UN expert slams 'excessive use of force' against Sudan protesters

UN Sudan expert calls for 'thorough' probes into killings of demonstrators amid breakdown in political transition talks.

    More than 90 protesters have been killed since the protests against former leader Omar al-Bashir erupted, according to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors [Reuters]
    More than 90 protesters have been killed since the protests against former leader Omar al-Bashir erupted, according to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors [Reuters]

    A UN human rights expert has condemned reports of "excessive use of force" by Sudanese security forces against protesters demanding the country's military rulers cede power to a civilian-led administration.

    Aristide Nononsi, the United Nations independent expert on human rights in Sudan, called on Friday for Sudan's Transitional Military Council (TMC) to "exercise the utmost restraint" to avoid further violence after at least four people were killed and several others wounded earlier this week at protest sites in the capital, Khartoum. 

    "I strongly urge the Sudanese military and security forces to ... take immediate measures to protect the constitutional rights of the Sudanese people," Nononsi said in a UN statement.

    At least four people were killed on Monday, according to protesters, when troops in military vehicles using the logo of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) fired live ammunition as they tried to clear demonstrators from an avenue near Sudan's foreign ministry.

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    The dead included three protesters and a military police officer. 

    Two days later, at least 14 people were wounded, some from gunfire, when the RSF again tried to remove demonstrators from central Khartoum, according to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors.

    The head of the RSF, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemeti, is the deputy leader of the military council.

    Nononsi called for the military council to launch "thorough, independent and impartial investigations" into all the reported killings of protesters since December, when demonstrations erupted against longtime ruler, Omar al-Bashir

    The months-long demonstrations triggered the military's removal of al-Bashir on April 11. 

    The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said last week that at least 90 people have been killed by government forces since the demonstrations began.

    Last month, the Human Rights Watch put the death toll at 70.

    Al-Bashir on May 14 was charged "with inciting and participating" in the killing of protesters in the demonstrations that led to his overthrow.

    Transition talks suspended

    Nononsi's appeal came amid uncertainty over the future of talks between protest leaders and the TMC on a political transition.

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    The military council, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, suspended crucial talks with protest leaders for 72 hours on Wednesday, insisting that the security in the capital had deteriorated after demonstrators erected roadblocks on several avenues.

    The decision came as the generals and protest leaders were due to meet to finalise the make-up of a new body to govern Sudan for a transitional period of three years. The issue is at the heart of the divide between protest leaders and the TMC, who both want majority representation on the sovereign council.

    Al-Burhan demanded that protesters dismantle roadblocks, open bridges and railway lines connecting the capital and "stop provoking security forces" before the final talks could take place.

    Protesters had erected the barricades to keep pressure on the military rulers as the latest round of negotiations between the two sides commenced on Monday.

    Al Jazeera's Mohammed Adow, reporting from Khartoum, said al-Burhan's demands appeared to have been heeded by protesters, with the mood among demonstrators in the capital on Friday "far more conciliatory than before".

    "The protesters have lifted most of the barricades from the streets," Adow said.

    "They say the only barricades left are those around the square and put there for their own protection and that any attempt to remove them will be met with stiff resistance … because abandoning the revolution will be the death of Sudan," he said, referring to a site outside the defence ministry where a weeks-long sit-in has been held.

    In the early hours of Friday, hundreds of demonstrators chanting revolutionary slogans tore down roadblocks on Nile Street, a key avenue, that had paralysed downtown Khartoum for several days.

    "We have removed the bricks ... but if they do not respond to our demands then we will bring the bricks again," protester Sumeya Abdrahman told the AFP news agency.

    The Alliance for Freedom and Change, the umbrella group leading the protest movement, had previously described the move to suspend talks as "regrettable".

    "It ignores the developments achieved in negotiations so far ... and the fact that Wednesday's meeting was to finalise the agreement, which would have stopped the escalations such as roadblocks," the group said in a statement on Thursday.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies