High Court finds Sudanese military committing serious human rights violations but refuses to halt British-Sudanese military assistance

In a rare finding regarding foreign human rights violations, the High Court found in a judgment today that the Sudanese Armed Forces are “currently involved in serious human rights violations” and that the charge that they are responsible for appalling human rights violations including deliberate killing of civilians, mass rape and ethnic cleansing was “fully justif[ied]” on the evidence. See paragraphs 21, 22 and 60 of the judgment here.

The findings came in the judicial review challenge to British military training of the Sudanese Armed Forces brought by Ali Agab Nour, a Sudanese lawyer and refugee. The UK is alone amongst western nations in training the Sudanese Armed Forces, whose commanders are indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and genocide.

Mr Justice (now Lord Justice) Simon declined to halt the training in light of an improved risk assessment provided by the Ministry of Defence shortly before the hearing. In doing so he emphasised that “the Ministry of Defence has drawn back very considerably” in the kinds of training provided. That scaling back has occurred since press and legal attention was focused on the issue (see here). Had those changes not occurred, the judgment may have been very different: the Judge commented during the hearing that the kinds of courses previously provided, such as officer training at Sandhurst, “would improve military capability”. Thanks to the pressure that has now been applied on this issue, that sort of training is now highly unlikely to occur in the future.

The case is also a useful precedent for the future as the judge rejected the government’s arguments that decisions to provide foreign military assistance were not appropriate for the courts. He also found that assessments under the Government’s Overseas Security and Justice Assistance Policy can be challenged in court.

See here regarding the Sudanese Armed Forces’ ongoing human rights violations.

Speaking today, the Claimant, Ali Agab Nour stated:

“By providing training to Sudan’s Armed Forces the British government is ignoring the suffering of the devastated Sudanese children, women and men who live under daily aerial bombardment and the use of rape as a tool of war in Darfur, Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains regions of Sudan. I am pleased that that the court has recognised these international crimes, but by allowing some training to continue it is allowing the UK government to turn a blind eye to them. However, I am very pleased that our pressure, and the work of activists and journalists, means that the worst examples of the training have now ended and are unlikely to return. If they do, then I won’t hesitate to bring the matter back before the court.”

Daniel Carey of Deighton Pierce Glynn stated:

“It is disappointing that the judge gave such wide latitude to the Government in an area as sensitive as potentially facilitating gross human rights abuses. However, the judge’s finding that these kinds of assessments are suitable for judicial review sends an important signal that British military co-operation is now subject to the law.”

Mr Nour is represented by Adam Hundt and Daniel Carey of our Bristol office. His barristers are Dan Squires and Tamara Jaber of Matrix Chambers.

To view the article about this case in the Guardian, please click here.

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