Rights group seeks justice for protester killings, rapes in Sudan


Human Rights Watch, in a recently released report titled: “They Were Shouting ‘Kill Them’: Sudan’s Violent Crackdown on Protesters in Khartoum” documents Sudanese security forces’ attacks on the protesters’ sit-in camp in Khartoum on June 3, 2019 and in days following in other neighbourhoods of the capital and neighbouring Bahri and Omdurman.

Fatal attacks on the protesters in June were planned and could amount to crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said.

“Sudan’s new government needs to show it is serious about holding those responsible for the lethal attacks on protesters to account after decades of violent repression and atrocities against civilians,” said Jehanne Henry, associate Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 60 people, including victims of a range of crimes such as sexual violence and witnesses to the abuses. Human Rights Watch conducted research in Sudan and remotely by phone between June 29 and August 11, and also analyzed photographs, videos, and social media posts.

Just before dawn on June 3, the last day of Ramadan, large numbers of security forces led by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) deployed near the sit-in area and opened fire on unarmed protesters, killing many instantly.

The RSF raped, stabbed, and beat protesters, and humiliated many, cutting their hair, forcing them to crawl in sewer water, urinating on them, and insulting them. The forces also burned and looted tents and other property in the area.

Human Rights Watch has documented brutal attacks on civilians by the RSF in Darfur, Southern Kordofan, and Blue Nile since 2013.

Countrywide protests started outside Khartoum in mid-December 2018. Triggered by price increases, these quickly evolved into protests against Sudan’s president of 30 years, Omar al-Bashir, and his administration. The protests culminated in a sit-in near the army headquarters in April that resulted in al-Bashir’s ouster on April 11.

A transitional military council took power, led by General Abel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy, General Mohamed “Hemedti” HamdanDagalo, the commander of the RSF.

Both are members of the current transitional government’s “sovereign council,” sworn in in August following a power sharing deal between military and civilian groups.

After the military council takeover, the protesters maintained the sit-in, calling for the military to hand power to civilian leaders. As tensions rose, the military council deployed the RSF to disperse protests. The forces repeatedly used excessive force including live ammunition, killing protesters in April and May. The most violent crackdown was on June 3 and the following days.

The government’s response was to initially deny the attacks. The military council spokesman said the operation was only to clear an area adjacent to the sit-in where authorities said illegal activities were taking place. Later, the spokesman admitted the operation to disperse the sit-in was planned and apologized for “mistakes.”

Authorities also rejected opposition calls for an international investigation. On June 03, the then-attorney general formed an investigation committee, which later put the death toll at 87, a finding the opposition rejected.

The committee recommended detaining eight officers responsible for attacking the sit-in and charging them with crimes against humanity and other crimes. (Source: HRW)