Sudan protests three months on: authorities continue brutal crackdown on protesters

20 March 2019

In past three months, excessive use of force and firearms has resulted in killing and injury of numerous protesters, while many others have been forcibly disappeared and arbitrarily detained, with the security forces acting with total impunity.

Yesterday marked three months since the beginning of the nationwide protests that have taken over the streets of Sudan since December 19, 2018. While demonstrations were triggered by the worsening economic crisis, they quickly spread throughout the country turning into a call for the resignation of President Omar Al Bashir and a regime change.

Large numbers of security and police forces have been deployed, and excessive force and firearms have been used frequently to disperse the peaceful protests, resulting in many deaths and injuries. Scores of demonstrators, journalists, doctors, students, professors and human rights defenders have been arbitrarily arrested and detained, many of them forcibly disappeared by being held in secret places of detention.

Although the authorities declared officially that 29 persons were killed as of January 24, and more than 800 individuals were arrested as of January 7, the actual number of deceased and arrested persons during the three-month protests documented by civil society is much higher.

Unarmed protesters have been shot with live ammunition or tear gas canisters, brutally beaten or run over with vehicles, while several hospitals across the country where injured protesters were being treated have been raided. Following the one-year nationwide state of emergency declared by the president on February 22, 2019, security and armed forces have been given even more power to use deadly force against protesters.   

Furthermore, despite many detainees being freed following the authorities’ order in January to release all those detained during the protests, many others remain in the security forces’ custody without due process, where they are subjected to torture and ill-treatment as punishment for their participation in the protests.

In recent months, MENA Rights Group has submitted complaints to United Nations independent experts on behalf of victims of the brutal crackdown on the Sudanese protests.

For example, MENA Rights Group submitted to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances the cases of human rights defenders Rudwan Dawod and KamalEldin Awad Elgizouli Dyab, who were forcibly disappeared for one month and for twenty days, respectively, following their arrests by the security forces.

MENA Rights Group also brought the attention of the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions to eight cases of individuals killed or injured as a result of the authorities’ excessive use of force in dispersing protests. Among them, Babiker Salama, a doctor who was shot by the security forces while trying to provide medical care to severely injured protesters, Ahmed Al Khir, a teacher who died as a result of the torture he was subjected to while in detention, and Mahgoub Eltag Mahgoub Ibrahim, a student who died after being brutally beaten by security forces for trying to stop them from beating female protesters in front of his university.

Moreover, several cases of arbitrarily arrested protesters were submitted to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. For example, Omar Fadlalla Omar Mahmoud and Mohamed Osman Ahmed Abdelkarim, who were arrested while taking part in a peaceful demonstration and subjected to physical and psychological torture and ill-treatment while in the custody of the security forces.

On December 28, 2018, several UN experts expressed their concerns over the “escalating violence and reports of protesters killed”, urging “the Sudanese security forces to exercise the utmost restraint to avoid the escalation of violence and take immediate measures to protect the right to life of the demonstrators”. On January 17, 2019, the High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet denounced this excessive use of force and urged Sudan to “ensure that security forces handle protests in line with the country’s international human rights obligations by facilitating and protecting the right to peaceful assembly”, and “that any investigations be conducted in a prompt, thorough and transparent manner, with a view to accountability.”

Given the excessive force used to disperse peaceful demonstrations in the past, and the total lack of accountability for those responsible for these abuses, MENA Rights Group will continue to document the current violations, in order to act against impunity.

We urge the Sudanese authorities to immediately release all those secretly and arbitrarily detained. We call for effective and independent investigations into the arbitrary killings of protesters, and effective remedy for the victims and their families. The authorities should ensure full accountability for the perpetrators and an enforceable right to reparation for their victims. Lastly, laws and policies enabling these severe abuses must be repealed in order to avoid their repetition.

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