UN human rights chief alarmed over killing of protesters by security forces

The United Nations

The UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Friday expressed alarm over the killing of at least nine protesters by security forces in Sudan a day earlier, including a 15-year-old child.

The High Commissioner said in a statement that the deaths had occurred, “even after the police had announced they would not use lethal force to disperse the demonstrators.”

The protests in the capital Khartoum and elsewhere, marked the third anniversary of the major demonstrations that led to the overthrow of long-term leader, Omar al-Bashir.

Thousands on the streets

Tens of thousands took to the streets, according to news reports, many railing against the military coup eight months ago that ended the power sharing agreement between top military and civilian leaders, ending a period of transitional government, towards national elections.

Security forces reportedly fired tear gas and used water cannons in an effort to prevent demonstrators from marching towards the presidential palace.

The UN High Commissioner said reports indicated that security forces had also used live bullets.

No accountability

“The latest killings, which took place at a time when the mobile and internet communications had been shut down across the country, bring the number of people killed by security forces in the context of protests since the coup last year, to 113”, she said.

“So far, no-one has been held accountable for these deaths.”

Ms. Bachelet said that according to medical sources, most of those killed were shot in the chest, head, and back. Security forces also arrested at least 355 protesters across the country, including at least 39 women and a considerable number of children, she added.

“I again stress to the Sudanese authorities that force should be used only when strictly necessary and in full compliance with the principles of legality, necessity, precaution, and proportionality”, said the UN rights chief.

Lethal force must be ‘last resort’

“In no case is force permissible to dissuade or intimidate protesters from exercising their rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly, or to threaten them with harm for doing so. Lethal force is a measure of last resort and only in cases where there is an imminent threat to life or of serious injury.”

She reminded that the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and participation in public affairs are protected under international human rights law, “including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sudan is a State Party”.

She called on the military authorities to conduct an independent, transparent, thorough, and impartial investigation into the response by the security forces under their command, in accordance with relevant international standards, including the Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death, and to hold those responsible to account.

“Victims, survivors, and their families have a right to truth, justice and reparations.”

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