Newspapers seized, journalists arrested as Sudan protests boil over

Friday 19 January 2018

File: The Sudanese Journalists Network said copies of newspapers were seized and journalists were arrested earlier this week while reporting on anti-inflation protests in Khartoum. Photo: Martin Bureau /AFP/Getty Images. Link to image.

JOHANNESBURG – Authorities in Sudan have seized copies of newspapers and arrested several reporters over articles on “anti-inflation protests” prompting calls from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) against the harassment.

“Sudanese authorities should cease harassing and arresting journalists and confiscating newspapers, and should allow journalists to report on matters of public interest without fear of reprisal,” the CPJ said on Friday.

The Sudanese Journalists Network (SJN) said on Tuesday and Wednesday Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) arrested seven journalists while they were reporting on anti-inflation protests in Khartoum.

Reporters from privately owned newspapers Magdi al-Ajib of al-Watan, Rishan Oushi (Mijhar al-Siyasi), Imtenan Al-Radi (al-Youm al-Tali), and freelance journalist Amal Habani were arrested on 16 January.

The next day, Shawky Abdelazim, al-Youm al-Tali editor, Khalid Abdelaziz, Reuters’ Sudan correspondent, and Abdelmunim Abudris, AFP’s correspondent, were arrested.

They all remain in custody.

A spokesperson for SJN, who does not want to be named said family members of the arrested journalists did not know their whereabouts or if they were facing any charges.

NISS agents also confiscated at least three newspapers multiple times this week over critical coverage of the protests, according to news reports.

“By arresting and intimidating journalists, confiscating newspapers and attempting to censor news dissemination, the Sudanese authorities keep trying to get journalists to stick to the official narrative or pay the price,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa program coordinator Sherif Mansour said.

“We call on the authorities to release the seven journalists immediately and allow the press to do its job.”

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Sudan, CAR leaders discuss joint cooperation

WEDNESDAY 13 DECEMBER 2017

Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir greets CAR elected President Faustin Archange Touadéra in Khartoum on 27 March 2016 (Photo SUNA). Link to image.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 12, 2017 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir and President of the Central African Republic (CAF) Faustin-Archange Touadéra have discussed bilateral relations and issues of common concern.

Touadéra, heading a high-level delegation, on Monday has arrived in Khartoum on an official one-day visit upon an invitation from al-Bashir.

He met al-Bashir on Monday evening at the Presidential Palace in Khartoum.

According to Sudan’s State Foreign Minister attal al-Mannan Bakhit, the visiting president has briefed al-Bashir on the situation in his country particularly regarding to the security conditions.

Touadéra pointed out that his country is move toward reconciliation among the various groups, saying they would benefit from Sudan’s experience in the National Dialogue.

The CAR president demanded from al-Bashir to broaden the economic cooperation between the two countries particularly the border trade.

He also asked for Sudan’s assistance in training the CAR armed forces to enable it to carry out its tasks effectively.

For his part, al-Bashir stressed Sudan’s keenness to support peace and stability in the CAR and promote economic cooperation during the coming period.

He also expressed readiness to convey the National Dialogue experience to the CAR to achieve peace.

The CAR suffered the worst crisis in its history since late 2012 when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels toppled the government of François Bozizé. Christian militias so-called anti-Balaka groups responded by attacking the Muslim minority.

Muslims have been forced to flee the capital city and most of the west of the country, in what rights groups described as ethnic cleansing.

Both sides have been accused of war crimes such as torture and unlawful killing.

Elected in March 2016, Touadéra has pledged to end violence and restore security and stability in the troubled country.

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ICC: Failure to arrest Sudan’s president undermines court

08:30 13/12/2017

New York – The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Tuesday accused some of its members, including Jordan, Uganda and Chad, of undermining the tribunal’s “reputation and credibility” by refusing to arrest Sudan’s president to face charges of genocide in his country’s Darfur region.

Fatou Bensouda also criticised the UN Security Council, saying it has failed to take action against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and others accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur during fighting since 2003 or to act against nations that fail to carry out arrests.

