One of the most disturbing images to have come out of Sudan in the wake of JEM’s attempt to overthrow the government has been that of the tortured body of a lawyer in his forties, Jamali Hassan Jalal al Din, apparently beaten to death by government forces after being captured some 50 kilometers south of Khartoum last weekend.
Almost as shocking as the image itself is the fact that the government saw no impediment to allowing the transmission, on television and in the print media, of evidence of what looks suspiciously like an extra-judicial execution. The official version of Jamali’s death is that he was killed in clashes with government troops on 12 May, together with 45 other rebels. Yet his body shows no sign of bullet or shrapnel wounds and there is no blood—or sand—on what can be seen of his clothes. His face, however, is grotesquely battered and swollen.
A second photograph published in a Khartoum newspaper shows a group of young rebels, apparently captured with Jamali. None of them are wounded, or show any signs of having been in a battle. The information JEM has been able to gather in what is still a chaotic situation suggests that Jamali was killed after—or during—interrogation.
We came to know and respect Jamali during the Darfur peace talks in Abuja. He was a member of JEM’s delegation in the power-sharing commission, and, although JEM ultimately rejected the agreement reached in Abuja, Jamali consistently played a constructive role in the negotiations. In the words of Gibril Ibrahim, brother of JEM chairman Khalil Ibrahim, he was “reliable, trustworthy, brave and sociable”—even with his enemies. On one occasion he insisted that Darfur warranted its own autonomous region, because Darfurians would not abuse one another. Across the room at the government table, Abdalla Safi al Nur retorted, “When I was governor I arrested you! And I’m a Darfurian!” Despite the two men’s history as adversaries, Jamali talked amicably with Safi al Nur afterwards and the two prayed together when the delegations assembled for prayers in the Chida Hotel.
Unlike most of the senior officials of JEM, Jamali was not a member of the Kobe branch of the Zaghawa. He belonged to the small Mima tribe and had gained a law degree from Nileen University. Like many Darfurians, Jamali supported the Popular Congress Party of Hassan Turabi in the 1990s, believing it might offer a new beginning for Darfur. In November 2004, in the second year of the rebellion, he left Khartoum to join JEM—drawn to it, in part, by a close personal friendship with Khalil Ibrahim. Although his official position in JEM gave him responsibility for presidential affairs, Jamalis’s main brief was justice. He was Khalil Ibrahim’s liaison with members of the Native Administration, whom Khalil personally urged to report any misdemeanours by his men. In the absence of official courts, Jamali established a code of punishment ranging from confiscation of thuraya telephone and gun, or one-to-three months’ imprisonment for theft, to a range of sanctions for rape.
Asked early in 2006 whether he had ever had to deal with a case of rape, he replied, with some embarrassment: “Not rape. Flirtation, on one occasion.” The punishment had been “a stern warning and an apology to the girl and her family”.
Jamali was an honest and upright man. He left a large family, including the children of his deceased brother for whom he was caring. In better circumstances his talents and good character would have allowed him to live out a full and peaceful life. He dedicated his life to a revolutionary struggle, convinced that Sudan could truly be a land of equality and justice. He deserved better than to die brutally in captivity. May his soul rest in peace.
The photograph of Jamali’s body published by the Sudan government can be seen on this link: