OHCHR – UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (Author)
GENEVA (3 July 2019) – As more details emerge about casualties during Sunday’s mass protests in towns and cities across Sudan, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Wednesday called on the Sudanese authorities to lift restrictions on the internet and launch proper independent investigations into all acts of violence and allegations of excessive use of force, including attacks on hospitals.
She also urged the authorities to respect people’s right to protest peacefully and to ensure a swift transition to a civilian government, in line with the clear wishes of large segments of the Sudanese population and of the African Union.
The mass protests reportedly took place in more than ten major towns and cities, including Khartoum, Omdurman, Kassala, Gadaref, Madani, Port Sudan, Atbara, El Fasher, Nyala, Zalingie and Kosti, in response to calls from the Sudan Professionals Association to support demands for a civilian-led transitional authority.
Despite the total shutdown of the internet by the Transitional Military Council (TMC) on 10 June, the scale and breadth of Sunday’s protests appear to have been unprecedented in recent Sudanese history.
Bachelet said her office had received a number of allegations of excessive use of force by the security forces against protestors. A senior Ministry of Health official reportedly announced late on 30 June that seven people had been killed and 181 wounded during the protests that day. He blamed much of the violence on the protestors, noting that the injured included ten members of the security forces.
The Sudanese Doctors Central Committee, affiliated with the Sudan Professionals Association, also reported that seven protestors had been killed in Omdurman and Atbara by live bullets allegedly fired by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and other security forces.
An additional three bodies of local activists were found in Khor Abu Anga in Omdurman on the morning of 1 July, reportedly with visible signs of torture, taking the death toll to at least ten since the start of Sunday’s nationwide protests.
“It is essential there are prompt, transparent and independent investigations into how all these people lost their lives, as well as into the causes of such a large number of injuries,” Bachelet said.
Bachelet said she was especially disturbed by reports that, once again, hospitals had been attacked by security forces. The public hospital in Gadaref city was allegedly raided by joint RSF, security and police forces who chased protestors inside the hospital, firing live ammunition and tear gas, injuring at least one person. The UN Human Rights Office received similar allegations that RSF and police had pursued protestors into the military hospital in Omdurman firing tear gas and live bullets, and that a member of the medical staff was shot dead inside the hospital. The Al-Tabib hospital in Khartoum was also reported to have been raided by the RSF and police.
The UN Human Rights Chief noted that earlier calls for investigations into the killings, attacks on medical facilities and thousands of reported rapes and sexual assaults that took place on 3 June and subsequent days had gone unheeded.
“The RSF were alleged to have been heavily implicated in the mass violations in early June,” Bachelet said. “The fact that no serious action has been taken to investigate what happened then, and further in the past, simply feeds the belief that members of the RSF and other security forces have carte blanche to do what they want to protestors and other people. This is a completely unacceptable situation and the Transitional Military Council has an obligation to ensure that members of the security forces are held accountable for any crimes they commit.”
She noted that her offer on 7 June to deploy a UN human rights monitoring team to examine allegations of human rights violations committed since 3 June, had gone unanswered.
She said the TMC’s 27 June offer to release prisoners of war was a welcome gesture, but regretted that the 30 June deadline set by the African Union for a handover to a civilian authorities had not been met.
“This recipe of restrictions, unmet promises, and bouts of unbridled violence which are neither investigated nor punished is stoking massive resentment – as Sunday’s protests showed all too clearly,” she said. “If things continue like this, it will be a recipe for disaster.”
The UN Human Rights Chief said the authorities must issue clear instructions to all security forces not to use force against peaceful protestors, noting that use of firearms is prohibited unless there is imminent risk of life or serious injury.*
*International standards governing the conduct of police, security forces and other law enforcement officials are laid down in the UN Basic principles on Use of Force and Firearms and the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials.