The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA)
Sudan is still struggling with militant Islamist ideology
KHARTOUM: Central Khartoum Primary Court issued a verdict against five young artists who were found guilty of public annoyance stipulated in Article 69 of the Criminal Code and Article 77 on the disruption of public safety. They were sentenced to two months imprisonment and a fine of 5,000 SDG (about90,9 USD). This case indicates the absence of an objective and fair justice system and demonstrates that the legal frameworks and institutions of Sudan are designed to criminalise civilians in order to maintain the dominance of the militant Islamist ideology and those who most benefit from it.
The convicted artists are:
1. Duaa Tarig Mohamed Ahmed.
2. Abdel Rahman Mohamed Hamdan.
3. Ayman Khalaf Allah Mohamed Ahmed.
4. Ahmed Elsadig Ahmed Hammad.
5. Hajooj Mohamed Haj Omar.
Details of the incident:
On August 10th at around 5:00 pm, two neighbours of Civic Lab complained about too much noise to the attendants at the organisation, where rehearsal of a play was taking place. The artists lowered the volume, but the neighbours did not leave and continued to shout at them. Ms Duaa Tarig Ahmed Mohamed aged 28, working as the Program and Office Manager of the Central Office came in to find out what was going on. When Duaa arrived, she recognised one of the neighbours as a man who has a history of sitting by the door of the organisation and harassing visitors. The neighbour went on to physically attack Duaa. One of her colleagues intervened and tried to stop him from beating her, however, several people from the neighbourhood gathered and started beating the staff and affiliates of Civic lab. They later had to retreat into the centre and close the door. When the police arrived on the scene they proceeded to arrested Duaa and 10 of her colleagues. The police tied their hands and did not prevent the residents of the neighbourhood from beating them. Instead, they stopped twice to allow the residents to beat Duaa and her colleagues with sticks and to throw stones at them. The attackers were also threatening Duaa with shaving her head. The police did nothing to stop the attackers or hold them accountable. Even though the artists suffered injuries from the beating, the police
denied their requests to see a doctor. Once at the police station, Al Safi Mahdi, an investigator, took a photo of Duaa using his personal phone. When she protested, he slapped her until she fainted.
According to the laws of Sudan, the accused cannot stand as a witness in a case before the court. The law may be the reason the police arrested so many of Duaa’s colleagues along with her – now that they are all defendants they cannot stand as witnesses for each other. All the witnesses of the incident were either defendants, assailants or law enforcement personnel.
The prosecutor of Central Khartoum has decided to separate the cases against the accused youth where 5 youth and another 6 faced the same charges on the same incident in two different cases. The charges are violating the curfew of COVID19 (dropped), public disturbance and disruption of public safety at a police station. This divide is an alarming indication of a targeted attack against the young woman artist based on her gender. She was prosecuted differently from the other four artists.
Following the sequence of court sessions, today, the court, headed by judge Omer Abdel Hameed, sentenced Duaa and four of her colleagues to two months of imprisonment and a fine of 5,000 (the equivalent of 90,9 USD). Duaa’s attempts to file a case against the investigator Al Safi who assaulted her have been denied several times, The officer-in-charge claims the delay in filing her case is due to the fact that the police are busy. The impunity granted to law enforcement personnel is another barrier to achieving justice for Duaa.
The complainant who appeared before the court is the same investigator who assaulted Duaa Tarig. The police case against the neighbours who started the feud and assaulted Duaa and her colleagues did not move beyond the arrest warrant.
At SIHA Network we are extremely concerned about the following:
1. Sudanese people are still ruled by a legal framework that denies citizens access to justice. The legal framework, legal procedures and the articles of the law itself are designed to criminalise and prosecute civilians, particularly women and minorities. Women and activists are still an active target of law enforcement in Sudan, and the criminalisation of women is legally enabled.
2. According to the claims of young activists, the individuals who instigated the incident and reported it to the police are a group of religious militants and fundamentalists. The area where Civic Lab is located is known to be inhabited by such groups.
3. Sudanese procedural law is relying far too heavily on the testimonies of the police officers as witnesses in this case, which indicates a clear flaw in the Sudanese Criminal Procedure Act and Evidence act.
4. The judiciary system continues to be heavily influenced by the militant Islamist ideology of the ex- regime, which criminalised freedom of association and arts and undermined the existence of women in the public sphere.
This case was handled in a biased and politicised environment that lacked justice and due diligence. It enabled citizens with certain ideologies to attack artists and ally themselves with law enforcement to criminalise the artists, without facing accountability for the assaults they committed. It is a clear message from the Islamist groups to the civilian-led government that Islamist ideology is still in control of the judiciary and law enforcement apparatuses of the Sudanese state. SIHA Network demands the immediate release of the artists through the engagement of higher levels of the judiciary and following legal processes with full due diligence.