Sudanese security forces have raided the premises of a commission investigating a June 2019 massacre of protesters in the capital city of Khartoum, forcing it to suspend operations.
According to Nail Adeeb, the commission’s chairperson, the building was raided on Monday by uniformed men who came in, kicked out the workers and took over the building.
“What has happened will cripple the investigation and it might finish it altogether” Adeeb, a human rights lawyer said.
A witness who requested anonymity for fear of retribution told Al Jazeera that the raid was a joint military operation carried out by forces from the army intelligence and the Rapid Support forces – a paramilitary squad composed of former Popular Defence Forces (known as Janjaweed) militiamen.
Adeeb had told local daily Al Jareeda that there had been multiple attempts in the past to take over the building following the October 2019 coup, including a direct request by the Ministry of Finance but the commission had refused.
Osama Bella el-Shaikh, a Khartoum-based human rights lawyer, says it was illegal for an accused party to put hands on the documents that might convict them. “What has happened to the commission is very dangerous and it will end the justice in this country,” he said.
Previously, protesters and activists have accused the commission of not being independent – two of its seven members are senior security forces alongside human rights lawyers.
The activists also said it has been very slow in reaching an outcome; three years after its investigation began, it had yet to come up with any results until it announced the suspension of its activities on March 7. It has also been accused of leaking the identities of witnesses, an allegation Adeeb has denied.
On June 3, 2019, soldiers opened fire on demonstrators who were having a sit-in just in front of the military headquarters in Khartoum. Hundreds were killed, dozens were raped and more than 40 bodies dumped into the Nile, according to witnesses and human rights groups.
Consequently, former Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok established the commission to investigate the crackdown.
The sit-in by hundreds of thousands of Sudanese people started on April 6th, 2019 to force al-Bashir’s resignation. He did so five days later, but his generals formed a military council headed by Abdulfatah al-Burhan and his deputy Mohamed Hamdan Hemedti to rule the country.
Consequently, the protesters remained in place to demand a civilian government instead of al-Bashir’s generals.
In July, as internet services were restored within the country, videos circulated on social media showing security forces, including some wearing the uniforms of the Popular Defence Forces militia, beating protesters at the location.
In a news conference after the June 2019 episode, military council spokesman Shamseldien al-Kabashi admitted that the military hierarchy had given orders to disperse the rally. But he also said the army wanted to clear an area near the location on the bank of the Blue Nile where they believed people were selling drugs.
Last October, al-Burhan overthrew the transitional government alongside the current finance minister, Gibril Ibrahim, and other former Darfur rebels. More than 80 people were killed in protests across the country as they demonstrated against the coup.
The entire civilian government was initially jailed but Hamdok was eventually released based on a new power-sharing deal, but the former prime minister later resigned. The military has remained in power, aided by emergency laws.