Sudanese officials have announced the discovery of a mass grave southeast of the capital, Khartoum, suspected to contain the remains of conscripts who in 1998 tried escaping military service from a training camp.
A committee tasked with investigating the killings at al-Eifalon military camp “found the mass grave in the past four days after hearing witness accounts”, Tagelsir al-Hebr, public prosecutor, said on Monday without giving details on the number of bodies found.
“The grave was exhumed and now the committee will continue to work with forensic authorities and examine the evidence,” said Wael Ali Saeed, a member of the investigation committee.
A source in the investigators’ team told Reuters News Agency dozens of bodies had been found.
The al-Eifalon military camp was used for training new conscripts under the rule of former President Omar al-Bashir, who was removed by the army last year in the wake of months-long, pro-democracy protests.
The poorly trained and equipped conscripts were sent into the bush fighting against the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).
In 1998, a group of them were killed as they attempted to escape the base for the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday. The students were also angry that they had been denied the time to spend with their families during the holiday, according to the prosecutor.
The Sudanese government said at the time that 55 young conscripts who fled the military base drowned when their overloaded boat capsized in the Blue Nile River.
However, opposition groups accused the government of carrying out the killings and reported a higher death toll of more than 100.
Many Sudanese families reported that their sons went missing and their remains were never found.
The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, the political wing of the South Sudan army, won independence for the south in 2011 following a peace deal with al-Bashir’s government in 2005.
Al-Bashir, who had seized power in a 1989 coup, was arrested in April 2019 when he was deposed by the army. He is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), facing charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for atrocities committed by pro-government forces in Darfur.
Sudan’s new governing authorities have yet to hand him over to the ICC for prosecution.