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. 


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."