Sudan lifts state of emergency after UN call to halt clampdown

Volker Perthes, the UN special representative in Sudan, said that emergency powers should be ended after two protesters were killed

Protesters clash with security forces as they fire tear gas to prevent them from marching towards the presidential palace during demonstrations demanding civilian rule, in Khartoum, Sudan, May 19, 2022. AP Photo
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Sudan’s military ruler on Sunday lifted a nationwide wide state of emergency he declared when he seized power in a coup last October.

The decision by Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan was made after a meeting earlier on Sunday of the Defence and Security Council, which recommended rescinding the state of emergency. This had given security forces and domestic intelligence agencies far-reaching powers.

The emergency measures allowed the military to arrest critics en masse, while security forces had widespread surveillance powers and could subject those arrested to lengthy pre-trial detention.

Gen Al Burhan also on Sunday approved the release of all detainees, except those held in connection with state security or criminal charges, according to a statement by the council.

The decisions are unlikely to appease the pro-democracy organisers and activists behind near-daily street protests against the military since the October 25 coup. They have consistently been demanding the end of military rule and retribution for the scores of protesters killed over the past seven months.

The latest deaths occurred on Saturday, when two protesters were shot dead by security forces during anti-military rallies in Khartoum. This brought the number of those killed by police and paramilitary forces to nearly 100 since October. Another 3,000 have been wounded.

“I am appalled by the violent death of two young protesters in Khartoum yesterday," Volker Perthes, the UN special representative in Sudan, tweeted on Sunday. "Once again: it is time for the violence to stop, time to end the state of emergency, time for a peaceful way out of the current crisis in Sudan."

His sentiment reflected the growing impatience of the international community over the use of lethal force against unarmed civilians in Sudan.

Gen Al Burhan has repeatedly promised to hold free elections in 2024. However, the opposition in Sudan contends that he is buying time to strengthen his hold on power, while seeking to co-opt some political parties, tribal chiefs and residents of “fringe” regions desperate for a patron in Khartoum. Marginalised communities have long hoped for a government that could set aside funds for the development of their areas, or give senior government positions to their leaders.

Sunday’s decisions also come at a time when the United States is ratcheting up pressure on Sudan's military rulers. The US is also advising companies not to do business in Sudan and threatening sanctions against leaders deemed to be obstructing the return of the country's democratic transition upended by the coup.

The US and other major bilateral and multinational donors have already suspended billions of dollars worth of aid and debt forgiveness to Sudan in response to last year’s coup.

The military also announced on Sunday that the Qatar-based TV network Al Jazeera would be allowed to operate freely again in Sudan. The news channel had its licence withdrawn last year for what authorities at the time said was its biased coverage of anti-military protests.

Updated: May 29, 2022, 6:31 PM