Wednesday , November 22 2017
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Crowds and police gather outside the criminal court in Khartoum Bahri to attend a trial
Crowds and police gather outside the criminal court in Khartoum Bahri to attend a trial

Call for urgent review of detention conditions in Port Sudan following death in custody

(6 September 2017) The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) calls upon Sudanese authorities to urgently investigate the death of Usama Mohammed Abdulsalam, who died at the Diem Mayo public order police station in Port Sudan on 23 August 2017. Authorities should also review conditions in all Port Sudan detention facilities as a matter of urgency.

Extremely high temperatures in Port Sudan, particularly between the months of May and October, coupled with appalling detention conditions at Diem Mayo public order police station that include overcrowding, poor ventilation and limited access to drinking water, pose serious risks to detainees.

Usama Mohamed Abdulsalam, 42 years of age, was arrested on suspicion of drinking alcohol during a raid carried out by the Public Order Police in Walaa, Port Sudan on the evening of 21 August 2017. Article 78 of the 1991 Criminal Act prohibits Muslims from drinking alcohol and provides for a penalty of forty lashes.

Mr. Abdulsalam collapsed in the police cell due to dehydration on 22 August 2017 and was taken to Port Sudan hospital where he was given an intravenous (IV) glucose drip. He was taken back to the police station the same day to await trial in an extremely hot and overcrowded cell with poor ventilation and limited access to drinking water. The cell measured about 3 x 3 meters with just one small window measuring about 40 x 40 centimeters. The outside air temperature in Port Sudan was reported to have been around 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit). He died the following day, 23 August. A medical report issued after his death stated that he died from acute dehydration and that he had been returned to the police cell against medical advice that he should remain at the hospital in an air-conditioned room with access to plenty of fluids.

ACJPS previously documented the deaths of two men in Port Sudan in August 2014 who had been detained at Diem Mayo public order police station in severely overcrowded, hot and poorly ventilated conditions. A third man died at Port Sudan prison later the same month. He had spent one night at Diem Mayo public order police station. The three men had been subjected to flogging for the consumption of alcohol.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has confirmed a clear responsibility on States to account for death and serious injury in police custody given the control that states exercise over persons in custody. In its Guidelines on the Conditions of Arrest, Police Custody and Pre-Trial Detention in Africa the ACHPR has set out that a prompt, impartial and independent inquiry must be carried out by a judicial authority to determine the cause, manner and time of death, the person responsible, and any pattern or practice which may have brought about the death. No known investigations were carried out into the three Port Sudan deaths in 2014.

The Government of Sudan should conduct an urgent and independent judicial investigation into the death of Usama Mohammed Abdulsalam and make public its findings.

In addition to investigating the circumstances of Mr. Abdulsalam’s death, ACJPS calls upon the Government of Sudan to urgently investigate prison and police cell conditions in Port Sudan, particularly allegations of extreme temperatures, overcrowding, lack of ventilation, lack of appropriate health care, and a reported insufficiency of food and drinking water. Similar grievances raised across Sudan’s prisons should be addressed, and appropriate independent complaint mechanisms established.

Background

In August 2014, ACJPS documented the deaths of three detainees who had been detained at Diem Mayo public order police station in Port Sudan and flogged for drinking alcohol. It was believed that their deaths could have been caused by the poor conditions of their detention and subsequent flogging. Doctors that performed post-mortems on the three men indicated that the cause of death was a sudden drop in blood pressure that, according to medical sources, can be caused by heatstroke resulting from exposure to high temperatures, together with a lack of fresh air or drinking water or both.

Hussein Hadab, 45 years of age, died on 3 August 2014 at Diem Mayo public order police station after returning from the public order courthouse where he had been given forty lashes for the consumption of alcohol. He had spent three days detained at Diem Mayo public order police station prior to his court appearance and had returned to collect his belongings. He was reportedly given a glass of water and then collapsed. Khamis Koko, 60 years of age, died at Port Sudan hospital in the early hours of 5 August 2014. He had been detained at Diem Mayo police station on 3 and 4 August 2014 and subjected to forty lashes on 4 August for the consumption of alcohol. He was transferred to Port Sudan Prison following the implementation of the lashing penalty to serve a two-month prison sentence. The prison authorities refused to admit him due to his ill health and transferred him to Port Sudan hospital where he died at 4am the following day.

The cell the two men had been detained in at Diem Mayo public order police station, which is designed to hold twenty-five individuals, reportedly held approximately seventy detainees. Temperatures were very high, in excess 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).

The third man, Jilani Mohamed Ahmed Abdul Rasul, 24 years of age, died at Port Sudan prison on 10 August 2014 whilst serving a one-month prison sentence after being subjected to 40 lashes as a penalty for the consumption of alcohol. He had been held for one night on 22 July 2014 at Diem Mayo police station.

Former detainees have testified that the Diem Mayo Public Order police station is consistently over-crowded, and meals are irregular.

Contact: Mossaad Mohamed Ali, ACJPS Executive Director: +256 779584542 / Katherine Perks, ACJPS Programme Director: +1 519 551 8084 or info@acjps.org.