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Sudan’s New Investigation Committee Raises Concerns

Revisions Needed to Ensure Independent, Credible Inquiry

Sudanese protesters gather outside the house of a man killed by security forces on June 3, during a demonstration against the ruling military council, in Khartoum, Sudan, June 30, 2019. © 2019 AP Photo/Hussein Malla

Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has announced an investigation into a bloody attack by Sudanese security forces on pro-democracy demonstrators in the capital, Khartoum, on June 3. More than a 100 protesters, bystanders, and medical workers were killed and many more were injured.

The announcement of the establishment of a national investigation committee came just hours before the one-month deadline for forming the committee, provided in the agreement signed by Sudan’s military and civilian leaders on August 17.

Sudan has a long history of impunity for serious human rights violations – there are no known prosecutions for grave abuses in the last 30 years. So the families of the victims of the June 3 massacre have reason to fear there will be no justice for their loss.

Investigation committees can ensure that an independent, credible, and impartial inquiry is carried out, particularly under circumstances in which the police are unlikely to do so. They are a first step towards accountability by providing state prosecutors with the information needed to bring criminal prosecutions against those implicated.    

The proposed seven-member committee already raises concerns about meeting the basic standards. The committee includes a representative from the Ministry of Defense, which oversees all armed forces, including the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) that Human Rights Watch and others found were responsible for a wide range of abuses that took place just outside of the ministry’s buildings on June 3.  

A Supreme Court judge is also a committee member, which considering how compromised Sudan’s judiciary has been over the years, won’t necessarily bring greater independence and impartiality to the committee.  

Beyond ensuring a genuinely independent and impartial committee, there are other steps that can be taken. Families of victims have requested representation on the committee through their lawyers. They have also asked for regional supervision over the committee’s work to ensure it maintains its independence. The committee should also not limit its inquiry to the June 3 attack, but should document events back to December 2018 when abuses against the protests started, and identify all those responsible.

Only if the committee works transparently, incorporates findings from competent sources, and provides strong recommendations on achieving real accountability, including through wider reform of the justice and security sector, can there be hope for justice.

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