Sudan: West Darfur Vigil Demands Release of Janjaweed Leader Hilal

16 September 2019

El Geneina — The families of detainees, prisoners of war, and members of the Revolutionary Awakening Council led by Musa Hilal staged a vigil in El Geneina, capital of West Darfur, to demand the release of Hilal and his comrades who were arrested two years ago in Darfur. Hilal and his sons and followers are currently facing a court martial in the Sudan capital.

The protesters chanted slogans demanding the release of the detainees and freedom.

The protesters also handed over a memorandum demanding their release, criticising their prosecution for their opposition to the former regime.

In May 2018, the Darfur Bar Association criticised the military trial of Hilal, "which is being conducted without taking into account the principles of a public trial". According to the Darfur lawyers at the time (prior to regime change), Hilal's "trial is a violation of the fair trial standards enshrined in the Sudanese Constitution and the law, which is casting doubts on its fairness and integrity, regardless of the acts attributed to Musa Hilal and his affiliates".

Hilal should immediately be transferred to a criminal court. "This would constitute the only guarantee for correcting the violated legal procedures," the statement read.


The families of the detainees, most of them belonging to the Mahameed clan, of which Hilal is the leader, have reiterated their demand for their immediate and unconditional release.

The statement of the families of the detainees refused any trial of these detainees, whether civil or military courts, and demanded in return the Prime Minister Hamdouk's immediate intervention and the issuance of a decision to release all political detainees.

After the deposal of President Al Bashir and the release of a number of political detainees, mainly fighters of armed movements, relatives and followers of Musa Hilal have publicly called for his and his men's release more than once.

Supporters of Hilal organised a large demonstration in Misteriya in North Darfur last week, demanding his release.

On August 27, 10 of Hilal's imprisoned affiliates entered into a hunger strike to protest their continued detention in a military prison in Omdurman. According to the spokesman for Hilal's Revolutionary Awakening Council, "they have been subjected to systematic ill-treatment by the prison authorities and deprived of their most basic rights such as medical treatment and to meet their relatives through visits".

In a statement, the organisers of the demonstration demanded from the newly established Sovereign Council and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdouk to intervene, and release all political prisoners in the country "as soon as possible, without any conditions".

"The failure to release all political detainees is a conspiracy in order to isolate them politically, and exclude them from the ongoing political process," the statement reads.

The demonstrators appealed to the Forces for Freedom and Change and other political and civil forces to pressure the authorities to release all "political prisoners and prisoners of war".

The statement also demanded the representatives of the revolution do their part towards their comrades in the struggle who are part of the charter of freedom and change and are still in prison remnants of the former regime.


Hilal was arrested in a raid on his stronghold in Misteriya, North Darfur, in November 2017. His sons, brothers, and entourage were detained as well. Hilal, who refused to operate with the government's disarmament campaign, was transferred to Khartoum. His trial secretly began on April 30.

Hilal is held responsible for the atrocities committed in Darfur against civilians after the conflict erupted in 2003. In that year, he was released from prison by the Sudanese government with the purpose to mobilise Darfuri Arab herders to fight the insurgency in the region.

With full government backing, Hilal's janjaweed targeted villages of African Darfuris. They rarely came near forces of the armed rebel movements.

In 2008, Hilal was appointed as Presidential Assistant for Federal Affairs. In January 2014, he announced his defection from the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), and established the RAC.

The Council consists of Hilal's militiamen and a number of North Darfur native administration leaders. RAC commanders took control of the Jebel Amer gold mining area in El Sareif Beni Hussein locality in July 2015. According to a UN Security Council report in April 2016, Hilal and his entourage were profiting from vast gold sales in Darfur.

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