Today marks the one year centennial of the outbreak of protests in cities throughout Sudan. These were sparked by the lifting of fuel subsidies the day before, and were met by Sudanese authorities with excessive force, including live ammunition, leading to the deaths of at least 185 people.
Hundreds of people were detained, many without any charges ever being brought, and numerous activists were tortured and otherwise ill-treated. African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) reiterate its call upon regional and international human rights bodies to condemn abuses and ensure investigation and justice.
On the anniversary of the brutal suppression of last year’s protests, the United Nations Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Sudan will present his annual report to the Human Rights Council.
In his report made public in advance of the session, the UN expert confirmed that the Sudanese authorities have failed to provide him with any “evidence of a thorough and independent investigation of the human rights violations that occurred during the September demonstrations” and highlighted that it is “unacceptable both morally and legally” that the Sudanese authorities reported “it was difficult to locate any of those who shot and killed so many people in broad daylight”.
“One year on, the victims and families affected by Sudan’s brutal suppression of protests are still denied truth and justice,” said Katherine Perks, Programme Director at the ACJPS.
“The UN Human Rights Council meeting this week must ensure it takes a strong position to condemn Sudan’s repeated failure to ensure accountability and redress serious human rights violations including torture and extra-judicial killings; impunity cannot be accepted”.
Although human rights groups verified 185 deaths, Sudanese authorities acknowledged just 85. A majority of death certificates issued listed cause of death as “mysterious circumstances”, despite a majority of victims having been shot in the head or chest.
The mandate, composition and findings of three state commissions of inquiry reportedly established have never been made public, and repeated attempts to access them have been unsuccessful. Out of at least 85 criminal complaints pursued by victims’ families, only one has progressed to court, with the final decision pending.
FIDH and ACJPS have repeatedly called for the African regional human rights body, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), to send a fact-finding mission to investigate violations perpetrated in connection with the 2013 protests and call on the Government of Sudan to immediately stop further abuses.
Such an inquiry could be organised in close coordination with the relevant UN bodies such as the Human Rights Council.
“Whilst Sudan bears the responsibility to stop its forces from committing abuses, deliver remedies and hold those responsible to account, international and regional human rights bodies must step up where Sudan has shown it clearly has no intention to do so,” declared Sheila Muwanga Nabachwa, FIDH Vice President and Deputy Executive Director at the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI – Uganda).
“Time has come to put an end to the culture of impunity which prevails in Sudan. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, also meeting next month, should deploy a fact-finding mission mandated to investigate the repression and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice”.
The September 2013 violent repression of protests and the impunity enjoyed by those responsible illustrates a broader context of serious human rights violations in Sudan, where human rights defenders, independent journalists and political opponents who criticise the government and its actions continue to face arbitrary arrests and detentions, acts of harassment and intimidation and in some cases acts of torture and ill-treatment.
In such a context, the ACHPR and the UN Human Rights council must take concrete actions to ensure that victims of serious human rights violations in Sudan obtain justice and reparations.