CIVICUS

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Sudan

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Last updated on 06.06.2019 at 20:56

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Sudan death toll raises to 100 as security forces launched violent crackdown on peaceful protesters

Sudan death toll raises to 100 as security forces launched violent crackdown on peaceful protesters

Peaceful Assembly 

Security forces launched violent clampdown on peaceful protesters - shooting, beating and abusing protesters and medical staff 

Following the 3rd June 2019 violent crackdown by security forces on peaceful protesters camping outside the Sudan’s Defence Ministry in central Khartoum, 100 people have been reported killed so far. The death toll has been confirmed by doctors linked to the opposition in Sudan, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors. However, it is feared that the number of civilians killed since the operation against peaceful protesters on 3rd June, might be higher, as hundreds have been wounded, many suffering gunshots injuries, and some of the bodies have been thrown in the Nile river

The situation in Khartoum remains tense as of 6th June 2019, as reports say there has been occasional gunfire and demonstrations blocking several districts. People reported they feared to go on the streets and some protesters say that paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) personnel maintain presence on the streets in the capital Khartoum and that they been looting and beating people. 

Eyewitness blame  for the violence on 3rd June 2019 the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) who have a documented record of human rights abuses – under the command of the Deputy of the Transitional Military Council, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo or “Hemeti"”.

On 3rd June 2019, armed forces, including the RSF and other security forces stormed the peaceful sit-in camp outside the Defence Ministry in central Khartoum in the early morning. Amnesty International reported that the armed security forces attacked protesters while sleeping in the sit-in camp, firing live bullets and tear gas, setting tents on fire and beating protesters.

Eyewitness described that security forces used unnecessary and unjustified force against protesters, firing live ammunition indiscriminately. One of the protesters told Al Jazeera that security forces blocked the exits of the sit-in site before opening fire on protesters, saying:

"They were shooting at everyone randomly and people were running for their lives. They blocked all roads and most tents at the sit-in have been set on fire."

Additionally, the security forces attempted to prevent medical care to be provided to wounded protesters. Witnesses, claimed that security forces beat medical staff and volunteers at clinics at the sit-in and in other hospitals, and threatened doctors and medical workers with reprisals. Security forces also prevented ambulances from reaching the wounded and number of hospitals have been attacked in pursuit of the injured. On 4th June 2019, armed soldiers allegedly from the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), surrounded the Royal Care Hospital in Khartoum and ordered the hospital staff to evacuate all wounded protesters. One of the doctors has been arrested, after being shot in the leg.

Few days prior to the violent attack on the peaceful protests, on 30th May 2019, the military transition council, warned of legal action against what it called "unruly elements" at the encampment outside the defence ministry and called it a threat to national security. 

The international community held the Transitional Military Council responsible for the attack of the peaceful protesters. While the African Union and European states condemned the crackdown against the pro-democracy protesters, the UN Security Council failed to reach a position after a statement was blocked by China, supported by Russia. 

A joint statement by the Troika  - the Governments of the United States, Norway, and the United Kingdom - issued on 4th June 2019, condemned the attack against the pro-democracy protesters saying this was ordered by the Transitional Military Council: 

"By ordering these attacks, the Transitional Military Council has put the transition process and peace in Sudan in jeopardy. We call for an agreed transfer of power to a civilian-led government as demanded by the people of Sudan."

Human rights organisations have called on the United Nations to impose targeted punitive sanctions against those responsible for the violence and urgently establish a UN inquiry into the violations and abuses committed since December 2018. 

The violent crackdown on peaceful protesters undermined the negotiations efforts and installed fear and mistrust 

The attack on the protesters that have been holding sit-ins for two months demanding the military hand over power to a civilian-led administration, has undermined the negotiations efforts between the opposition and the military council, after some progress was made last month as covered by the CIVICUS Monitor.  After the 3rd June 2019, the opposition groups said will cut all contact with the council, calling for continued civil disobedience.

On 5th June 2019, the head of Sudan's Transitional Military Council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, apologised for the loss of life and reportedly said that “all involved in the events that lead to the disruption of the protests site will be held accountable and brought to justice.”

The TMC head also called for resumption of negotiations - a statement that reversed an earlier announcement from the previous day saying dialogue was over and calling for early elections that was strongly opposed by the pro-democracy movement. 

Expression

Military government ban international correspondents while internet has been disrupted during violent crackdown on peaceful protest camp

In addition to the armed forces violent crackdown directly targeting peaceful protesters, there have been attempts by the ruling military administration to restrict freedom of expression and media coverage. On 30th May 2019, the military council closed down the Al Jazeera's office in Khartoum and withdrew the work permits for its correspondents with immediate effect of the order.

