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‘Sudanese forces use excessive force against students’: ACJPS

May 21 - 2017 NEW YORK
Militant student members of the ruling National Congress Party in Khartoum (file photo)
Militant student members of the ruling National Congress Party in Khartoum (file photo)

According to the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS), Sudanese forces used excessive force against university students this month.

In a report on Friday, the ACJPS points to a police raid of a student residence at Bakht El Rida University in White Nile state on 9 May, and the dispersion of a public forum at the El Zaeem El Azhari University in Khartoum North by agents of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) and a student militia six days later.

“The attacks on the students are extremely disruptive and raise serious concerns regarding the students’ safe access to higher education,” the Centre states.

On 9 May, students of the Bakht El Rida University staged a demonstration at the campus the election of a new executive committee for the University’s student union. The students suspected fraud in the procedures and the budgets presented.

Students across Sudan perceive student unions as being solely affiliated with the ruling National Congress Party, ACJPs notes.

At 2 pm, a few hours after the demonstration, police armed with guns entered the dormitories, ordering the students to leave. In the following commotion, three students sustained gunshot injuries, and a police officer was killed, reportedly after being accidentally shot by his own forces.

The 19 students arrested during the raid are currently held at the El Duweim police station, together with an injured student who was beaten before he was taken from his hospital bed to the police station.

A criminal case has been filed against the students, as well as against the two students who are still in hospital. They have been charged under articles 130 (murder), 139 (punishment for causing injury intentionally), 142 (injury), 143 (criminal force), 69 (breach of public peace) and 77 (public nuisance) and 21 (criminal conspiracy) of the 1991 Sudanese Criminal Act. Article 130 carries the death penalty.

It is not clear whether the students have been allowed visits by their relatives or lawyers, ACJPS says. The Centre “has serious concerns for their treatment and well-being whilst in police custody, particularly because of the nature of the case, and the basis of the charges’ relationship to the death of the police officer”.

Khartoum North

On 15 May, the Darfur Students Association at the El Zaeem El Azhari University in Khartoum North, organised a meeting about the right to free education for students from the conflict-torn western region, as stipulated in the 2006 Abuja Peace Agreement and the 2011 Doha Document for Peace in Darfur.

Before the meeting could take place, agents of the NISS, together with militant pro-government students, stormed the campus and attacked the Darfuri students.

The African Centre refers here to reports in recent years that the Government of Sudan has mobilised and provided arms to militant students belonging to “an outreach wing known as the GoS’ jihadist unit”.

Twenty students, among them two women, were taken by the NISS officers to the central police station of Khartoum North where a case was filed against them under articles 69 (breach of public peace) and 77 (public nuisance) of the 1991 Sudanese Criminal Act. Their names are below.

The case was referred to the Central Khartoum North Public Order court on 16 May, where a judge dismissed the charges owing to a lack of evidence.

Violence and impunity

According to ACJPS, the attacks on students in May “are emblematic of the climate of violence and intimidation faced by students not affiliated to Sudan’s ruling party, and the total impunity enjoyed by Sudanese forces and pro-NCP militant students operating on university campuses throughout the country”.

A 2014 joint report by ACJPS and Amnesty International, Excessive and deadly: The use of force, detention and torture against protesters in Sudan documented allegations of human rights violations committed by security forces against mostly peaceful protesters between 2012-2014.

The report revealed a disturbing pattern of arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and excessive use of force, including the use of live ammunition resulting in scores of deaths and injuries. It also revealed a widespread state of impunity in which those allegedly responsible for these violations are not held to account.

Investigation

The Centre calls on the Sudanese government “to guarantee the physical and mental wellbeing of the 22 detainees currently in custody at the El Duweim police station, and ensure that they have access to their families and medical treatment and a lawyer of their choosing.

“The Government of Sudan must also order an independent and impartial investigation into the death of the police officer by gunshot wounds from his own forces. ACJPS deplores the loss of life and calls on any investigation to be prompt and thorough [..], and the findings to be made public, and with a view to providing reparations to the officer’s family,” the Centre states.


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