She said the court’s judges have ruled that the failure of ICC members to apprehend al-Bashir and others sought by the tribunal clearly violates the Rome Statute that established the ICC.

Bensouda said Monday’s court decision that Jordan failed to comply with its obligation as an ICC member to arrest al-Bashir in late March underscored the requirement of the 123 countries that are parties to the Rome Statute to arrest and hand over all those sought by the tribunal. It found that al-Bashir’s immunity as a head of state under customary international law does not bar ICC parties from executing an arrest warrant and decided to refer Jordan’s noncompliance to the Security Council and the assembly of the 123 ICC parties, which is currently meeting at UN headquarters in New York.

They are ‘safe’

Bensouda criticized the Security Council for refusing to take action on previous referrals and requests, saying this “only serves to embolden others” to invite al-Bashir to their countries. They are “safe in the knowledge that there will be no consequences from this council for such breaches”, she said.

In addition to citing the Sudanese president’s visit to Jordan, she noted his recent stops in Uganda and Chad. Uganda hosted al-Bashir in mid-November, even after being referred to the council in July 2016 for its failure to arrest him during a May 2016 visit, Bensouda said. Chad hosted al-Bashir during the first week of December, also after being referred to the council over previous visits in December 2011 and March 2013, she said.

Bensouda noted that al-Bashir also visited Russia, which is not a party to the ICC, on November 20.

All these visits “underscore the detrimental impact on the court’s reputation and credibility in the eyes of victims who have pinned so much hope on the court to deliver justice for their suffering,” the prosecutor said.

She called on the council “to prioritise action” on the outstanding arrest warrants and stressed that the ICC will continue efforts to bring those accused of war crimes to justice.

“I hope there will be solace in knowing that as history of international criminal justice has often demonstrated in practice, time is not on the side of perpetrators, but the victims and the cause of justice,” Bensouda said.

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Jordan referred to UN for not detaining Sudan leader

The Hague – War crimes judges on Monday delivered a slap to Jordan, referring the Arab country to the United Nations for action for failing to arrest the visiting Sudanese president wanted on genocide charges.

Despite two international warrants for his arrest on 10 charges arising from the conflict in Darfur, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir freely attended an Arab League summit in Amman in March.

Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) ruled that “Jordan failed to comply with its obligations … by not executing the court’s request for the arrest of Omar al-Bashir and his surrender to the court while he was on Jordanian territory on 29 March 2017”.

Jordan is a member of the Rome Statute, which underpins the tribunal – established in 2002 to try the world’s worst atrocities – and as such has agreed to comply with the court’s orders.

 The ICC issued arrest warrants for Bashir in 2009 and 2010, but he has so far evaded arrest and steadfastly denies the charges related to the conflict in war-torn Darfur.

 

The judges decided that Jordan’s “non-compliance” should be referred to the UN Security Council as well as the tribunal’s own Assembly of State Parties.

But it is unlikely there will be much further action taken at the UN.

In July the judges already ruled that South Africa had flouted its duties to the ICC in 2015 by failing to arrest Bashir, when he attended an African Union summit.

But presiding ICC judge Cuno Tarfusser, who also signed Monday’s order against Jordan, decided that it would be “effectively futile” to refer Pretoria to the UN.

There have been six previous referrals of various countries to the Security Council for allowing Bashir to travel freely on their territory.

Pretoria’s lawyers had argued at an April ICC hearing there “was no duty under international law on South Africa to arrest” Bashir.

But the judges ruled international obligations cannot “simply be put aside” if a country disagrees with them, and said Bashir did not enjoy immunity.

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Sudanese protest against Trump’s decision on Jerusalem

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Decembers 8, 2017 (KHARTOUM) — Hundreds of protesters in the Sudanese capital rallied on Friday to condemn the decision of U.S. President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as the U.S. embassy warned its citizens of the protests.

Following Friday prayers, the protesters gathered outsides Khartoum mosques with placards condemning Trump’s decision and others hostile to the U.S. and Israel.

