Don’t Allow Sudanese Civilians to be Tried in Military Courts

Target: President of Sudan Omar al-Bashir

Goal: Prevent law allowing civilians to be tried under military law from coming into effect

The parliament of Sudan recently passed an amendment to the Armed Forces Act that would allow civilians to be tried in military courts for a variety of offenses. The interpretation of this law is extremely broad, and poses an enormous danger to the already precarious state of human rights in Sudan. We must urge president Omar al-Bashir not to sign this bill into law before it is too late.

The amendments to the Armed Forces Act specifically label four crimes as worthy of prosecution under military court: “crimes against the state’s security,” which is primarily concerned with acts that are already within the jurisdiction of the military, “undermining the constitutional system,” “leaking of classified information,” and most worryingly, ” publication of false news.” Notably, the final three were already illegal in Sudan, and the government has a history of using them to prosecute innocent journalists.

For example, Faisal Mohamed Salih was charged with publication of false news following his investigations into an alleged rape by members of the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Service. Many worry for Salih’s fate if he is tried in a military court, where he would be denied many of the rights granted in civilian court. In particular, in a military trial a defendant can be denied the right to a jury of his peers, or indeed, any form of public trial. This allows for a disturbing amount of partisanship in the tribunal that would decide the case.

It is morally reprehensible to try a civilian in a manner alien to the common law, as it violates that person’s right to a fair trial via the denial of information, in addition the human rights issues that military trials already pose. It is critical that Omar al-Bashir return these amendments to the parliament so that this abortion of justice never comes to pass.


Dear President Omar al-Bashir,

The Sudanese parliament recently approved a series of amendments to the Armed Forces Act that would allow Sudanese civilians to be tried under military law for a variety of offences. It is worried that this law could be used to silence critics of the current administration, as well as simply trying crimes in an unethical and partisan manner.

When a civilian is introduced to military tribunal it violates that person’s fundamental right to a fair trial because civilians are not generally, and should not be expected to be, knowledgeable regarding arcane military law. Furthermore, the nature of a military tribunal–denying a jury of peers, denying a public trial, allowing secret evidence–runs contrary to the common idea of justice. It is your responsibility as President to protect the citizenry of Sudan by refusing to sign these amendments into law.


[Your name here]

Image Credit: CIA WFB, via Wikimedia.

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