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UN Human Rights Commissioner calls Sudan's coup 'deeply disturbing' as human rights are violated

November 5 - 2021 GENEVA / KHARTOUM
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet at the special session of the UN Human Rights Council on Sudan today (UN TV)
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet at the special session of the UN Human Rights Council on Sudan today (UN TV)

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet described the military takeover of power in Sudan as “deeply disturbing” in her address to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva today. She said that the coup “betrays the courageous and inspiring revolution of 2019". Sudan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Maryam El Sadig El Mahdi also addressed the council via video link.

During the 32nd Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the implications of the ongoing situation in the Republic of the Sudan, Bachelet addressed the participants and spoke strong words against the military coup orchestrated by Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, head of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and President of the now-disbanded Transitional Sovereignty Council.

Bachelet stressed that the coup "betrays the courageous and inspiring revolution of 2019, and contravenes both international human rights laws, as well as the country's own Constitutional Document and other foundational documents of the transition”.

In her address, the commissioner urged "Sudan's military leaders, and their backers, to step back in order to allow the country to return to the path of progress towards institutional and legal reforms".

"Sudan has been a beacon of progress for the region, and it is urgent to restore civilian rule, and with it, a clear and principled path of reforms that can fulfil the people's aspirations to democracy, the rule of law and human rights", Bachelet stated.

'Events since the coup have recalled a sombre page in the country’s history' - Michelle Bachelet

"Events since the coup have recalled a sombre page in the country’s history when freedom of expression was stifled, and human rights were comprehensively repressed," Bachelet said, referring to the regime of dictator Al Bashir.

The high commissioner condemned the fact that government ministers, members of political parties, lawyers, civil society activists, journalists, human rights defenders, and protest leaders were arrested and detained. Bachelet highlighted that whereabouts of most of those arrested remain unknown, and they have been held incommunicado, with no access to lawyers or their relatives.

"All those arrested and detained since the military takeover should be immediately released. This is also essential for commencing urgently needed dialogue and a swift return to civilian rule,” Bachelet said.

 

Violence

Bachelet also condemned the "disproportionate and deadly use of force by the Sudan Armed Forces, the Rapid Support Forces, and other security forces" against protesters and called for an end to this violence immediately.

"Massive street protests since 25 October were in several instances met with excessive use of force, including use of live ammunition, as documented by the Joint UN Human Rights Office in Sudan, particularly in Khartoum and Omdurman. According to medical sources, at least 13 civilians have been killed by military and security forces since 25 October, and more than 300 injured", the commissioner explained.

She stressed that "those responsible for these and other human rights violations must be held fully accountable for their actions". 

'The use of excessive force – such as firing live bullets – to repress the expression of those rights is unlawful and unjustified' - Michelle Bachelet

"The Sudanese people have a right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The use of excessive force – such as firing live bullets – to repress the expression of those rights is unlawful and unjustified", the commissioner stated.

Human Rights Violations

The commissioner proceeded to mention other worrying developments that severely violate human rights in Sudan.

"In a country where women and girls have been active leaders in the movement for democracy and human rights, many women activists have reportedly been arrested, harassed, threatened, and in many cases, beaten while participating in protests. I have also received several disturbing reports of violence against women, including the early morning raid on a female student dormitory located near the military headquarters in Khartoum on 25 October. The students were terrorized and beaten, resulting in injuries. 

'Many women activists have reportedly been arrested, harassed, threatened, and in many cases, beaten while participating in protests' - Michelle Bachelet

"State security agents, usually wearing plain clothes, have also targeted key actors in the civic space. The Joint UN Human Rights Office has documented the arrests and detentions of journalists, resistance committee members, and activists. The Democrat newspaper in Khartoum, and the Sudan News Agency, have been raided by military and unidentified forces, and the Director General of Sudan’s state radio and television has been dismissed.

"I am informed that all radio stations and television channels in the country have ceased broadcasting, with the exception of Sudan National Television and Omdurman Radio, which are controlled by the military authorities. Newspapers have ceased printing. Raids have also taken place at a number of offices of civil society organisations."

Bachelet also mentioned the shutdown of the internet and phone connections as further contravening international human rights law.

Fears for further escalation

The UN commissioner further warned that the military takeover could threaten peace in Sudan and damaged prospects for the Juba Peace Agreement and the situation in Darfur.

"I remind the Council that any tensions between these armed actors risk exacerbating tensions on the ground in Darfur – which could once again present a direct threat to civilians in that region".

Statement by Maryam El Sadig El Mahdi 

Minister of Foreign Affairs in the transitional government Maryam El Sadig El Mahdi also addressed the UN Human Rights Council via video link.

"Any attempt to divert the Sudanese people from the civil democratic path will be doomed to failure, which requires us to remain steadfast, no matter how difficult it is, to build a Sudan of freedom, peace, and justice," she assured the council.

'Any attempt to divert the Sudanese people from the civil democratic path will be doomed to failure...' - Maryam El Sadig El Mahdi

She explained that Sudan has paid a heavy price during the past years: "The issue of Human Rights is an essential issue and we are working to implement the provisions of the Constitutional Document to create a purely Sudanese model of transitional justice through which we can move from an authoritarian regime to a democratic one," El Mahdi explained.

"We hope that your esteemed council will help us move in this direction", she stated.

The minister explained that the military coup affected the course of the glorious December revolution and "brought Sudan back to gross violations of human rights", citing the arrest of Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok and other ministers, activists, and civil society leaders and the excessive use of live ammunition and teargas during peaceful protests.

"Extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detentions of peaceful demonstrators, women and men, chasing, arresting, and torturing the youth of the resistance committees in the neighbourhoods, acts that may constitute crimes against humanity" were examples mentioned by El Mahdi.


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