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Press briefing notes on Sudan protests

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Liz Throssell

Location: Geneva

Date: 21 December 2021

We have received deeply disturbing reports of sexual violence and harassment by security forces during demonstrations in Khartoum on Sunday, 19 December 2021. Our Joint Human Rights Office in Sudan has received allegations that 13 women and girls were victims of rape or gang rape. We have also received allegations of sexual harassment by security forces against women who were trying to flee the area around the Presidential Palace on Sunday evening.

Two protesters died after being shot, and around 300 others were injured, some due to the use of live ammunition, some hit by tear gas canisters or beaten by security forces, and others who suffered breathing difficulties from tear gas inhalation.

The 19 December demonstrations, in which tens of thousands of people participated, were organized to mark the third anniversary of the protests that began in December 2018 and eventually resulted in the overthrow of the Government of President Bashir in April 2019. Demonstrators were also protesting against the military coup of 25 October and the political agreement signed on 21 November 2021.

We urge a prompt, independent and thorough investigation into the allegations of rape and sexual harassment, as well as the allegations of death and injury of protesters as a result of the unnecessary or disproportionate use of force, in particular use of live ammunition. The perpetrators must be identified and prosecuted. With further protests planned for this weekend and the weeks ahead, it is crucial that security forces guarantee and protect the right to peaceful assembly and act with full respect for international laws and standards regulating the use of force.

We note the acting Attorney-General's establishment of a committee of senior prosecutors to investigate all human rights violations and other incidents since the military coup of 25 October 2021. We have called on national authorities to make the findings of this investigative committee public, with maximum transparency, with a view to holding to account, including through criminal investigations, those responsible for human rights violations and abuses.

We are also deeply concerned at the increase in intercommunal violence in Darfur and South Kordofan. Since September, at least 250 civilians have been killed, 197 injured, and over 50,000 displaced by intercommunal violence. There have been serious protection gaps in Darfur, especially following the reduction of state security forces in key areas in Darfur and long delays in implementation of a National Plan for Civilian Protection.

While national authorities have assembled a temporary joint protection force numbering 3,000 for deployment later this month, we urge them to ensure that this force receive comprehensive training on human rights and international humanitarian law before deployment. It is also essential that those responsible for the human rights violations and abuses committed are held accountable, regardless of their affiliation.

ENDS

For more information and media requests, please contact:

Liz Throssell + 41 22 917 9296 / elizabeth.throssell@un.org or
Rupert Colville + 41 22 917 9767 / rupert.colville@un.org or
Ravina Shamdasani - + 41 22 917 9169 / ravina.shamdasani@un.org

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