Khartoum’s protests were part of a campaign across the Islamic world on Friday in support of the Palestinian people.

However, a Sudanese presidential aide, Ibrahim al-Sanosi addressed a demonstration in from of Khartoum Grand Mosque and expressed his rejection of the American move.

Al-Sanosi who is also a leading member of the Popular Congress Party (PCP) condemned call to establish diplomatic relations with Israel by other ministers.

” As the government of Islamic Movement and National Consensus, we are against normalization with Israel and we will silence any tongues calling for normalization with Israel,” said the Sudanese Islamist who led the PCP after the death of its founding leader Hassan al-Turabi.

This will not happen and we are alive in this world,” he further stressed.

Last August, Mubarak al-Fadil al-Mahdi, Sudan’s Deputy Prime Minister and Investment Minister expressed support for the establishment of ties between his country and Israel and called for normalization of bilateral relations.

In a related development, the U.S. embassy in Khartoum warned its nationals to exercise caution of potential protests against Trump decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the U.S. Embassy to the disputed town.

“The recent announcement that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and plans to relocate the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem may spark protests, some of which have the potential to become violent,” the U.S. embassy wrote on its website.

“U.S. embassy in Khartoum reminds U.S. citizens of the need for caution and awareness of personal security,” it emphasized.

The warning further advised the U.S. nationals to “avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations”.

Sudan’s government has rejected Trump’s decision, while the parliament called to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.

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Sudan court drops charges against 24 women in trousers

December 10 – 2017 KHARTOUM

Sudanese women in downtown Khartoum (theepochtimes.com). Link to image. 

 Sudanese district court in Khartoum dropped the charges of indecency against 24 women who were caught wearing trousers at a party on Wednesday evening.​ The party took place in El Mamoura, south of Khartoum, when the public order police appeared. The court session was scheduled to be held in El Shargi District Court.

Speaking to Radio Dabanga, one of the leaders of the No Suppression for Women Initiative, Amira Osman said that the community security prosecution has charged the women under Article 152 of the Criminal Code.

She expressed her indignation at the raid. “The party took place in a closed hall in a building in El Mamoura. The girls were arrested for wearing trousers, despite obtaining a permit from the authorities.”

Osman appealed to activists and human rights defenders to attend the trial on Sunday. The Public Order Act should be repealed, she added. “It violates women’s rights.”

Inappropriate dress’

Many women have been tried under Article 152. It is applied to “Whoever does in a public place an indecent act or an act contrary to public morals, or wears an obscene outfit, or contrary to public morals, or causing an annoyance to public feelings shall be punished with flogging, which may not exceed forty lashes or with fine or with both.”

Last August, Sudan’s Public Order Court has dismissed charges against two girls, accused of wearing disgraceful dress, citing a lack of evidence by the police and because the judge concluded that “trousers are not disgraceful”.

Most times when women are tried, however, a conviction follows. The crime is punishable by up to 40 lashes and a fine.

Last month in Northern State, 83 youths and students were convicted to be shaved in public for their “odd shaving and wearing inappropriate uniforms”, as the city court ruled.

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Boost for Egypt-Sudan trade relations

Tarek Kabil. Link to image.

LONDON: Trade talks between Egypt and Sudan that were described as “successful” came to an end in Cairo on Thursday. The talks followed months of strained economic relations between the two neighboring countries.

It is expected that a trade and economic agreement will be announced soon, which will aim to resolve outstanding trade issues between the two countries in order to further their mutual interests.

Trade relations between Sudan and Egypt have been strained since the middle of last year when Sudan banned Egyptian fruit and industrial goods imports. Egypt responded by preventing the entry of many goods that were crossing into its market without permission.

The Sudanese Minister of Trade Hatem Al-Sasser held talks in Cairo on Thursday with his Egyptian counterpart Tarek Kabil in the presence of the ambassadors of the two countries. The Sudanese minister is attending the Africa 2017 Forum, which kicked off in Sharm El-Sheikh on Thursday.
The Sudanese and Egyptian officials discussed how to implement trade agreements signed by the two countries and agreed to hold meetings that experts would participate in. The trade agreement is expected to be announced following these meetings.

