release from police custody. Neither had access to counsel during their trials.
Rasul was arrested on 22 July and convicted without legal representation the following day, after which his sentence of 40 lashes was immediately carried out.
CAUSE OF DEATH
ACJPS said Rasul’s family had reported that he had no known medical conditions prior to his arrest, although Sudanese courts do not routinely order medical examinations before lashing penalties are implemented.
Post-mortems in all three cases indicated stated that the cause of death was a sudden drop in blood circulation. According to medical sources, this can be caused by heatstroke resulting from exposure to high temperatures, together with a lack of fresh air or drinking water or both.
ACJPS understands that Hadab was held in detention from his arrest on 31 July until his conviction on 3 August. According to reliable sources, he was transferred to the Port Sudan police office to collect his belongings after his flogging sentence was carried out where he collapsed and fell into a coma. He was taken to hospital, but was later pronounced dead the same day.
Koko’s flogging penalty was also implemented immediately after his sentencing on 4 August after which he was transferred to the Port Sudan Prison to begin serving his two-month sentence. Once there prison police refused to admit him due to his poor health and he was taken to hospital for treatment, where he was pronounced dead at 4am on 5 August.
While the exact circumstances leading to the deaths of the three men following their detention remain unclear and require further investigation, medical sources have indicated to ACJPS that they may be related to the poor conditions at the public order police station where the three men were held after their flogging penalties were carried out.
Former detainees have told ACJPS that the Diem Mayo police station is frequently over-crowded and meals are irregular, with temperatures inside the cells sometimes reaching over 45’Celsius.
One cell designed to hold 25 people held approximately 70 detainees at the time of Hadab and Koko’s detention.
At the beginning of the Muslim Eid holiday in late June, a number of detainees were held in custody for up to six days until court sessions resumed later in the week.
CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION
ACJPS has called on the Sudanese government to launch an immediately investigation into the circumstances leading to the death of the three men.
It has also urged authorities to address the reported high temperatures and over-crowding in Port Sudan police custody facilities and allow the National Human Rights Commission and the Advisory Council for Human Rights access to detention facilities, as well as ensure the accused in all criminal cases receive a fair trial and adequate legal representation.
According to the ACJPS, individuals accused of public order crimes, which constitute acts deemed indecent or immoral, are not guaranteed access to legal representation and are often subjected to summary trials.
PUNISHMENTS CRUEL, INHUMAN
It says the punishments frequently imposed in such cases, particularly flogging, are incompatible with the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.
In May ACJPS documented three cases in Omdurman in which women were sentenced to varying terms of imprisonment and fines for the sale of alcohol. None of the accused was granted legal representation and their convictions rested solely on the testimony of the arresting public order police officers.
ACJPS has also documented several instances of floggings of women for “indecent and immoral dress”. During anti-regime protests that erupted across Sudan in September 2013, a group of eight demonstrators was sentenced by Omdurman Central Criminal Court without legal counsel to 20 lashes for disturbing the peace peace and public nuisance.
The ACJPS is calling on the Sudanese government to end flogging penalties and all other forms of corporal punishment, such as stoning and amputations, and bring Sudanese laws in line with international law.
It is also advocating for a wider investigation into prison and police cell conditions throughout Sudan, calling for the establishment of independent complaints mechanisms to address grievances raised across Sudan’s prison system.