Bloody repression of protests in Sudan: FIDH and ACJPS call upon the African Union to Send an Urgent Commission of Inquiry
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
African Center for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS)
Paris, Nairobi, Kampala, 1 October 2013 – Over the past 7 days since the start of demonstrations in Sudan on 23 September, at least 170 people have been killed by the Sudanese authorities, hundreds more injured and at least 800 arrested. Newspapers and media outlets have been suspended or censored and known members of political opposition parties, other activists and journalists have been detained. FIDH and its member organisation from Sudan, the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS), strongly condemn the killings and serious restrictions on fundamental rights and freedoms by the Sudanese authorities. We call upon the African Union to urgently send a commission of inquiry to Sudan to investigate allegations of serious human rights violations, including unlawful killings, ensure that those responsible are brought to justice, and prevent further violations.
“The international community has too often provided inadequate responses to serious violations of human rights in Sudan. The African Union must take the lead and respond to the current crisis with the gravity it requires by urgently sending a commission of inquiry”, declared Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.
Demonstrations erupted throughout Sudan following President Omar Al-Bashir’s announcement on 22 September of cuts to fuel subsidies, resulting in a sharp increase in the price of petrol and gas. In protest, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of cities throughout the country including Wad Madani, Khartoum, Omdurman, Port Sudan, Atbara, Gedarif, Nyala, Kosti, and Sinnar. ACJPS has confirmed that 170 people have been killed since the start of the demonstrations. Corroborated information documented by our organisations, including visits to morgues, hospitals and testimonies from witnesses and relatives of victims, show that Sudan’s Central Reserve Forces and National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) have used excessive and disproportionate force, including live ammunition and tear gas, to disperse demonstrators. The majority of deaths resulted from bullet wounds to the upper torso and head.
“The African Union should urgently condemn the killings and serious violations of human rights taking place in Sudan and send a commission of inquiry to establish the facts and circumstances leading to such tragic loss of life. The truth behind every killing must be established. Perpetrators must be held to account, and families must see justice,” said Osman Hummaida, ACJPS Executive Director.
At least 800 people have been arrested by the police and the NISS in connection with the demonstrations. These include protestors as well as known activists, members of political opposition parties, and journalists. Sudanese Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bushara Dousa, was reported to announce that no detainees arrested in connection with the demonstrations will be granted bail.
The authorities have also closed down and censored newspapers and other media outlets and instructed them not to report on the protests without approval. The offices of Al-Arabiya and Sky New Arabic Service television stations have been closed and daily newspapers such as Al-Sudani, Al-Meghar, Al Gareeda, Almash’had Alaaan, Al-Siyasi and the pro-government Al-Intibaha have been banned from publication. Other outlets, including Al Ayaam and the Citizen, have stopped publishing in protest.
FIDH and ACJPS call upon the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), both mandated to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms on the continent, to condemn the excessive use of force and restrictions on fundamental human rights by the Sudanese authorities. The AUPSC and ACHPR should send an urgent commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of the excessive and intentional use of lethal force by the Sudanese authorities and the circumstances leading to the deaths of protestors. Such a commission of inquiry could be conducted in close coordination with the United Nations Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan and the Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
These recent events reflect a broader human rights crisis in Sudan and require an urgent and coordinated response. They take place against increasing restrictions on fundamental rights and freedoms as well as ongoing violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, devastating the lives of thousands of civilians in Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
FIDH and ACJPS call upon the AU and UN to adopt a comprehensive approach to the situation in Sudan and coordinate their efforts to bring the country onto a path of peace, justice, accountability and respect for the rule of law.