UN envoy demands swift investigation into ‘unacceptable’ killings of Sudanese protesters

Khartoum, Sudan – A UN human rights expert in Sudan called on Saturday for accelerated investigations into killings of protesters and other atrocities as the death toll since last year’s coup approaches 100.

Sudan has been rocked by deepening unrest and a violent crackdown on nearly weekly mass protests since the October 25 takeover of army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan derailed a fragile transition to civilian rule.

“It is simply unacceptable that 99 people have been killed and over 5,000 injured as a result of the excessive use of force by the joint security forces,” Adama Dieng told reporters, citing a figure provided by pro-democracy doctors.

He called on authorities to “speed up” investigations into the killings of protesters.

On his second visit to Sudan since last year’s coup, Dieng raised concerns during conversations with senior officials about arbitrary and mass arrests of activists, sexual and gender-based violence and “acts of torture and ill-treatment” during detentions.

He said an investigation mounted by Sudanese authorities confirmed “four cases of sexual violence” during the protests.

Sudanese protesters protest against the military coup in Sudan in the capital Khartoum, on November 13, 2021. (AFP)

The UN expert also pointed to an intensification of an existing economic crisis since the coup, which saw Western donors return to the sidelines after brief involvement with a civilian-military power-sharing government established after the fall of autocrat Omar al-Bashir. . in 2019.

Spiraling prices and a bad harvest are “forecasts to dramatically increase the number of people living in poverty,” he noted.

Dieng is scheduled to meet with Burhan on Saturday.

On Friday, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Sudan to mark the third anniversary of a crackdown that medics say killed 128 people in June 2019, when gunmen in military uniforms violently dispersed a weeks-long protest outside. of Army Headquarters.

One protester was killed during Friday’s demonstrations, despite Dieng’s calls, echoed by Western diplomats, for security forces to “refrain from excessive violence against protesters”.

Sudanese protesters take to the streets in Khartoum to demand justice for dozens of pro-democracy protesters killed during the crackdown on a 2019 protest against now-deposed dictator Omar al-Bashir, June 3, 2022. (Ebrahim Hamid/AFP)

The UN, along with the African Union and regional group IGAD, have been pushing Sudanese-led negotiations to break the post-coup political impasse.

On Friday, UN Special Representative Volker Perthes announced that the Security Council had voted to extend the United Nations mission in Sudan by one year.

Perthes, as well as representatives from the AU and IGAD, agreed with military officials to launch “direct talks” between Sudanese factions next week.

On Sunday, Burhan lifted the state of emergency in place since the coup to prepare the ground for “meaningful dialogue that achieves stability for the transition period”.

Since April, Sudanese authorities have released several civil leaders and pro-democracy activists.

In response to the coup, the Biden administration suspended assistance to Sudan, including aid related to its normalization agreement with Israel.

“The United States is not moving forward at this time with assistance originally committed to the civilian-led transitional government of Sudan in connection with its efforts to improve Sudan’s bilateral relationship with Israel,” a State Department spokesperson said. in an email in late May. “This includes wheat shipments and certain development and trade and investment assistance.”

He added that the Biden administration hopes Israel will join the call for a return to a democratically elected government.

Israel did not comment on the situation and a minister in the former civilian government told the Haaretz newspaper in April that this could be seen as support for the coup.

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