June 28, 2012 (KHARTOUM) - The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Thursday urged Sudanese authorities to ensure that Friday’s planned demonstration proceeds peacefully, without mass arrests and violent measures by security forces as witnessed in the past two weeks or so.
The demonstration, which was initially started by university students
and later joined by other groups, continued in sporadic parts of Sudan’s capital Khartoum and other provincial towns as the government reaffirmed its intention of going ahead with planned austerity
In recent days, the protests widened to reach several parts of the
capital as well as key towns, including Al-Obeid capital of North Kordofan state and Kassala in the eastern Sudan, with demonstrators burning tires, blocking roads and chanting slogans calling for the downfall of the regime.
"Dozens of individuals, including human rights defenders, journalists,
students and political opponents, have been arrested since the
protests began in Khartoum on 17 June," said Navi Pillay.
"I urge the Government to immediately and unconditionally release
those who have been detained for merely exercising their rights to
freedom of assembly and expression. Reports of ill treatment in
detention are very worrying and must be investigated promptly," she
The Sudanese government, as part of the proposed measure, moved to end fuel subsidies, which officials say will cover up for a budget deficit
of $2.4 billion US, created mainly as a result of losing the bulk
of oil revenues with South Sudan’s secession as well as years of failure to diversify the oil dependent economy.
Newly independent South Sudan took with it 75 percent of oil revenues when it split from neighbouring Sudan in July last year, following a successful referendum necessitated as part of a 2005 peace deal that
ended two decades of civil war between the two nations.
The High Commissioner also decried reports that injured protesters
were being removed from hospitals by Sudanese authorities and
detained, while those arrested during the demonstrations were
reportedly released only after signing an undertaking never to
participate in any more ’riots’.
"Tear gas, rubber bullets, live ammunition and other heavy-handed
suppression will not resolve the frustrations and grievances of the
people regarding shortcomings in their enjoyment of economic, social,
civil and political rights," Pillay said, urging the government to
engage in genuine dialogue with government critics as opposed to the
practice of arbitrary detention and violence.
The High Commissioner further emphasised the Sudanese government’s obligation under the international human rights law, citing the need to respect the fundamental human rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.
Pillay, on the other hand, urged protestors to ensure that no violence
or damage to property takes place during the demonstrations.
The Sudanese leader, Omer Al-Bashir and scores of government officials
have repeatedly downplayed these wave of protests despite growing
concerns, with the former reportedly describing them as few "aliens
and bubbles" and threatening to deploy "Muhajhdeen" to crackdown on them.