NEW YORK – This morning, what was a peaceful sit-in in Khartoum calling for the installation of a civilian government turned into bloodshed at the hands of the Sudanese Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary entity responsible for egregious crimes against Sudanese people. According to the Sudanese Doctors Syndicate, at least 30 people have been killed by live ammunition, over 200 people have been injured, several hospitals have been attacked, and doctors are fearing retribution for treating the injured. Today’s crackdown is in the aftermath of months of lethal violence against protesters pressing for democracy and rights.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has been tracking government violence against the Sudanese people since a round of protests began in December. In April, 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 calls for accountability for members of the Sudanese government and security forces who have perpetrated crimes against protesters and the medical community and demands justice for the victims. In subsequent weeks, doctors and other prisoners were released, the president was forced out of office and jailed, and dialogue ensued between leaders of opposition movements and newly appointed officials in a transitional council, most of whom were leaders in the previous government.
“The lethal attacks committed by the Rapid Support Forces in Sudan today are evidence that the violence against peaceful protesters in Sudan is once again on the rise,” said Maryam Al-Khawaja, European director and interim director of advocacy at Physicians for Human Rights. “This is a perilous sign for the likelihood that negotiations between the Transitional Military Council and civilian representatives will lead in the near future to democracy and the assurance of respect for human rights in Sudan.
“The Sudanese people are exercising their right to express their disapproval with the transitional military regime and the urgency of installing a majority civilian government. In turn, Sudanese authorities are employing terror to quell their voices, including restricting medical professionals from their right enshrined in international law to do their jobs and treat the wounded.
“PHR welcomes today’s statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, and agrees that it is imperative to press the Sudanese government to protect civilians and respect their fundamental human rights and to push for accountability. As such, the United Nations Human Rights Council should hold an urgent session on Sudan and mandate an urgent fact-finding mission to enter Sudan to document the facts on the ground as it uses its international platform to put an end to this violence, hold perpetrators accountable, and support a transition to civilian rule. Delays in accountability for human rights violations and the lack of a concerted international response to the egregious violations in Sudan have exacerbated a volatile situation and further endangered the Sudanese people.”
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.