Accountability in Sudan ‘crucial’ to avoid ‘further bloodshed’, says UN rights office

UN Sudan/Ayman Suliman Protesters take to streets in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. (11 April 2019)

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


Now in its fifth day, a crackdown by the military authorities in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, with dozens reported killed, has prompted a “gravely concerned” UN human rights office (OHCHR) to propose the “rapid deployment” of a monitoring team to look into allegations of serious rights violations.

Spokesperson Rupert Colville told journalists in Geneva on Friday that the UN was seeking the military Government’s cooperation to deploy the mission, which would seek, at the earliest opportunity, “to engage with relevant Sudanese authorities, civil society organizations and others”.

After the three-decade autocratic rule of President Omar al-Bashir ended in a military takeover in April, talks faltered in May between protesters and the ruling Transitional Military Council over a timetable for civilian rule.

The violence on Monday began when security forces fired on pro-democracy protesters in Khartoum, leaving a number of people dead and many more injured.

“Once again, we call on the authorities to ensure a prompt, independent investigation into the use of excessive force against protest camps – including the alleged involvement of the Rapid Support Forces”, he said.

He elaborated out that among its troops were members of the former Janjaweed militias that are linked to systematic human rights abuses in the Darfur region between 2003 and 2008.

“Accountability is crucial to avoid further bloodshed”, he spelled out. “We stress the need for a swift transition to a civilian administration”.

Also, on Friday the Office of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister tweeted that PM Abiy Ahmed and his delegation arrived in Khartoum “for talks with the Chief of the Sudanese Transitional Military Council, Lt. Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan”.

Meanwhile, amid the uptick in violence, a five-hour meeting on Thursday of the African Union ended with the suspension of Sudan’s membership to the pan-African group “with immediate effect”, according to an AU tweet.

Protect health care

For its part, the World Health Organization, WHO, expressed serious concern over incursions into Khartoum hospitals, which have resulted in the shutting down of emergency services, unwarrantedly transferring patients and injuries to medical staff and patients.

“Health care workers appear to have been targeted for fulfilling their professional duties in providing care to the injured”, WHO Regional Director Ahmed Al-Mandhari said in a statement.

He lamented that mobile health tent clinics that were set up to treat injured protestors, have been “set on fire and destroyed; medical equipment looted, and health care workers assaulted” and highlighted reports alleging that that female health workers have been raped.

“These actions represent a total and unacceptable violation of international human rights law and must stop”, stressed Dr. Al-Mandhari.

He maintained that health care “should be protected from political interference and security operations” and that health workers “must be allowed to treat the injured and sick, without concern for their own safety or that of their patients”.

“We call for an immediate cessation of all activities that put the lives of health staff and patients at risk and disrupt the delivery of essential health services”, underscored the senior WHO official.

WHO and Sudan’s Health Ministry continue to play a critical role in ensuring that hospitals remain operational and that essential medicines are brought into the country in a timely manner. Nine trucks carrying WHO medical supplies have already arrived in Khartoum.

“WHO will continue to monitor the situation and speak out as necessary about this unacceptable situation that has not only resulted in deaths and injuries, but also attacks against the very professionals and facilities meant to help”, concluded the Regional Director.

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