In a press statement that he gave after the talks, Al-Sasser said that “strengthening and developing trade relations and increasing the volume of trade exchange with Egypt” is very important to political leaders in Sudan.
Kabil stressed that Egypt was keen to initiate and implement the agreements that were signed by the two countries and cooperate fully with Sudan.

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Pharmacists warn of medicine scarcity in Sudan

December 8 – 2017 KHARTOUM

A pharmacy in Khartoum (Reuters). Link to image.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While medicine prices increase, some life-saving medicines have become scarce in Khartoum and other states. Patients and their attendants complained that medicines have become unaffordable.

Some medicines prices have exceeded the price issued that the board of medicines issues in 2016, pharmacist Awad Mohamed said. “The price of Atakat tablets for blood pressure has risen from SDG 280 ($41.70) to SDG 418 ($62.30). The price for one of the categories of diabetes drugs has risen from SDG 550 ($82) to SDG 1037 ($154.60).”

A number of companies stopped selling medicines altogether because of the instability of the exchange rate of the Dollar. “This caused the scarcity of medicines such as asthma sprays, aspirin, as well as medicine against prostate diseases and medical treatment for psychiatric disorders.”

“Patients with a low income have stopped buying medicines and resorted to herbs.”

The pharmacist said that the Sudanese government is not committed to its promises to provide the Dollar at the official exchange rate for the import of life-saving medicines and medicines for children under the age of five.

He attributed the steady increase in the prices of medicines to the economic decisions taken by the Sudanese government in 2016. “They raised the import prices for medicines to SDG 15 ($2.20) instead of SDG 6.9 ($1). In addition the pharmaceutical companies have resorted to buying US Dollars from the parallel market.”

Mohamed warned for the serious effects of the high prices of medicines for chronic diseases such as diabetes and blood pressure. “Patients with a low income have stopped buying medicines and resorted to herbs.”

Parliament

The deputy chairman of the health committee in the Sudanese parliament, Saleh Jumaa, said that the prices of medicines have risen by 200 percent in hospitals and pharmacies.

Jumaa expected a deepening shortage of medicines and increasing prices in the coming period. The Central Bank of Sudan is not committed to paying the debts on medical supplies by external companies, he claimed.

“The Ministry of Finance has failed miserably in the development of policies to reduce the high prices.” Jumaa reported a huge shortage of kidney transplant solutions in the country’s hospitals, now that companies have stopped importing them because of the high Dollar price for the last three months.

Austerity measures

The Sudanese Pound lost much of its value since the secession of South Sudan in 2011, which pushed inflation to record levels as Sudan imports most of its food and medicines. New austerity measures by Sudan in November 2016 led to huge increases in prices of medicines, fuel, electricity, and food. Sudanese people responded with large-scale civil disobedience actions on 27 to 29 November and on 19 December.

At the time of the civil disobedience actions, spokesmen for Khartoum commented that economic sanctions of the United States against Sudan blocked its companies from buying their medicines, meaning they had to buy their stocks from third parties, increasing the drug prices.

With the repeal of the economic sanctions on Sudan by U.S. president Donald Trump last October, the rise of the US dollar on Khartoum’s parallel market – which also results from the scarcity of hard currency – was briefly halted. Yet, the rate of the Sudanese Pound soon began to drop again, as the demand for hard currency did not change.

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Strengthening ties with Ethiopia “strategic goal” for Sudan: al-Bashir

9 DECEMBER 2017

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December 8, 2017 (KHARTOUM) – Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir Friday said the deepening of relations with Ethiopia will remain a strategic goal for his country given the historical and family ties between the two nations.

Al-Bashir and his accompanying senior delegation on Friday have arrived in Ethiopia on a one-day visit to participate in the 12th Nations, Nationalities and People’s Day celebration in the Afar Region.

