Immigrants 'tortured' after return to Sudan

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Asylum-seekers from Darfur suffered appalling torture and beatings after being deported to the Sudanese capital Khartoum by the Home Office, according to a report.

Harrowing accounts of the treatment meted out to asylum-seekers were released ahead of a planned demonstration in Parliament today as law lords start hearing a test case that could seal the fate of hundreds of Darfuri people currently facing deportation.

One man told of being beaten in prison for days and burnt with cigarettes, while another described how his guards only pulled back one of their colleagues from shooting him because they feared the shots would be overheard.

Today campaigners are due to stage a protest outside the House of Lords at the start of three weeks of hearings over deportations to Khartoum. The Home Office is attempting to overturn a ruling by the Court of Appeal earlier this year that it was "unduly harsh" to return asylum-seekers to the city.

Yesterday the Aegis Trust, a charity that campaigns against genocide in Darfur and elsewhere, condemned the Government for attempting to send Darfuri people to Khartoum and called for a moratorium on deportations. The trust's report highlights the "shocking" cases of two men, 33-year-old Mohammed Degues Baraker and 31-year-old Sadiq Adam Osman, who told how they were tortured by Sudanese security forces after being deported to Khartoum.

In each case the men escaped back to Britain with the help of the Aegis Trust, which has corroborated their testimonies.

The report also includes detailed accounts of torture from a further three Darfuris interviewed by the trust after their removal to Khartoum.

It also includes details of an interview with a former member of the Sudanese security forces confirming that asylum-seekers returned to Khartoum face "lengthy interrogation" and possible indefinite detention.

It said: "Hundreds of survivors of ethnic cleansing in Darfur, now asylum-seekers or failed asylum-seekers in the UK, remain at risk of removal to face torture in Khartoum due to the British Government's failure to recognise the dangers they face in Sudan outside Darfur, flying in the face of the recommendations of the UNHCR [the UN's refugee agency]".

One asylum-seeker, who was identified only as "AC", told the charity of his treatment at the hands of the Sudanese authorities after he was returned to Khartoum airport in 2003.

He said: "They tied me up and kicked and punched me. They beat me with sticks and cables. They hit my head against the wall."

Another asylum-seeker, "AA", told the charity he was held in the capital's Koba jail after he was sent to Khartoum. He said: "They beat me. Sometimes they hung me up. They tied my legs and hung me upside down. They would leave me like that sometimes six or seven hours, sometimes all day."

Dr James Smith, chief executive of the Aegis Trust, said: "Gordon Brown has shown welcome leadership on Darfur.

"However, sending Darfuri survivors to Khartoum sends a message that Britain regards the Sudanese security apparatus as trustworthy – the same security apparatus responsible for the atrocities in Darfur."

A Home Office spokesman said: "As we have repeatedly made clear, the Government has grave concerns about the appalling human rights situation in Darfur and continues to press for an end to abuses. Each case must be considered individually. That is what we do and will continue to do, ensuring that those who need our protection receive it, while those who do not can be returned.

"We do not expect those who face persecution in Darfur to return to Darfur, but we do not think it unreasonable to expect failed asylum-seekers to relocate to Khartoum, where the Court of Appeal found there is no risk of persecution."

In their own words

Sadiq Adam Osman, 31, from north Darfur. A former member of the Sudan Liberation Movement, he fled in 2004 after his mother and brother were killed by the Janjaweed but was returned to Khartoum last year, only to be beaten and interrogated by Sudanese officials.

"The beating and questions went on for days. I was blindfolded most of the time, so I couldn't see what they were using to beat me. Once when the blindfold was off though, I saw a piece of electric cable. My whole body was numb so I couldn't feel anything any more. I was bleeding everywhere, I was soaked in blood. They never let me use a toilet. The room was covered with my faeces and urine. At times I lost consciousness. I was expecting to die. "

Mohammed Degues Baraker, 33, from north Darfur. He fled his hometown in 2004 after a series of land and air attacks on the area. He travelled to Britain but was deported to Khartoum last year. He says he was beaten at Khartoum airport.

"At first they beat me up with their hands, hit me in the head and slapped me around and then I was transferred to a room where they tied my hands and feet, blindfolded me, questioned me and beat me with sticks. They did many things there. Throughout the time I spent in the airport I was beaten up severely by the Sudanese officials. One of my teeth came out in the beating. I arrived around 5am. They let me out around midnight. At that time I was bleeding."

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