GENEVA (17 January 2019) – Credible reports of the use of excessive force, including live ammunition, by State security forces against protestors across Sudan over the past month are deeply worrying, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Thursday. Bachelet called on the Government to protect the exercise by all of their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, regardless of their political affiliations.
The demonstrations since 19 December 2018 have taken place in a number of cities across Sudan, including Wad Madani, Port Sudan, Al-Qadarif, Atbara, Berber, Dongla, Karima, Al-Damazin, Al Obeid, Khartoum, Sinar, Bara, Nyala and Omdurman. The Government has confirmed that 24 people have died in the course of the protests, but other credible reports suggest the death toll may be nearly twice as high. Many others have been injured. According to information received, security forces have also followed some protestors into the Omdurman Hospital and fired tear gas and live ammunition inside the premises of the hospital. Reports also suggest that police fired tear gas inside Bahri Teaching Hospital and Haj Al-Safi Hospital. These two hospitals are in Khartoum North, where a large protest was organized by opposition groups.
Authorities have also confirmed that up to 6 January, at least 816 people were arrested in connection with the demonstrations. Reports indicate that these include journalists, opposition leaders, protestors and representatives of civil society.
“A repressive response can only worsen grievances,” High Commissioner Bachelet said.
“I am very concerned about reports of excessive use of force, including live ammunition, by Sudanese State Security Forces during large-scale demonstrations in various parts of the country since 19 December. The Government needs 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.” *
As a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights since 1986, Sudan is obliged to take all necessary measures intended to prevent arbitrary deprivations of life by their law enforcement officials. In particular, all operations of law enforcement officials should comply with relevant international standards, including the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials (General Assembly resolution 34/169)(1979) and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (1990).
The High Commissioner noted that fact-finding committees had been established by the Government and the National Commission of Human Rights. She urged that any investigations be conducted in a prompt, thorough and transparent manner, with a view to accountability.
“I also call on the authorities to ensure that all those arbitrarily detained for the exercise of their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression are promptly released, and that these rights are fully protected,” Bachelet added.
“I urge the authorities to work to resolve this tense situation through dialogue, and call on all sides to refrain from the use of violence.”
Bachelet stressed the readiness of the UN Human Rights Office to deploy a team to Sudan, to advice the authorities and help ensure they act in accordance with the country’s international human rights obligations.
* UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, especially paras 5, 9, 12, 13 and 14: https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/useofforceandfirearms.aspx