UN rights chief heaps pressure on leaders of Sudan’s military takeover

Michelle Bachelet and diplomats want Sudan back on the road to democracy

Sudanese anti-coup protesters gather in a street in Khartoum to express support for the country's democratic transition following the military takeover. AFP
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UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Friday condemned the “deeply disturbing” coup in Sudan, heaping more international pressure on the embattled military leaders who staged last month’s takeover.

Ms Bachelet, the UN’s high commissioner of human rights, slammed the military power grab, the detention of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and others, as well as the crackdown on journalists, activists, politicians and anti-coup protesters.

“I urge Sudan’s military leaders and their backers to step back in order to allow the country to return to the path of progress towards institutional and legal reforms,” Ms Bachelet told emergency UN talks in Geneva.

She accused the Sudanese security forces of an “excessive use of force” against those rallying against the putsch and called for investigations into an estimated 13 deaths and the prosecutions of those responsible for abuses.

The military takeover runs counter to international and national laws and “betrays the courageous and inspiring revolution of 2019”, which toppled former president Omar Al Bashir and ushered in a transition to democracy, said Ms Bachelet.

The 47-member UN council met at the request of Britain and others. Western diplomats have been pushing for an expert to monitor events since the coup and prepare a written report early next year.

In a statement, Britain's Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the coup jeopardised gains made since 2019.

"The Sudanese people have taken to the streets in their millions in recent days to reject [the military's] actions. International condemnation has been fast and widespread," she said, noting however that it was still possible for Sudan's transition to "get back on course" through mediation and compromise.

Germany's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Katharina Stasch, said the proposal to name an investigator was “an important step to ensure accountability for human rights violations committed” in Sudan.

The UN envoy to Sudan, Volker Perthes, has this week been shuttling between Sudan’s military leaders and Mr Hamdok to broker a deal that would return the ousted prime minister to a power-sharing government.

The prime minister was allowed to return home under guard a day after the coup, though others remain jailed.

In separate phone calls on Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres pushed Gen Al Burhan to return Sudan to civilian rule.

Mr Blinken urged Gen Al Burhan to release the detainees, negotiate with Mr Hamdok, allow his return to office and restore “civilian-led governance”, his office said.

Addressing a New York think tank on Thursday, the US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said the “military has pushed out the civilians” from Sudan’s transitional government and demanded a return to the principles of the 2019 uprising.

“People fought for the changes that were needed there,” she told the Council on Foreign Relations.

Gen Al Burhan on Thursday ordered the release of four ministers detained since the military seized power and said the formation of a new government was “imminent”, Sudan TV reported.

The army chief on October 25 dissolved the government, declared a state of emergency and detained the prime minister and others, sparking international outrage and rallies aimed at restoring Sudan’s transition to democracy.

Updated: November 05, 2021, 7:12 PM