Al Jazeera condemned the move as a political interference and called for the immediate resumption of its operations, further saying:

"The network sees this as an attack on media freedom, professional journalism, and the basic tenets of the right for people to know and understand the reality of what is happening in Sudan."

The International Press Institute (IPI) has also denounced the closure of Al Jazeera's office and noted that over the past months IPI documented "numerous attacks on journalists – from detentions to violence against them to administrative measures aimed at preventing their coverage." IPI called on the Transitional Military Council to uphold press freedom as part of democratic transition and "ensure journalists’ ability to work in Sudan without fear of retaliation.”

“It is disturbing that the TMC, which has been charged with ensuring a peaceful transition to democracy, is now itself failing to respect the fundamental principles of press freedom and access to information, which are at the core of any successful democratic transition”,

IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi said.

NetBlocks, a civil society group monitoring digital rights, reported that through the morning on 3rd June 2019, internet connectivity in Sudan has been partially disrupted. The group found that the new outages came while there have been reports about shots fired at protesters continuing sit-ins at Khartoum. Further, the group found that "unlike internet outages during the Sudanese uprising, the new disruptions affect specific providers and compliance with any blocking order appears to be partial and focuses on mobile connectivity." 

Association in Sudan

While the national interim constitution provides guarantees for the right to freedom of association, legislation governing the formation and operation of organisations – including the Voluntary and Humanitarian Work Act – curtails the free exercise of the right in several ways.

While the national interim constitution provides guarantees for the right to freedom of association, legislation governing the formation and operation of organisations – including the Voluntary and Humanitarian Work Act – curtails the free exercise of the right in several ways. The Act employs an extremely narrow definition of civil society organisations and restricts them to humanitarian activities. Registration is mandatory and must be renewed annually. The authorities enjoy wide discretionary powers, allowing them to reject requests to establish organisations as well as to dissolve them. In addition, any proposed activity must obtain special approval from the National Intelligence and Security Service. Organisations are also required to obtain government permission to solicit and receive funds. In practice, only pro-government organisations are allowed to work freely whereas independent organisations are subject to numerous restrictions and face harassment and intimidation. In 2015 for example, the government revoked the license of the Civic Forum, the Sudanese Writers Union, and the Mahmoud Mohammed Taha Centre on the basis that they violated their registration licences. In February 2016, the National Intelligence and Security Services raided the office of Training and Human Development, where they confiscated documents and other materials. Later on, eight activists from the organisation were detained and charged with crimes against the state.

Peaceful Assembly in Sudan

The national interim constitution provides guarantees for the freedom of peaceful assembly but in practice the right is not respected in Sudan.

The national interim constitution provides guarantees for the freedom of peaceful assembly but in practice the right is not respected in Sudan. Legislation imposes severe penalties for any act that ‘is likely to breach the peace or public tranquillity’. Such vague wording deters people in the country from participating in protests and demonstrations. Long and exhaustive procedures are required to organise public gatherings and permission must be granted by the Minister of the Interior. When a protest does take place, Sudanese security services often respond by using excessive force. In February 2016, 15 female protestors were beaten by security forces and arrested. Moreover, two people were killed and dozens detained for months without charge, subjected to various forms of ill-treatment and put at risk of torture following a series of student protests in April 2016. The government accused the students of using violence and a 25-year old student, Asim Omer, was charged with murder after he participated in the protest.

Expression in Sudan

Article 39 of the national interim constitution safeguards the freedom of expression, but the legal environment remains restricted. The Press and Publications Law (2009) provides the state with power through the Press Council to monitor and censor press content.

Article 39 of the national interim constitution safeguards the freedom of expression, but the legal environment remains restricted. The Press and Publications Law (2009) provides the state with power through the Press Council to monitor and censor press content. This may result in the closure of newspapers and heavy fines on all those who infringe upon regulations and instructions. For example, the government temporarily suspended Al-Jarida in January after it reported on alleged corruption within the government. Journalists are subject to continual attacks, harassment, arbitrary arrests and interrogations. The state vigorously monitors printed and online media content, while print publications are scrutinised before being distributed and all electronic content is checked before being broadcast. The National Telecommunications Corporation has blocked websites that violate norms of public morality.Defamation is a criminal offense under the penal code. A new Freedom of Access to Information Law was passed in January 2015 with provisions that detail 12 types of information that are restricted from being accessed by citizens, which effectively makes the legislation a secrecy bill that legalises government restrictions on information.