In his remarks before the celebrations, al-Bashir said: “the cooperation between Sudan and Ethiopia would benefit the two brotherly peoples as well as the neighbouring nations and the entire region”.

He pointed out that Ethiopia and the African nations have contributed to the lifting of the U.S. sanctions on Sudan, describing the Sudanese-Ethiopian relations as “model” for ties among nations.

In statements to the Ethiopian news agency, al-Bashir said “the renaissance of Ethiopia is considered the renaissance of Sudan and vice versa”, saying Ethiopia has set an example for the African nations on how to achieve peace, unity and economic development.

He said the lifting of the U.S. economic sanctions would significantly participate to promoting political, social and economic relations between Sudan and Ethiopia.

Ethiopia and Sudan are engaged more and more in joint security, military and economic cooperation.

Last April, the two sides signed a number of joint agreements to promote economic relations and strengthen ties between the two countries.

Also in February, they signed multiple agreements to further boost up cooperation on a range of development activities.

In March 2012, al-Bashir announced his support to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), saying his government understands the mutual benefits the project could offer Ethiopia and Sudan.

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Inside the Sudanese courts that put profit above principle

An investigation into the lucrative business of morality policing in Sudan, and its disproportionate impact on women

or journalists, Sudan is one of the most restrictive countries in the world. Censorship is rife, critical outlets are routinely suspended, and journalists face the threat of arbitrary detention and intimidation. A new draft law, allowing the government-run press council to ban any journalist for an indefinite period, is currently being considered by cabinet.

In this environment, so hostile to free speech, Sudanese journalists are still holding their government accountable, and speaking truth to power.

This report is the first in a series published by the Mail & Guardian in collaboration with Ayin, an independent Sudanese media house, which provides a platform for Sudanese journalists to report on sensitive issues. For their own safety, the journalists write anonymously.

Sarah Ahmed, 18, could not control her feelings as she narrated her story at the Public Order Court in Khartoum. The slim, seemingly bewildered girl started to cry. Sarah had gone to the bustling capital Khartoum to study for university and was residing at one of the campus dormitories.

“I visited one of my friends in her workplace in one of the restaurants in the Riyad area in Khartoum,” she said. “During my visit, police raided the place – arresting me together with other girls who worked for the restaurant including my friend.” Sarah had no idea why they were arrested as they shoved her and other young women into a police truck that was parked in front of the restaurant, all the while verbally abusing them.

Upon their arrival to the Public Order Courts, Sarah witnessed first-hand the institution’s flawed justice. The only witnesses to their “crime” and the only evidence provided came from the police. “When we arrived, we were made to stand before the judge who told me I was found smoking shisha,” Sarah said.  “I told him I had never smoked shisha in my life and there was no shisha on the table where I was seated.” The judge simply ignored her defence and accused her of indecent dress for wearing trousers. The five-minute court verdict sentenced her to 40 lashes and a fine of 7 000 Sudanese Pounds (roughly $1 110).

These near-instant verdicts, usually against poor Sudanese women, have become a huge earner for these courts, raking in profits for judges, security personnel and those loyal to the government. According to a recent survey by Sajeenat, a research and advocacy organization focusing on the rights of female prisoners in Sudan, 70 percent of all public order cases involved women. In 60 percent of these cases, punishment came in the form of heavy fines.

The Public Order Courts started in 1995 under the current National Congress Party, according to Ahmed Subeir, an advocate and legal advisor to several local civil society organisations. While Sudan is historically a conservative, Islamic society, a stricter form of Islamic law developed under the current government that rose to power in a coup in 1989. Authorities often punish Sudanese women caught wearing trousers instead of a long dress, for instance. This strict, perceived morality code is now used by the state to earn money.

Once South Sudan seceded in 2011 and Khartoum lost 75% of its oil revenues, the Sudanese government started to expand the number of Public Order Courts across the country to aggressively expand revenue collection, Subeir said. Now there are 22 Public Order Courts in Khartoum and one in almost every town across the country.

