Press briefing notes on Sudan

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Liz Throssell
Location: Geneva
Date: 12 November 2021

Ahead of the protests planned to take place across Sudan tomorrow, we call on military leaders to ensure that the Sudanese people’s rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are fully respected. Security forces need to receive clear instructions that they must not disperse peaceful assemblies and must refrain from the use of force unless absolutely necessary, as a measure of last resort and only to the minimum extent required.

With the reported killing of 14 people and injury of some 300 during protests between 25 and 30 October due to the unnecessary and disproportionate use of force by military and security forces, it is crucial that all necessary steps are taken to ensure that there is no further bloodshed at protests planned for tomorrow and beyond.

Those responsible for the violence, including the use of live ammunition against demonstrators – must be promptly and transparently held accountable, in line with international human rights laws and standards. 

We also urge the authorities to release immediately all individuals who remain arbitrarily detained since the 25 October coup, most of whom have been held incommunicado now for more than two weeks. Our Joint UN Human Rights Office in Sudan has verified the arrest of 57 people, including Government officials, political and civil society actors, human rights defenders and journalists, since 25 October. We understand 10 of these people have since been released, but we have yet to receive a written response to our formal request for information about and access to the detainees. Access has also been denied to their lawyers and family members. 

In addition to these arbitrary detentions, hundreds of protesters have also been arrested, including, reportedly, 87 teachers. While most are held for a short time and then released, we understand some remain detained.

Internet and telecommunications services remain curtailed, seriously hampering the ability of people to communicate in the midst of a crisis, as well as damaging livelihoods. We call on the authorities to respect the Khartoum court ruling yesterday, ordering telecommunications companies to restore Internet services to all their customers pending further proceedings. Blunt measures such as blanket Internet and telecommunications shutdowns, sometimes for prolonged periods, violate the principles of necessity and proportionality and contravene international law.

The appointment of the Sovereign Council is a setback to efforts to obtain a political agreement.  As the High Commissioner for Human Rights has stressed, meaningful, inclusive, participatory dialogue is urgently needed to ensure a swift return to civilian rule in Sudan.