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UN rights chief condemns killings of peaceful protesters in Sudan

Michelle Bachelet says 15 people reportedly shot dead in 3 centers on Wednesday as internet services remain shut

Peter Kenny   | 18.11.2021
UN rights chief condemns killings of peaceful protesters in Sudan

GENEVA 

The UN's human rights chief on Thursday condemned the killing of at least 39 people by Sudanese security forces since the Oct. 25 military coup in the country and lethal shootings in three different places the day before.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said 15 people were reportedly shot dead on Wednesday during protests in the capital Khartoum, as well as the Khartoum-Bahri and Omdurman centers.

"Following our repeated appeals to the military and security authorities to refrain from the use of unnecessary and disproportionate force against demonstrators, it is utterly shameful that live ammunition was again used yesterday against protesters," Bachelet said.

"Shooting into large crowds of unarmed demonstrators, leaving dozens dead and many more injured, is deplorable, clearly aimed at stifling the expression of public dissent, and amounts to gross violations of international human rights law."

From around midday on Wednesday, local time, the military authority imposed a total countrywide shutdown of phone and mobile communications, in addition to the continued shutdown of internet services, effectively cutting Sudan off from the world, said the UN.

Only satellite links continued to function.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, which spearheaded protests that led to the overthrow of long-serving President Omar al-Bashir in 2019, and the Sudanese Congress Party had called for mass turnout in Wednesday's protests.

The UN rights office said that according to reliable medical sources, more than 100 people were wounded during Wednesday's protests -- 80 of whom sustained gunshot injuries to their upper bodies and heads.

Teargas was also heavily used and arrest operations reportedly took place before, during, and after the demonstrations.

Police issued a statement that 89 officers had been injured, said the UN office.

"A communication shutdown means people are unable to call for ambulances to treat injured protesters, families are unable to check on the safety of their loved ones, and hospitals are unable to reach doctors as emergency rooms filled up, to name just a few very real and serious consequences," said Bachelet.

"Blanket Internet and telecommunications shutdowns violate core principles of necessity and proportionality and contravene international law."


'Journalists targeted'

The UN rights office said journalists, particularly those perceived to be critical of authorities, had been targeted since the military coup took place.

There was also information of attempted abduction of journalists by armed assailants in plain clothes.

"With the internet shutdowns, the role of journalists in getting essential information out on the current situation is particularly crucial, but I fear the increasingly hostile environment against them may lead to self-censorship and further threaten media pluralism and independence," said the rights chief.

The head of Sudan's ruling military council, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, declared a state of emergency and dissolved the transitional Sovereign Council and government amid rival protests and accusations between the military and politicians in the country.

Al-Burhan insists that the measures are meant to protect the country from "imminent danger" and accused those rejecting his move of "stirring chaos."

Bachelet urged the authorities to immediately release all those detained "for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly."

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