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Prosecutors to reopen file on 2005 Port Sudan massacre

October 19 - 2016 PORT SUDAN
A street protest in Port Sudan against the lifting of fuel subsidies by the Sudanese government, September 2013 (Twitter)
A street protest in Port Sudan against the lifting of fuel subsidies by the Sudanese government, September 2013 (Twitter)

The Prosecution Service of Port Sudan has agreed to reopen the file on the massacre of 21 members of the Beja tribe, now popularly referred to as ‘the martyrs’, in 2005. The prosecutors will ask the Defence and Interior Ministers to lift the immunity from prosecution enjoyed by members of the regular armed forces.

On 29 January 2005, 21 Beja demonstrators were killed, and at least 400 were injured, among them women and children, in Port Sudan's Deim El Arab district, when government forces quelled a peaceful demonstration calling on the Khartoum to allocate more resources to the marginalised region. Hundreds of protesters were detained.

At the time, the Beja Congress, a political organisation founded in 1957 to champion the rights of the eastern Sudanese, reported that the protesters were “shot down by government forces brought in from Khartoum by air”.

The Governor of Red Sea state admitted later that the demonstration of the Beja people was peaceful, and that there was just a misunderstanding, according to the press statement at the time.

The Port Sudan Prosecution has agreed to review its previous investigations after interviews with the blood guardians and the lawyer of the families of those who were killed.

Lawyer Najla Mohammed Ali told Radio Dabanga that the Prosecutor will ask the Defence and Interior Ministers to lift the immunity from prosecution of the regular forces accused of killing the victims.

She said the next step will be to identify the individual culprits.

Ever since the massacre, the Beja Congress has been calling for an investigation at the annual commemoration of the victims.

Use of firearms

According to Amnesty International, government security forces that day reportedly used live ammunition against demonstrators, allegedly armed with sticks and stones. The security forces also attacked houses outside the area of the demonstration, and reportedly threw grenades into houses which wounded residents, including children.

The provincial Governor, Maj Gen Hatim El Wasila El Samani, was quoted by AFP at the time: "Instead of coming for the meeting, [the demonstrators] staged riots in which shops were looted and cars were burned, and they engaged in clashes with the riot police and security men, who at first used batons and tear gas to disperse the demonstrators and then they had to use firearms.”

After the incident, the local state Native Administration coerced relatives of those killed to accept blood money, according to historian John Slight, researcher at the University of Cambridge. A group of six relatives refused to accept this blood money and demanded a proper investigation into the incident.

Related articles:

Court: File case against culprits 'Port Sudan Massacre' (7 July 2015)

10th anniversary of 'The Massacre' marked in Port Sudan (31 January 2015)


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