New York — African Centre calls for inquiry into Port Sudan police custody death
The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) calls upon the Sudanese authorities to investigate the death of Osama Abdelsalam who died in a Public Order Police cell in Port Sudan in August.
The authorities should also urgently review the conditions in all Port Sudan detention facilities, the New York-based centre says in a report on Wednesday.
Extremely high temperatures in Port Sudan, particularly between the months of May and October, coupled with appalling detention conditions at the Deim Mayo Public Order Police Station that include overcrowding, poor ventilation and limited access to drinking water, pose serious risks to detainees, the report reads.
Osama Mohamed Abdelsalam (42) was arrested on suspicion of drinking alcohol during a raid carried out by the Public Order Police in Walaa in Port Sudan on the evening of 21 August.
Article 78 of the Sudanese 1991 Criminal Act prohibits Muslims from drinking alcohol and provides for a penalty of 40 lashes.
Abdelsalam collapsed in the police cell because of dehydration the next day. He was taken to Port Sudan hospital where he was given an intravenous 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 outside air temperature in Port Sudan was reported to have been around 50°C (122°F).
Abdelsalam 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.
In August 2014 two men held at the same police station died as well. A third man died in a Port Sudan prison later the same month. The three inmates were convicted to flogging for consuming alcohol.
Former detainees have testified to ACJPS that the Deim Mayo Public Order Police station is consistently over-crowded. Meals are irregular.
ACJPS points in this context to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights that has confirmed "a clear responsibility on governments 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 African Commission 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, ACJPS says.
"The Government of Sudan should conduct an urgent and independent judicial investigation into the death of Osama Mohamed Abdelsalam and make public its findings.
In addition to investigating the circumstances of Mr Abdelsalam'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," the African Centre states.