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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: ‘Excessive force against Sudan protests deeply worrying’

January 17 - 2019 GENEVA
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet (UN photo)
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet (UN photo)

Credible reports of the use of excessive force, including live ammunition, by state security forces against protestors across Sudan over the past month are deeply worrying, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement today.

Bachelet called on the Sudanese government to protect those who exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, regardless of their political affiliations.

The demonstrations since 19 December 2018 have taken place in a number of cities across Sudan, including Wad Madani, Port Sudan, El Gedaref, Atbara, Berber, Dongla, Karima, Ed Damazin, El Obeid, Khartoum, Sinar, Bara, Nyala, and Omdurman.

The current wave of anti-government protests was triggered by food and fuel price hikes, and the ongoing economic and liquidity problems besetting the Sudanese population. The demonstrations were in response to the call by the Sudanese Professionals Association and opposition parties who signed the Association’s Declaration of Freedom and Change to demand the immediate step-down of Al Bashir and his regime.

The government response has been violent, using tear gas, baton charges, and live ammunition, with dozens killed, hundreds injured, and thousands detained.

Hight Commissioner

“A repressive response can only worsen grievances,” High Commissioner Bachelet said in her statement. “I am very concerned about reports of excessive use of force, including live ammunition, by Sudanese State Security Forces during large-scale demonstrations in various parts of the country since 19 December. The government needs to ensure that security forces handle protests in line with the country’s international human rights obligations by facilitating and protecting the right to peaceful assembly.”

High Commissioner Bachelet reminds the Sudanese government that “as a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights since 1986, Sudan is obliged to take all necessary measures intended to prevent arbitrary deprivations of life by their law enforcement officials. In particular, all operations of law enforcement officials should comply with relevant international standards, including the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials (General Assembly resolution 34/169)(1979) and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (1990),” Bachelet’s statement underlines.

Fact-finding committees

The High Commissioner noted that fact-finding committees had been established by the government and the National Commission of Human Rights. She urged that any investigations be conducted in a prompt, thorough, and transparent manner, with a view to accountability.

“I also call on the authorities to ensure that all those arbitrarily detained for the exercise of their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression are promptly released, and that these rights are fully protected,” Bachelet added.

“I urge the authorities to work to resolve this tense situation through dialogue, and call on all sides to refrain from the use of violence,” the High Commissioner’s statement concludes.

Bachelet stressed the readiness of the UN Human Rights Office to deploy a team to Sudan, to advice the authorities and help ensure they act in accordance with the country’s international human rights obligations.


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