GENEVA (2 November 2021) – A UN human rights expert today expressed alarm at the ongoing violent repression of peaceful demonstrations in Sudan, and the excessive use of force against those protesting the military coup d'état of 25 October.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association, Clément Voule, urged the military to immediately cease its clampdown on peaceful protests and to listen to the legitimate demands of the Sudanese people for returning to the constitutional transition.
"As people have mobilised and staged peaceful assemblies across Sudan, demanding that the military reinstate the civilian government, I have received disturbing reports of unlawful killings and injuries, including as a result of the use of live ammunition to disperse protesters, and beating of protesters by military and security personnel," Voule said.
"In light of the serious allegations of human rights violations and restrictions on the rights to peaceful assembly and association, I am calling on the de-facto authorities to investigate all reports of the use of force against peaceful protests".
"They must also immediately refrain from the use of unnecessary and disproportionate force, withdraw the military from the streets and respect and protect the right to life and physical integrity of protesters. All those who are arrested for taking part in peaceful protests must be immediately and unconditionally released."
Since the 25 October coup, at least 12 people have been killed as a result of excessive use of force against peaceful protests and around 300 have been hurt, according to medical sources. According to the same sources, many of those injured sustained gunshot wounds.
Most recently, the mass protests on 30 October 2021, called "the march of millions", were met with excessive use of force, which resulted in the killing of at least three protesters due to the use of live ammunition by military and security forces, the expert said. More than 100 others were wounded by live ammunition and tear gas. Some sustained burn injuries and had breathing difficulties as a result of the use of tear gas, while others including women were also beaten.
Reports indicate an organised campaign of arrests of activists, including journalists, students, human rights defenders and lawyers. "I am deeply concerned for the safety of those arrested as some have been allegedly held incommunicado, which exposes them to risks of torture or ill-treatment," Voule said.
"The whereabouts of many of those who have been detained are not yet known and they have not been able to contact their families or lawyers, which is considered as enforced disappearance. I am also concerned by reports of security forces raiding civil society organisations and media outlets.
"The use of militarized forces for crowd control poses a serious threat to the right to life of civilians and protesters. Concerns at deployment of militarised forces to manage peaceful protests are heightened as the military and security forces have not been effectively reformed or held accountable for the serious human rights violations committed against protesters in 2019, as noted by UN experts last year."
Voule also expressed concerns about the shutdown of the internet and disruptions to telecommunications services, which prevents people from accessing vital information, and obstructs monitoring and reporting on human rights violations. He called for the services to be restored immediately.
The UN expert applauded the decision by the Human Rights Council to hold a special session on Sudan on 5 November. "I urge a robust response to ensure protection of human rights through monitoring, reporting and accountability for human rights violations since 25 October 2021, including in the context of peaceful protests," he said.
Clément N. Voule (Togo) was appointed as UN Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association in March 2018. He is a lawyer and currently works in Geneva in the field of human rights. He is an associate researcher at the Geneva Academy of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. Prior to his appointment, he led the work of the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR). Mr. Voule also worked as Secretary General of the Togolese Coalition of Human Rights Defenders, as campaigning officer for the Coalition for the Togolese International Criminal Court and as Secretary General of the Amnesty International section in Togo. Since 2011, Mr. Voule has been an expert member of the Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights Violations of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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