Sudan’s security forces have unlawfully detained hundreds of protesters since December 2021 and forcibly disappeared scores as part of its broader clampdown on opposition to the October 25 military coup, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement today.
In its statement from Nairobi in Kenya, HRW points out that security forces have beaten and otherwise ill-treated detained protesters, including stripping child detainees naked and threatening sexual violence against women. Sudanese authorities should release all those unlawfully detained, including those forcibly disappeared, while Sudan’s international partners should impose targeted individual sanctions on those responsible for the repression.
“The ruthless and brutal targeting of protesters is an attempt to instil fear, and has largely evaded international scrutiny,” said Mohamed Osman, Sudan researcher at Human Rights Watch. “For months, security forces have abused and illegally detained hundreds of people, including children, who express their opposition to military rule.”
On October 25, Sudan’s military chief, Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, effectively led a military coup against Sudan’s transitional government and declared a state of emergency. On December 26, he issued an emergency order granting security forces immunity and restored arrest powers to the General Intelligence Service (GIS), which has a track record of serious abuses. The emergency order overturned a decision by the transitional government to deny the agency arrest powers. Since Burhan restored the agency’s arrest powers, arbitrary arrests of protesters have spiked. The authorities abuse their emergency powers to carry out unlawful detentions, including incommunicado detentions, Human Rights Watch found.
Between February and April 2022 Human Rights Watch interviewed 25 people, 8 men and 17 women, including 8 former detainees, and family members of 13 detainees from Khartoum, Madani in Central Sudan, Port Sudan in the East, and El-Fashir in Darfur. Human Rights Watch also interviewed four lawyers involved in protecting protesters, two from the Emergency Lawyers Group, an informal group that has provided legal aid and advocates for those detained since the coup.
In early March, the United Nations’ Joint Human Rights Office in Sudan reported that more than 1,000 people were arrested between October 25 and March 3, including 148 children. The security forces have targeted people who are active or perceived to be active in the protest movement, Human Rights Watch found. Some were arrested during or in the immediate aftermath of demonstrations, and others were grabbed off the streets, or from their cars or homes.
Various sections of the security forces, including anti-riot police, Central Reserve Police (CRP), and military units from the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), along with unidentified plainclothes agents, also have carried out arrests.
Security forces’ alleged violence against protesters included sexual abuse and rape threats. The UN special representative of the secretary general in Sudan reported that as of March 22, 16 women had reported being raped during protests in Khartoum.
Security forces have also ill-treated children including allegedly stripping them naked and partially shaving their heads. Families interviewed said they had been intimidated into dropping possible complaints against the security forces.
The security forces generally detain protesters in police facilities or undisclosed locations before transferring them to prison but without bringing them before a court or a prosecutor, Human Rights Watch found.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this statement are those of the contributing organisation/authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of Radio Dabanga.