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Report: Sudan Security Forces Who Killed Kassala Protesters Never Held Accountable

FILE - A Sudanese man wearing a face mask waves his country's national flag during protests in Khartoum to mark the second anniversary of the start of a revolt that toppled the previous government, Dec. 19, 2020.
FILE - A Sudanese man wearing a face mask waves his country's national flag during protests in Khartoum to mark the second anniversary of the start of a revolt that toppled the previous government, Dec. 19, 2020.

Sudanese security forces who killed seven Sudanese protesters in Kassala two months ago were never held accountable, according to a recent report released by Human Rights Watch.

Mohamed Osman, an assistant researcher with HRW’s Africa Division, said Sudan’s transitional government must bring all perpetrators of human rights abuses to justice to prevent further abuse from occurring in the country.

The unrest on October 15 was triggered by Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s decision two days earlier to fire Kassala Governor Saleh Ammar, who belonged to the ethnic group Bani Amir. Ammar had just been appointed to the post in July.

Excessive force documented

Osman said his organization documented several cases of excessive use of force, including lethal force by the Rapid Support Forces, the Sudanese army and the Central Reserve police who were deployed to the streets of Kassala town for crowd control.

“Five of them were killed in front of Kassala hospital, for instance, in which they were attacked by elements of the Rapid Support Forces. In all these killings we documented forensic reports that indicate the sustained lethal gunshots in the upper parts of the body, so basically the report is rounding up cases [that] resorted to excessive use of force, failing to uphold and respect freedom of assembly and right to life,” Osman told South Sudan in Focus.

One day after the crackdown, Sudan’s information minister announced the attorney general’s office would investigate the events.

Under international law, Sudanese authorities are obligated to respect and protect human rights, Osman said.

“The fact that these violations were committed by officials puts Sudan under obligation to thoroughly investigate and prosecute perpetrators,” but that hasn’t happened, according to Osman. He said the victims in Kassala have joined “a very long list of families and victims in Sudan,” not only in terms of crimes committed during ousted President Omar al-Bashir’s rule, but during the military’s violent crackdown on the June 3, 2019, Khartoum sit-in, when more than 100 civilians were killed.

Despite repeated promises made by Sudan’s government to investigate and punish members of the armed forces accused of committing crimes, very little has been done, Osman said.

“We see numerous committees being formed by authorities, but we are not seeing any substantial outcome, and that’s definitely very worrying,” Osman told VOA.

Attorney general opens criminal case

Sudan Attorney General Tag el-Sir el-Hibir said the Office of Public Prosecution in Kassala immediately opened a criminal case against the accused forces and investigated the incidents of October 15.

The law was applied “under Article 130 and I think Article 186 of Sudan’s criminal law, which addresses charges pertaining to crimes against humanity in some cases,” el-Hibir told South Sudan in Focus on Thursday.

The attorney general confirmed the accused “are affiliated with the military establishment” but added that all “investigations and procedures are complete, and now we are in the stage where the accused should be handed over to stand trial.”

Waiting on military response

El-Hibir said he wrote to the military asking that the accused be stripped of their immunities and handed over to the relevant Office of Public Prosecution and is awaiting their response.

Osman said it is critical for the transitional government to carry out widespread security sector reform.

“Seeing groups like the RSF and the army doing what law enforcement would do, we are seeing these forces with their own records of abuses from counterinsurgency in the conflict areas all the way to June 3, doing something they’re not trained for,” Osman told VOA.