Sudan: Justice for repression against anti-coup protesters key to breaking cycle of violence and political turmoil, say UN experts

Geneva, 25 October, 2022.- UN human rights experts* today demanded effective accountability for the year-long brutal crackdown on peaceful protests against the October 2021 military coup in Sudan. To break the country’s cycle of turmoil, they also called for an independent accountability and transitional justice mechanism with a mandate to address human rights violations committed during protests, including the gendered nature of the violence, and provide suitable reparations.

“Over the past year, we have received continued reports of protestors being killed, forcibly disappeared, injured, tortured and subjected to sexual and gender-based violence. Prosecuting perpetrators, including high-level commanders responsible for these violations is critical to ensuring Sudan’s sustainable transition to a credible democratic civilian government,” the experts said.

The experts called for an “effective and adequately resourced independent accountability mechanism which is victim-centred” and that would address the reported grave violations in relation to the clampdown on peaceful protests since the military coup. They further urged serious measures to conclude investigations by the previously set-up national commission of inquiry, and to bring justice for the victims of the unresolved serious crimes committed during the 2019 protests.

“If these atrocities are not addressed, if victims are once again denied justice and reparations, and if the voices of protesters are not heard, Sudan’s cycle of political turmoil and brutal repression will continue, and the humanitarian crisis will deepen,” they said.

UN experts have repeatedly raised the alarm about reports of unlawful and excessive use of force and arrests as the military authorities have clamped down on peaceful protests since the coup. Joint security forces were reportedly regularly using lethal force, either directly or by indiscriminately firing at protesters. The unlawful tactics had left at least 117 protesters killed and an estimated 7,700 protesters, including thousands of children, seriously injured, based on documented cases by Sudanese health practitioners. The majority of the injuries were caused by the use of firearms or tear gas canisters.

“We are very concerned that, as a result, some of the injured protesters sustained permanent or long-lasting paralysis, limb amputations, loss of eyesight and eye removals. There are alarming indications that many of those killed and injured in the context of the protests were victims of targeted attacks,” the experts said.

They raised serious concerns that hundreds were arrested, including women and children, for exercising their right to peaceful assembly, and without due process.

“Many of the detained have reportedly been subjected to torture and ill-treatment in custody, while some were forcibly disappeared or secretly detained. These cases must be thoroughly and independently investigated and the authorities must immediately disclose the fate and whereabouts of the missing protesters,” the experts said.

There are also reports of women having been subjected to sexual and gender-based violence, including abuse and gang rape, at sites within the proximity of protests or while in detention, the experts said.

These violations were committed under protracted emergency measures, giving extended powers and immunity from prosecution to the security forces.

“The repeated use of repressive tactics against peaceful protesters strongly underscores the need for accountability, security sector and justice reform, including reparations, to ensure that people can exercise their fundamental rights and effectively participate in the country’s democratic transition,” the experts said.

“The lack of accountability for alleged crimes has a chilling effect on the people’s right to freedom of peaceful assembly and participation in public affairs.”

The Sudanese authorities have an obligation to end impunity and provide remedy to victims and, as relevant, to their families, the experts said, urging the international community to ensure that accountability was central to ongoing political talks and the transition process in the country. The experts further called on the international community to ensure civil society and victims are part of the political talks.

They urged authorities to show restraint and refrain from the use of excessive force in response to any ongoing anti-coup protests. The military authorities must refrain from obstructing internet and telecommunications prior, during or after protests.

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