No Justice for September 2013 protesters killed in Sudan: Report

A Joint report by the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS),
Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch released today said Sudanese
authorities have yet to provide justice to victims of a violent crackdown
on anti-austerity protesters in Khartoum in September 2013.

“Although it seems like Sudan has succeeded in sweeping the horrific
violence of September 2013 under the carpet, victim families’ still demand
justice,” said Mossaad Mohamed Ali, executive director at ACJPS. “The UN
Human Rights Council, currently holding a session on Sudan, should press
Sudan to hold those responsible to account for the appalling bloodshed on
the streets of Khartoum and other towns, and provide meaningful justice to
victims of killings, assaults and other abuses.”

Sudanese authorities, according to the report, responded with a violent
crackdown to large-scale protests that swept the country following the
announcement of austerity measures on September 22, 2013, with security
forces and armed men allied to them using live ammunition, tear gas, and
batons. As many as 185 protesters and other civilians were killed, most of
them shot in the head or chest, ACJPS and Amnesty International found in a
joint study published in September 2014. Hundreds were injured and more
than 800 others arrested, some held for weeks. Human Rights Watch research
showed that many detainees were subjected to torture and other
ill-treatment, that many journalists and human rights defenders were
beaten, and those female protesters were sexually assaulted by security

Although Sudan established three state commissions of inquiry, no findings
have been made public. All attempts to gain access to the findings have
been unsuccessful. In September 2014, the United Nations independent expert
on Sudan stated that the information provided by the government “does not
provide evidence of a thorough and independent investigation.”

In November 2015, a Justice Ministry official announced that an
investigation by the ministry had found that just 86 protesters were killed
and that four security officers had been arrested in connection with these
deaths. Many victims’ families have tried to bring private prosecutions,
but the groups know of no prosecutions that have concluded. The groups know
of only one case – involving the killing of a pharmacist, Sarah Abdelbagi,
who was shot outside her home in Omdurman during the protest – that
advanced to trial. A policeman was convicted of her murder, but his
conviction was overturned on appeal in May 2014 for lack of evidence.

“The government’s response has been to deny the scale of the violence and
to claim that there is not sufficient evidence to identify and prosecute
the attackers, a response that denies the victims’ rights and encourages
impunity,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The
government needs to publicly admit the scale of the killings and the role
of its security forces.”

Sudan’s Ministry of Justice has attempted to settle cases by paying money
(diya) to the families of the 86 victims identified in government
investigations, which would be an insufficient remedy for these violations
and would not constitute a sufficient guarantee of non-repetition. The
government has failed to ensure full, thorough, and effective
investigations and prosecutions of those responsible for the killings. Even
where investigations have proceeded and prosecutions are pending, in around
16 cases, a patchwork of immunities protect security and law enforcement
officers from criminal prosecution, posing additional hurdles to justice.

“The September 2013 crackdown remains an ugly symbol of Sudan’s use of
lethal force against peaceful protesters, and the lack of accountability
for human rights abuses,” said Sarah Jackson, deputy regional director at
Amnesty International. “Human Rights Council member states currently
considering Sudan’s appalling rights record should loudly push the country
to take victims’ rights seriously.”

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