Voicing “deep concern” at the large number of Sudanese detained since mass protests erupted 10 days ago over fuel subsidy cuts, a United nations special expert today called on the Government to either charge them or release them immediately, while also ending heavy media censorship.
According to reports, at least 800 activists, including members of opposition parties and journalists have been arrested amid on-going demonstrations, in which up to 50 people were reportedly killed by security forces, a toll that last week prompted the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to call for “utmost restraint” from law enforcement officials.
Those detained are being held incommunicado with no access to lawyers or their families, the UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan, Mashood Adebayo Baderin, said in a news release.
“I urge the Government of the Sudan to charge all those arrested with a recognizable offence or immediately release them,” he said. “Furthermore, the Government must allow the detainees access to their families, legal representation and medical care.”
He also called on the authorities to end censorship on media outlets and enable basic freedoms, including the freedom to demonstrate peacefully. “Civilians have a right to assembly and peaceful demonstrations under international law, and the Government of the Sudan has an obligation to respect these rights under its constitution and under international law,” he stressed.
“I strongly condemn the use of violence against peaceful demonstrators and the destruction of public property during demonstrations. I urge both the Government and the demonstrators to completely refrain from resorting to violence.”
Quoting reports from various sources that Sudanese security agencies used excessive force against unarmed protestors, including firing live bullets, Mr. Baderin called on the authorities “to conduct prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into these incidents, and to hold those responsible to account.”
The fuel subsidy protests started on 23 September in the central state of Gezira and spread to other parts of the country including Khartoum, Omdurman, Darfur and Eastern Sudan.
Independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes.