Security Desk: Interpreting Khartoum Kangaroo court verdicts

Category: Writing aboard the Kenya Airways: A story on coming to Rwanda for the first time
Published on Thursday, 30 April 2009 17:58
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Mariar Wuoi is a NSV columnist
(Pennsylvania, USA) -  The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) prisoners of wars are being subjected to what Khartoum government calls trial and most of them, if not all, are being  sentenced to death. These prisoners are not given a fair trial or any of the benefits of an even-handed justice system. When Khartoum was locked in war of attrition with South, SPLA POWs were often killed on capture. SPLA at the instruction of the late Dr. John Garang, ensured that Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) POWs were not harmed as they presented no threat to the SPLA once captured. Many were  handed over to the Red Cross to be reunited with their loved ones and some became useful ambassadors of southern hospitality. Khartoum on the other hand instructed field commanders to murder captured POWs on the spot.

Those deemed to be valuable source of information were tortured before meeting their end. What is intriguing about the fate of JEM POWs is how publicized their trial and sentences have been.

We can see through what Khartoum is driving at here. During the Doha Talks, the JEM and Khartoum government agreed on prisoner exchange. This was done on the spirit of developing confidence in each other’s ability to seriously give the talks a real shot. By publicizing these trials and verdicts, Khartoum is clearly telling JEM that we are surely going to hang your comrades unless you drop your boycott and return to Doha for talks. JEM made a decision to not return to Doha based on two issues:

These two events forced  the JEM leadership to shelf their participation in peace talks because it became convinced that Khartoum was just talking the talk and not walking the walk.

Whether or not JEM will return to the negotiating table remains to be seen. So far, Khartoum has concentrated on sending a rather grotesque message to the JEM that it will use these sham trials to force JEM to run back to Doha to save its POWs. What
Khartoum seems to be overlooking is the message it is sending to the rest of civilized world. Even the United States that was attacked on 9/11 and lost over 3000 of its citizens didn’t decide to just sentence enemy combatants to death without due process. Khartoum government is also making a mockery of what it calls “competent independent judiciary”. The JEM POWs are no longer a threat to the Khartoum government. They have been neutralized and carry no weapons. To ensure justice is upheld, these POWs should be given a chance to fair trial and sentenced to reasonable prison terms. When peace is finally achieved in Darfur, they should be released promptly and integrated into the society. Nothing will be achieved by sending them to their early graves.

More importantly, Khartoum will do much to redeem its image by treating these POWs with fairness they deserve. It will send a powerful signal to JEM and the rest of the civilized world that Khartoum is serious about doing all it can to negotiate in good faith. By bullying JEM through these shenanigans and sham trials, Khartoum is clearly showing that it does not care about peace talks.

Khartoum government needs to know that JEM has received the ugly message and will make a strategic decision based on the substance of these talks and not injustice being meted out against its POWs. For now, Sudanese of all walks will be treated to
another mockery of their justice system. At the end of the day, what Khartoum does will not only induce isolation but it will not yield desired outcome: forcing the JEM to run back to Doha.

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