Sudanese Lawyers September 2012

The Law Society of Upper Canada Expresses Grave Concern about the Arrest and Detention of Lawyers in Sudan

The Law Society of Upper Canada condemns the arrest and detention of lawyers in Sudan since demonstrations began in the country in mid-June 2012.

Reliable reports indicate that since the start of the protests, Sudanese security forces have detained approximately 2,000 people.  On July 1, 2012, four members of the Darfur Bar Association, including the head of the association, were arrested at a press conference where they were briefing journalists on a case of a human rights activist who had been detained for over one year.  On July 16, 2012, in Khartoum, 300 Sudanese lawyers protested to call for the President's security forces to stop using force against peaceful protesters.  A delegation of lawyers submitted a memo to the President at his palace asking him to stop the use of force and to release all arrested individuals.  A similar protest took place in Nyala outside of the house of the governor of South Darfur, however three lawyers were arrested.  The lawyers were released and then re-arrested on July 19, 2012.  Detainees have mainly been held in National Intelligence and Security Services detention centres known for ill-treatment and torture. Several detainees have reported harsh treatment, including beatings and sleep deprivation. 

Articles 19 and 22 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights protect freedom of opinion, freedom of expression and freedom of association.  In addition, the UNDeclaration on Human Rights Defenders, protects the right of an individual to promote the protection and realization of human rights freedoms; guarantees the right of individuals to communicate with non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations for the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and freedoms; and requires States to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of everyone against violence, threats, retaliation, adverse discrimination, or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of the legitimate exercise of their rights.

The Law Society of Upper Canada believes the arrest and detention of lawyers in Sudan is meant to sanction their human rights activities and the legitimate exercise of their right to freedom of expression.  The Law Society urges the Sudanese authorities to,

  1. immediately and unconditionally release and guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of lawyers and activists whose detention is arbitrary and is aimed at sanctioning their human rights activities;
  2. ensure that all lawyers can carry out their peaceful and legitimate activities without fear of arbitrary detention, ill treatment or other human rights violations;
  3. ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Sudan; and
  4. uphold the Rule of Law as defined by public international law.

 The Law Society of Upper Canada is the governing body for some 44,000 lawyers and 4,200 paralegals in the Province of Ontario, Canada and the Treasurer is the head of the Law Society.  The mandate of the Law Society is to govern the legal profession in the public interest by upholding the independence, integrity and honour of the legal profession for the purpose of advancing the cause of justice and the rule of law.

The Law Society urges the legal community to intervene in support of members of the legal profession in Sudan in their effort to maintain the independence of the legal profession, to advance the respect of human rights and to promote the rule of law.