ResourcesPress Release

Sudan Protester Killings Demand Independent International Investigation: PHR

Official Government Investigation Biased and Inadequate

NEW YORK — The results of a Sudanese government probe into the death toll of a killing spree by elements of the security forces in Khartoum on June 3, 2019 are biased, inadequate, and reflect the urgent need for an impartial independent international investigation, Physicians for Human Rights said today.

Officials from Sudan’s Transitional Military Council (TMC) announced Saturday that their investigation identified the paramilitary Rapid Security Force (RSF) led by  “rogue” military personnel as responsible for the deaths of 87 protesters in Khartoum. The TMC also stated that eight military officers would be prosecuted for “crimes against humanity” for their role in the killings. However, the government’s death count stands in stark contrast with death toll statistics compiled by Sudanese civil society activists, including the Sudan Doctors Syndicate – who allege that more that the RSF killed approximately 130 protesters.

On June 3, a sit-in outside the Sudan defense ministry turned deadly as security forces used lethal force against protesters to clear the area.

PHR and its medical colleagues in Sudan have been documenting government violence against the Sudanese people since the largely peaceful protests began in December 2018.

Maryam Al-Khawaja, Europe director and interim director of advocacy at Physicians for Human Rights, said:

“We are deeply concerned that the Transitional Military Council investigation into Sudanese authorities’ June 3 killings may grossly misrepresent the true scope and severity of the violence, as well as prematurely absolve military leaders of responsibility. The TMC cannot be expected to carry out an independent impartial investigation of its own members.

“The alarming discrepancy between TMC’s death count and the approximately 130 deaths tallied by doctors on the ground makes it clear that the only path to truth, accountability and justice for these wrongful deaths is through an immediate independent international investigation.

“Several other red flags emerge from the TMC conclusion, including that it found no incidents of sexual assault. PHR and its partners on the ground have received numerous credible reports of security forces committing rape against protestors. The World Health Organization has also recieved reports of sexual violence.

“Furthermore, by only charging eight military officers with ‘crimes against humanity,’ the TMC is overlooking the ultimate responsibility of the generals and other orchestrators of this unconscionable violence. The TMC has stated they gave the order to break up the sit-in.

“Those responsible for severe human rights violations must be held accountable for their crimes, especially those in leadership positions within the TMC. The United Nations Human Rights Council must pass a resolution as soon as possible to mandate the creation of an independent investigative mechanism, which can offer an impartial analysis of the violence against protestors and help ensure that those culpable face justice.”

Hundreds of protestors took to the streets across Sudan over the weekend in protest of what they see as a biased and incomplete TMC inquiry into the June 3 killings.

PHR has repeatedly called for an independent probe into human rights violations since protests began in December 2018, including into the violent events of June 3, as well as for the TMC to immediately release all prisoners of conscience and end the ill-treatment of all detainees; respect fundamental freedoms of expression, association, and assembly; and ensure that hospitals are treated as places of neutrality, which cannot be attacked by military and security personnel and where medical professionals can carry out their ethical obligations to treat all patients without discrimination.

In April 2019, PHR released a report on massive violations of human rights committed by now-ousted Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir’s forces during the months of protests, including the use of disproportionate, unnecessary, and sometimes lethal force. The report, “Intimidation and Persecution: Sudan’s Attacks on Peaceful Protesters and Physicians,” provides specific examples from December 19, 2018 through March 17, 2019 of targeted attacks on peaceful protests and medical professionals who support or treat protesters. The report called for accountability for members of the Sudanese government and security forces who have perpetrated crimes against protesters and the medical community and demanded justice for the victims. It also called for independent engagement, monitoring, sanctions, and U.S. legislation that would authorize accountability mechanisms for governments that attack medical personnel, facilities, transport, or supplies.

The report’s findings showed that, during the timeframe studied, National Intelligence and Security Services killed 60 protesters, 136 health personnel were arrested, 15 physicians were detained and possibly tortured, and state security forces attacked at least seven medical facilities. 

Since March 2019, as PHR reports in an updated fact sheet released in July, under the leadership of Sudan’s transitional military council, peaceful protesters were killed and  injured, and additional hospitals and medical professionals were attacked.

Additional PHR resources on Sudan:

  • Press release: “With Sudan Power-Sharing Plan, PHR Urges Renewed Focus on Accountability, Independent Investigation and Long-Term International Monitoring,” July 5, 2019
  • Fact sheet: “Sudan’s Attacks on Peaceful Protesters and Physicians,” July 2019
  • Press release: “PHR Urges Visiting U.S. Administration Officials to Push Sudanese Forces to End Egregious Violence and Human Rights Violations Against Own People,” June 13, 2019
  • Press release: “Sudanese Rapid Support Forces Are Targeting Hospitals, Peaceful Sit-In; Dozens of Civilians Reported Killed,” June 3, 2019
  • Press release: “PHR: Sudanese Forces’ Use of Lethal Force to Quell Protests Calling for a Civilian-Led Government Must End,” May 16, 2019
  • Report: “Intimidation and Persecution: Sudan’s Attacks on Peaceful Protesters and Physicians,” April 5, 2019, and related press release
  • Report: “Nowhere to Turn: Failure to Protect, Support and Assure Justice for Darfuri Women,” May 1, 2009
  • Focus Area: Sexual Violence

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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