The 1989 coup in Sudan, known in the country as the National Salvation Revolution, is still awaiting a final decision from the Sudanese judiciary, which has drawn out the trial of the accused for almost three years.
The defendants, in this case, are former President Omar Al-Bashir and 28 military and civilian officials who were in his government at that time.
Although Article 38 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in Sudan stipulates that the statute of limitations for any crime punishable by death or imprisonment is ten years from the start of the date of the crime, the Sudanese judiciary did not attach importance to this article and decided to neglect it.
The Sudanese authorities have circumvented the constitution through amendments they made in July 2020 which cancelled all statutes of limitations for certain categories of crimes. With regards to Al-Bashir and his companions, their cases have been included on the exemption list, a move that is nothing short of a manipulation of the country’s laws and a violation of human rights.
The amendments were retroactively applied to Al-Bashir and his associates while a final ruling on their case was both manipulated and then delayed by the Sudanese authorities.
This is a gross violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that an individual cannot be convicted of a crime because of an omission. But in 1989, the overthrow of the previous Sudanese government was not called a coup, but the “National Salvation Revolution”. That movement, led by Al-Bashir, came after the failure of the preceding government of Sadiq Al-Mahdi mismanaged the country’s economic and social affairs.
In April 2019, Al-Bashir was arrested and the first session of his trial was held in July 2020, with the last being held on January 3. The trial proceedings were postponed due to the absence of the court’s president, whose term as a judge had ended. A new judge will now have to be appointed, which will further delay hearings that have been going on for nearly three years. Such a delay is a basic violation of the rights of the accused to a fair trial, within a reasonable time, under international law.
Meanwhile, the relatives of the defendants and their lawyers believe that the trial will never come to a conclusion, and have spoken about this repeatedly. They believe that the only way for elderly and sick prisoners to be released from prison is through death. This is an approach that is ultimately beneficial to the Sudanese authorities, most of whom are overtly pressuring the country’s judges and holding prisoners hostage.
As a result of a noticeable deterioration in the health of some of the defendants in the 1989 coup case, a number of them, including Al-Bashir, who suffers from high blood pressure, diabetes and chronic kidney infection, have been transferred from their prison cells to a hospital for medical care by a court decision.