Sudan: UN experts urge authorities to ensure immediate accountability for past and ongoing human rights violations and stop excessive use of force against protesters

GENEVA (3 June 2022) – UN human rights experts* have expressed serious concerns about the continued use of excessive force by the Sudanese authorities against peaceful protesters, and called for those responsible to be held to account and justice to be served.

Three years after the 3 June 2019 crackdown on peaceful protests in the capital Khartoum that left over 100 dead, the UN experts said security forces were still responding with excessive force to ongoing pro-democracy protests.

“Impunity for grave human rights violations by security and military forces against peaceful protesters, including sexual and gender-based violence and enforced disappearance, is a disturbing pattern that must end,” the experts said.
“Impunity perpetuates human rights violations and violent crackdowns against non-violent protesters threaten prospects for a peaceful transition in Sudan,” they said.

Mass protests in Sudan led to the removal of President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. On 3 June 2019, security forces opened fire on protesters who were holding a mass sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum, demanding civilian-rule after Bashir’s ouster. Over 100 protesters were killed, and dozens wounded in the crackdown. Many were forcibly disappeared and their fate is unknown to date. In October 2021, Sudan’s transitional government was overthrown by the military, prompting mass peaceful protests against the coup in Khartoum and other cities. Security forces responded aggressively to the pro-democracy demonstrations, firing live ammunition and large amounts of tear gas into the crowds, leading to the death of almost 100 protesters to date, and injuring thousands of others. At the most recent protest on 28 May 2022, one protester was shot dead by security forces, and another died after inhaling tear gas, the experts said.

According to the Secretary-General’s report of March 2022, citing media figures collected by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), there were 13 cases of allegations of rape and gang rape of women and girls, as well as allegations of sexual harassment by security forces during the protests. However, local doctors provided a much higher figure, the experts decried.

“The authorities have abused protracted emergency powers to arbitrarily detain hundreds of persons, including children, with limited or no access to lawyers” they said. “Some people have reportedly been forcibly disappeared or secretly detained, and their fate and whereabouts remain unknown.”

The emergency decree imposed at the time of the coup, on 24 December 2021, gave extended law enforcement powers to the security forces, including intelligence services “for the duration of the State of Emergency”. While welcoming a recent announcement by the Sudanese authorities to lift the state of emergency, the experts remained concerned that emergency measures had been used to arrest and detain protestors and protest leaders, and granted the security forces a temporary immunity.

The UN experts called for suspension of all emergency measures adopted following the coup, and urged immediate and credible investigations into the violence against protesters, including cases of rape and gang-rape of women linked to the protests, as well as other gross human rights violations. “The outcomes of these investigations must be public and perpetrators, including those at the highest levels of command, must be held accountable, and reparations must be made to victims,” the experts said.

They expressed grave concern over reports that military authorities had taken over the premises of the national commission of inquiry into the 3 June 2019 massacre that was established by the transitional Government. “We call on the Sudanese authorities to ensure the commission of inquiry can complete its work without impediment or interference, to bring perpetrators of the 3 June massacre to justice,” the experts affirmed.

They expressed concern over credible reports that those engaging with the UN system regarding ongoing sexual violence were facing intimidation and reprisals for this cooperation. "Reporting on human rights violations and sharing first-hand testimony with the UN is not a crime and should be supported,” the experts said.

The UN experts recalled that Sudan’s authorities had expressed willingness to create an environment favourable for dialogue aimed at resolving the current political deadlock. “Ending the unlawful use of force against peaceful protesters and ensuring accountability for human rights violations will be key to confidence-building which is an important guarantee for a peaceful transition.”

The UN experts also urged the authorities to show restraint and refrain from the use of excessive force in their response to the anticipated protests today.


*The experts: Clément Nyaletsossi Voule Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Ms. Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Melissa Upreti (Chair), Dorothy Estrada Tanck (Vice-Chair), Elizabeth Broderick, Ivana Radačić, and Meskerem Geset Techane, Working Group on discrimination against women and girls, Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, Mr. Luciano Hazan (Chair-Rapporteur), Ms. Aua Baldé (Vice Chair), Ms. Gabriella Citroni, Mr. Henrikas Mickevičius and Ms. Angkhana Neelapaijit.

The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Country page: Sudan