“Sudan’s political actors and international partners should ensure that progress on human rights and accountability for serious human rights violations are central to any new transition”, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement published on Tuesday.
“This includes an end to the violent crackdown against peaceful protesters, releasing arbitrarily detained protesters, and taking concrete steps to ensure accountability for serious abuses,” the statement continued.
“The last 14 months have shown how widespread impunity fosters more killings and other abuses,” said Mohamed Osman, Sudan researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Accountability is critical for the future and should not be swept under the rug.”
'Accountability is critical for the future and should not be swept under the rug'
At least 122 protesters have been killed since the October 25, 2021, military coup and Radio Dabanga has frequently reported on the lack of accountability for the perpetrators.
Impunity is an especially controversial topic at the moment as the mainstream Forces for Freedom and Change-Central Council (FFC-CC) is entering negotiations on the second part of the agreement with the military junta.
The agreement between an alliance of civilian parties, headed by the FFC-CC, and Sudan’s military junta consists of two parts: an initial Framework Agreement, which was signed earlier this month, and a Final Agreement, which covers some outstanding ‘thorny’ issues that still require further negotiations.
One of these issues is transitional justice, which is also concerned with immunity from prosecution for the military.
The military’s demand for impunity could mean immunity from prosecution for crimes committed since the 2019 coup, including the June 3 Massacre in which the military killed at least 186 whilst another 100 went missing and many more were injured.
On top of 122 deaths, at least 7,000 protesters were injured between the October 25, 2021, coup and August 2022 alone.
On top of violence and human rights abuses during anti-coup protests, political detainees have been tortured, people have been arbitrarily arrested, and powerful opposition voices have been silenced and arrested, most notably members of the Empowerment Removal Committee established to purge Sudan of the remnants of Al Bashir’s dictatorial regime.
There has been widespread resistance within and outside of the FFC, which took a leading role in negotiations with the military, to this possibility.
Most of Sudan's resistance committees have been against any form of collaboration with the military institution since the coup d'état, in part because many families of martyrs and pro-democracy protesters killed by security forces also fear an agreement that might allow the military to escape accountability.
“International backers should also unequivocally reject any form of impunity for serious crimes, notably for those in position of command,” HRW said.
'International backers should also unequivocally reject any form of impunity for serious crimes'
HRW criticised the vagueness of the initial Framework Agreement, stating that “the vaguely worded agreement lays out general principles for the formation of the transitional institutions and reiterates commitments to promote freedoms and rights and accountability, and to reform security forces”.
“The agreement, however, fails to spell out any clear time frames, details, or benchmarks for justice and security sector reform, stating that plans are to be discussed at a second stage.”
HRW further lamented that the agreement “largely overlooks Darfur, the site of almost two decades of conflict and serious abuse”.
'The agreement largely overlooks Darfur, the site of almost two decades of conflict and serious abuse'
* The Empowerment Removal Committee (full name Committee for Dismantling the June 30 1989 Regime, Removal of Empowerment and Corruption, and Recovering Public Funds) was established by the government of Abdallah Hamdok at the end of 2019 with the aim to purge Sudan of the remnants of the Al Bashir regime. A number of its members were detained for a number of weeks following the military coup on October 25 last year. Empowerment (tamkin) is the term with which the ousted government of Omar Al Bashir supported its affiliates by granting them far-going privileges, including government functions, the setting-up of various companies, and tax exemptions.