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Protesters rally in front of the military headquarters in the capital Khartoum, Sudan, Monday, April 8, 2019.  © 2019 AP Photo

(Nairobi) – Security forces in Sudan reportedly killed at least eight protesters from April 6-8, 2019 and injured dozens during lethal attempts to disperse peaceful protesters.

On April 6, thousands of protesters converged on the army headquarters calling for President Omar al-Bashir to step down. The Sudan Professionals Association, one of the groups spearheading the protests, and opposition groups have called for protests and sit-ins, which began in mid-December 2018, to continue until al-Bashir steps down. Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for atrocities in Darfur.

“Sudan’s leaders need to bring an end to the violence against peaceful protesters. Such brutal crackdowns are unjustified, unlawful, and counterproductive,” said Jehanne Henry, associate Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “They should respect the right of Sudanese people to peacefully protest.”

Government forces – including national security, police, and auxiliary forces – dispersed protesters using live ammunition, teargas, and stun grenades while army personnel sought to protect protesters and guarded the entrance to the sit-in area, witnesses told Human Rights Watch. 

On April 6, government forces shot dead four protesters at the army headquarters, as well as a 19-year old mother during a protest at a camp in Zalingei for internally displaced people, and a lab technician in Omdurman, according to Sudanese Doctors Committee. The group said that another protester was run over by a government vehicle in El Obeid on April 7 and died from his injuries, as did a man in south Khartoum who was shot by security forces on April 8.

Scores of others were wounded in Khartoum by bullets and tear gas canisters, witnesses said.

At least one soldier was reported killed as tensions flared between the army and other forces, which clashed around the army headquarters on April 7 and 8. Human Rights Watch has not been able to verify the circumstances of all the reported killings. Credible monitors estimate that over 70 protesters have been killed by government forces since December. 

April 6  was the 34th anniversary of the 1985 revolution that overthrew former president Ja’afar Numeri and his government. Army commanders interfered in the 1985 events to protect protesters and join ranks with them.

Sudan’s government has not issued any official statement on the developments, and Al-Bashir has not shown any sign of stepping down. On April 7, the European Union called on authorities to stop using live ammunition and teargas against protesters and to release political detainees. On April 8, the United Nations secretary-general called for restraint, respect for basic rights of expression and assembly, and the release of detainees.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the African Union, and others should also press Sudan for an independent investigation into all abuses during the protests, Human Rights Watch said.

“For over four months, Sudanese forces have been shooting protesters in the streets and locking them up for expressing their views,” Henry said. “Sudan’s government needs to call a halt to the violence, and to allow independent investigators into the country to investigate all the alleged killings and other violations.”

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