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UN Human Rights Commissioner strongly condemns abuses in Sudan

March 8 - 2022 GENEVA
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet (UN)
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet (UN)

In an oral update on the human rights situation in Sudan yesterday, United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet expressed her deep concerns over “the sharp reversal of human rights achievements following the military coup in Sudan last October”. The International Federation for Human Rights also condemned the coup.

Addressing the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council yesterday, the High Commissioner explained that she is “deeply troubled by the sharp reversal of human rights achievements” in Sudan after the October 25 military coup d’état.

The meeting was held after Adama Dieng, the Human Rights Expert for Sudan, returned from his visit to the country. The High Commissioner’s full statement can be read here.

“The coup - which took place on 25 October 2021 - has again plunged the country into profound crisis. Two years of progress towards institutional and legal reform that Sudan had been making since 2019 is now being eroded”, Bachelet warned.

She said that “a wide range of human rights violations have been documented since the coup, in a context of total impunity”.

Excessive violence

Firstly, the commissioner strongly condemned the use of excessive violence against the anti-coup protesters.

“Live ammunition, and offensive weapons such as machine guns and shot guns, are being used directly against protestors, and tear gas canisters have been fired as weapons at their heads and bodies, in clear breach of international law”, the statement read.

“As of 3 March, credible medical sources report that 85 people, including one woman and 11 children, have been killed due to disproportionate use of force by security forces during protests”.

“Live ammunition, and offensive weapons such as machine guns and shot guns, are being used directly against protestors, and tear gas canisters have been fired as weapons at their heads and bodies, in clear breach of international law” - Michelle Bachelet

Bachelet also explained that she is “alarmed by the attacks on hospitals, medical facilities and assaults on their staff. In one incident, security forces fired tear gas into an emergency ward. In others, they blocked injured people from accessing ambulances and medical care”.

She referred to instances in which security forces forced incursions into hospitals, beat and arrested injured protesters, and assaulted or harassed medical staff and ambulance drivers tending to injured protesters.

The commissioner further expressed that she is deeply disturbed by “the massive number of violations of the rights of children directly linked to the recent demonstrations”, “including the killing of no fewer than 11 children and the injuring of tens more of them, as well as the arrest and detention of children who participated in protests”.

“I am shocked by the 25 allegations of rape, gang rape and other forms of sexual violence against women, girls and men since 25 October 2021. These appalling attacks likewise appear directed at dissuading and deterring protesters - women and girls in particular - from giving public expression to their views, as is their right”, Bachelet explained.

Arbitrary arrests and torture

Bachelet explained that she is concerned about “the pattern of targeted arbitrary arrests and detention of prominent protest organisers and demonstrators either during protests, at their homes, or – in some cases - in hospitals”, but that she welcomed the release of 115 people during Adama Dieng’s visit. 

She highlighted that the Joint Human Rights Office reports that more than 1000 people were arrested for opposing the coup and its consequences between 25 October 2021 and 3 March 2022. “Shockingly, these figures include at least 144 women, and 148 children. Many of those arrested and detained were subjected to ill-treatment at the time of arrest”, Bachelet said.

Other responses

During the Human Rights Council session, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisations in Sudan, the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS), and the Security and Human Rights Monitor (SHRM), also condemned the coup. They called it “a significant setback against the aspirations of Sudanese people”.

"Our organisations continue to condemn the military coup which constitutes a significant setback against the aspirations of Sudanese people" - FIDH

“Since their seizing of power, the police, Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have used unjustified and disproportionate force against peaceful demonstrators, resulting in at least 82 deaths”, their oral statement read.

They called on the Sudanese government ‘and all its security forces’ to respect the demonstrators’ rights to peaceful assembly and right to life, to release immediately and unconditionally all arbitrary detainees, and to “strictly ensure the safety and dignity of all, including those in custody”.

Additionally, the FIDH expressed its deep concerns “about the intensification of attacks on civilians and inter-communal violence in Darfur since the beginning of the transition in 2019, as well as the failure of the Sudanese authorities to protect their citizens in those regions”.


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