Sudan police fire tear gas at protesters amid international outcry over killings

Number of protesters killed since October military takeover rises to 113

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Sudanese police fired tear gas on Friday to disperse hundreds of anti-military protesters demonstrating near the Republican Palace in Khartoum for the second day in a row.

The protests came amid an international outcry over the killing of nine protesters during mass rallies in Khartoum against October’s military takeover. The coup derailed Sudan’s democratic transition and plunged the country of 44 million people into an economic and political crisis.

Friday’s protesters chanted slogans against the takeover, led by army chief Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan.

“The people want to bring down Burhan,” protesters chanted. Others carried posters bearing images of those killed in protest-related violence since the army's takeover.

“We call for retribution,” they shouted.

The nine deaths took the number of people killed in political violence since October to 113. The latest was reported on Friday by an opposition medical group when a protester died of wounds suffered during a protest on June 24. At least 5,000 have been injured since October.

After Thursday’s violence, the UN, the African Union and the regional IGAD group said they condemned “in the strongest terms possible” the actions of Sudan’s security forces against protesters.

The three organisations also expressed “disappointment” over the violence and what they said was a lack of accountability.

For months, the three have been trying to arrange negotiations between political groups in Sudan to find a way out of the political crisis. But they have made little progress so far.

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said she was “alarmed” at the killings.

“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.” Ms Bachelet said. “Lethal force is a measure of last resort and only in cases where there is an imminent threat to life or of serious injury.”

Britain, Sudan’s former colonial power, said it was “appalled” by the loss of life.

Protesters during the rally against military rule in Khartoum on Friday.  Reuters

“We call for full and transparent investigations into the killings since October 25,” read a statement by its embassy in Khartoum. “Impunity and killing must stop.”

The US embassy in the capital said it was “heartbroken” over the loss of life and said the perpetrators must be held to account.

Gen Al Burhan, who insists October’s takeover saved the country from civil war, has repeatedly said he has ordered investigations into the killing of protesters as well as sexual assault on female protesters by security forces.

However, he has yet to report on their progress or whether anyone has been formally charged over the killings and abuse. Last month, he said that six or seven people were being investigated in connection with the violence.

Speaking on the US-funded Al Hurra television last month, he said the matter was being dealt with by the judicial authorities and the military could not intervene in their work.

A high-profile investigation launched in 2019 into the killing of at least 120 protesters in June that year has yet to publish its findings. The deaths occurred when security forces broke up a sit-in protest outside the army’s headquarters in Khartoum.

In his interview with Al Hurra, Mr Al Burhan blamed the protesters for the clashes, claiming that they attacked policemen and state installations.

He distanced the military from the violence, saying its policy was to refrain from the use of force. “Political rivalries are responsible for these events and everything else that happens in Sudan,” he said.

Late on Thursday, Sudan's police blamed the protesters for injuring 96 officers and 129 military personnel, “some critically”.

However, pro-democracy protesters remain determined to end the rule of the generals.

The Resistance Committees, a neighbourhood-based youth movement, said on Friday it intended an “indefinite and peaceful escalation” to bring down military rule. It did not elaborate.

Another pro-democracy group, the Forces of Freedom and Change, said Thursday’s rallies, which drew tens of thousands on to the streets, “proved that the revolution is alive and will not die”.

In a warning to the military, it added: “The people are not only looking for freedom and civilian rule, but are placing on the top of their priorities the creation of a unified and professional army.”

Updated: July 02, 2022, 4:08 AM
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