Amnesty International: Sudan church shootings
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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