Based on the Sajeenat survey and court documents, the Public Order Courts in Sudan earn a staggering US$1.8-million per month in fines, using Sudan’s Central Bank 2016 exchange rate. Official exchange rates, however, are rarely used in Sudan. Most Sudanese rely on the black market exchange rate (roughly 20 Sudanese Pounds per US dollar). At this exchange rate, the total monthly income procured through the Public Order Court fines is still very high, at US$562 500 per month.

This translates to roughly $6.75-million per year – almost as much as the entire health budget for Khartoum State ($7.25-million).

Advocate Nabil Adeeb has written extensively on the Public Order Courts, defining them as “spontaneous courts” that provide no option for the defence, and listen only to the prosecution and police. “Arrested and tried in less than 24 hours, these courts are competing with fast food restaurants in terms of speed,” he said.

Public Order Courts disproportionately target Sudanese women. If these courts arrest a woman it can severely affect their social status, including their chance of marriage, Adeeb said. Fearing social stigma, women often accept trumped-up charges from the Public Order Courts, including lashes, without protest and without informing others of their plight.

“Court revenues have become more important than justice itself,” says Subeir. The more revenue judges procure, the greater the likelihood of promotion, he added. “The system encourages the judges to convict the victims. It is rare for them to defend any case.”

There are no fiscal caps to the fines issued at the Public Order Courts – the rates vary according to the whim of the judges, he said. Smoking shisha is a punishable offence under Sudan’s Public Order Law with a fine of 200 Sudanese Pounds (roughly US$34), but some judges fine their accused as much as 7,000 Sudanese Pounds (US$1,110).

One Public Order Court judge, who preferred to remain anonymous, refutes Subeir’s claims and said the Public Order Courts play a positive role in controlling society and preserving good conduct. He explained that most cases were related to brewing and drinking of wines and, more recently, drug use. Most of the cases get no less than six months imprisonment, according to the same source, but often judges reduce these prison times by issuing fines that are set according to the economic situation of the accused.

Nevertheless, huge discrepancies exist in terms of financial resources available for Public Order Courts compared to regular courts, said a cashier at the Public Order Courts, who also preferred to remain anonymous. “I have never seen any suspect acquitted,” he said. “Getting convictions is crucial for both judges and police since their salaries, allowances and promotions come from the percentage from these courts.”

According to the cashier, police design their raids on where they think the most money can be made. “These courts turn people into criminals,” he said. “If police raid houses of people and falsely accuse them of adultery, how can you defend yourself?”

A Public Order Police officer who spoke to Ayin confirmed they are required by the courts to procure a high number of cases. The arrest campaigns are often conducted near the weekends to ensure the suspects spend time in jail, the officer said. After spending time in the prison under extremely poor conditions, people become willing to pay any amount of money set by the judge to be freed. In other cases where the suspects are not wealthy enough to cover the exorbitant fines, he said, they are incarcerated until relatives can foot the bill. “I swear by Allah that the majority of suspects who are brought to these courts are poor people. What happens to them here is looting,“ he said. The police officer said he feels frustrated and powerless to stop the process.

Sometimes, the sentences handed down include corporal punishment as well as a fine. Sarah Ahmed’s case is a good example. She was sentenced to 40 lashes, despite the fact that she is diabetic. “When they started whipping me I appealed to them to stop but they gave me a deaf hear and thoroughly beat me,” she said. She still has wounds that have not healed, even five months after treatment.

Unable to pay her fines and fearing her parents would not sympathise with her situation, Sarah Ahmed spent a month in jail without telling them. She feared her parents would prevent her continuing her studies if they heard she was arrested by the Public Order Courts. “The four ladies who were with me were working at the restaurant so the restaurant owner paid their fines. But as for me, it was not possible so I had to remain in jail for a whole month until a good Samaritan came and paid,” she said.

Her first time in prison, Sarah said she faced daily verbal abuse from prisoners and wardens alike. “One thing that makes me very sad is the fact that I had not committed any crime and did not get the chance to defend myself. Since that time, I knew what it means to live in a country that does not respect human rights or real laws.”

Some names have been changed to protect the identity of interviewees.

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