Sudan has seen dramatic changes since protests that started mid-December led to the ouster of Sudan’s president for 30 years, Omar al-Bashir, in April. A transitional government took over in August. Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and his cabinet have only had a few weeks to become operational.
Now, with new leaders in place, we see an important opportunity for change, in line with the agreement signed by Sudan’s military and civilian leaders on August 17, to put human rights, rule of law, and accountability up front after decades of rule by violent repression, impunity, and corruption.
As Human Rights Watch has documented, since December, government security forces used live ammunition against unarmed protesters, detained activists and political opponents, censored the media and blocked the internet. The forces also targeted medical personnel and facilities, detaining doctors and shooting into hospitals.
After al-Bashir’s ouster, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) – the paramilitary force known for attacks on civilians in Darfur since 2013 – carried out these crackdowns as protests continued. The bloodiest was their attack on the sit-in in Khartoum on June 3, in which RSF shot at unarmed protesters, killing scores, rounded up hundreds and subjected them to beatings, sexual violence and other abuse.
We urge the new government to ensure the investigation committee, announced on September 21, is effective. It should investigate attacks on protesters since December 2018, with clear powers of investigation and preservation of evidence and serve as a step toward accountability for those responsible. We urge the government to seek expertise to support the investigation committee’s work from regional and international bodies, including from the Council.
We urge the government to move forward to establish a fully mandated OHCHR office with a wide geographic scope, and the Council should ensure the High Commissioner’s office is able to monitor and report to the Council on its work and the human rights situation in the country. In addition, the mandate of the Independent Expert should not end when the OHCHR office is established, but be extended to provide ongoing technical assistance, monitoring, and public reporting.
Victims of repression during the al-Bashir era still await justice. Al-Bashir and his associates wanted by the International Criminal Court have yet to be transferred to The Hague for prosecution.
With all the challenges that lie ahead, we hope Sudan’s new leadership will make justice a priority, and the Council, rather than abandoning the country, should ramp up its engagement and ensure that clear benchmarks for progress are identified.