Sudan: Khartoum - Hilal Court Martial Denies Defence Lawyers Entry

17 September 2019

Khartoum / El Geneina — The military court trying the former Janjaweed leader Musa Hilal and his followers on Monday prevented four lawyers assigned by Hilal's family to defend him, from attending the session held at the general army command in Khartoum. The court postponed its hearing until Monday.

Lawyer Tarig El Sheikh, member of the defence team, told Radio Dabanga that he and three of his fellow lawyers were assigned by the family of Hilal to join the defence team. He explained that they were prevented from attending the court session yesterday.

El Sheikh said the court did not take any action on Monday and the hearing was adjourned for a week because of the delay in bringing the defendants to court.

The lawyers note that I that Hilal and others belonging to the Revolutionary Awakening Council are appearing before a special military court "headed by jurists from the era of ousted President Omar Al Bashir".

The continuation of the court has raised many questions about the legality of bringing civilians to trial in military courts.

The defence has filed an appeal to the Court of Appeal on the illegality of the court and breach of the legal and constitutional rights of the defendants, but the Court of Appeal refused the request.

El Sheikh added that the defence team also submitted a petition to the Constitutional Court on January 6 on the legality and lack of jurisdiction and are awaiting its decision.

Crowds organised on Sunday in front of the army command, as well as in El Geneina, capital of West Darfur.

The protesters demanded the release of Hilal and his comrades detained since 2017.

The protesters also rejected the trial and said the prosecution of members of the Revolutionary Awakening Council [should have] ended with the fall of the former regime and the formation of the transitional government.

2017 arrest

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, in addition to some 2,000 members of his clan.

Hilal, who refused to operate with the government's disarmament campaign, was transferred to Khartoum. His trial secretly began on April 30, 2018.

In July last year, the NISS arrested Hilal's hearing-impaired son, Ahmed Musa. The next month, several 'associates of Hilal' were arrested from a house at Gurrat El Zawiya area in North Darfur.

Atrocities in Darfur

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 militiamen (janjaweed) targeted villages of African Darfuris. They rarely came near forces of the armed rebel movements.

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