NEW YORK – Today’s announcement from Sudan’s military and civilian leaders that they will launch a shared power arrangement until free and fair elections are held is a positive move forward that must be met with cautious optimism and a renewed focus on accountability for human rights violations, including an independent, impartial, international investigation into recent brutal violence against peaceful Sudanese protesters, says Physicians for Human Rights (PHR).
PHR and its medical colleagues in Sudan have been documenting government violence against the Sudanese people since protests began in December 2018.
“Tens of thousands of Sudanese people have courageously protested against continuous corruption and their repressive government. The ruling forces have responded to the largely peaceful demonstrations with repeated violence, fatal use of tear gas and stun guns, and other severe human rights violations.
“In Sudan, doctors fear retribution for treating the injured, and tear gas and other weapons have been fired into hospitals, making some medical care inaccessible. The Transitional Military Council, which took over authority after the ouster in April of longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir, has shut down the internet to limit people’s right to organize and assemble against it, as well as to impede communication with the outside world.
“The United Nations Human Rights Council should immediately establish a commission of inquiry investigating Sudanese ruling forces’ continuous violations of national and international law, and not leave accountability in the hands of the Transitional Military Council (TMC) as a transitional government is formed. Those responsible for gross human rights violations must be held accountable for their crimes, including those in leadership positions within the TMC. The international community must monitor the human rights situation in Sudan in the months ahead. If Sudanese military forces wish to demonstrate plans to fulfill the transition to civilian rule, they must immediately release all prisoners of conscience and end the ill-treatment of all detainees; respect fundamental freedoms of expression, association, and assembly; end the internet shutdown; 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, 30 more peaceful protesters were killed, 200 protesters were injured, and additional hospitals and medical professionals were attacked.
On Monday, PHR’s colleague Dr. Shaza Elhmahdi, director of advocacy at the Sudanese American Physicians Association, will be participating in a discussion in Geneva during the UN Human Rights Council regular session. The panel will discuss the role of the Human Rights Council in responding to and preventing attacks against the Sudanese people.
Additional PHR resources on Sudan:
• 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.