Rights groups urge Sudan army to free those detained in coup

Rights groups urge Sudan army to free those detained in coup
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have called on the Sudanese military to release politicians, activists and others detained since last month's coup and stop violence against protesters
3 min read
09 November, 2021
At least 14 anti-coup protesters have been killed due to excessive force used by the country’s security forces since last month's military coup [Getty]

Two leading international rights groups urged Sudan’s military in a joint statement Tuesday to release government officials, activists and others detained during the army's coup last month.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International also appealed for an end to "further arbitrary arrests" and the crackdown that has been taking place on anti-coup protests.

This was the first time the two groups issued a joint statement; they had each separately appealed on Sudan's military to free those arrested during and after the coup.

On October 25, the Sudanese military seized power, dissolving the country’s transitional government and detaining more than 100 government officials and political leaders, along with a large number of protesters and activists. The army also placed the country’s Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, under house arrest in his residence in the capital of Khartoum.

Since the takeover, at least 14 anti-coup protesters have been killed due to excessive force used by the country’s security forces, according to Sudanese doctors and the United Nations. On Sunday, security forces tear-gassed demonstrators and rounded up more than 100 people, most of them anti-coup teachers in Khartoum.

The coup has drawn international criticism and massive protests in the streets of Khartoum and elsewhere in the country.

Moez Hadra, a defense lawyer for the deposed officials, said half of them are believed to be held in Khartoum while the others are scattered across the country’s provinces. Hadra added that he and other defense lawyers have yet to be allowed to communicate with some of their clients or even know their whereabouts.

Twenty-five of those detained face charges of inciting troops to rebel against their leaders, he said. If convicted, they would likely face up to life imprisonment, he added.

Mohamed Osman, Human Rights Watch's researcher on Sudan, said that since the coup, "the Sudanese military has resorted to its well-trodden and brutal tactics, undermining small but important progress on rights and freedoms that Sudanese from all walks of life have fought for."

The coup has upended the country’s fragile planned transition to democratic rule, more than two years after a popular uprising forced the removal of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir and his Islamist government in April 2019.

Sudanese have taken to the streets in masses against the coup. The protest movement insists on a full civilian government to rule Sudan during the transition. But military leaders have maintained they were compelled to take over because of alleged quarrels among political parties that they claimed could lead to civil war.

International mediation efforts have been underway to find a way out of the crisis — or at least return Sudan to its pre-coup status — with little headway. For its part, the protest movement has rejected internationally backed initiatives to return to a power-sharing arrangement with the military.

Tuesday's joint statement quoted Sarah Jackson, Amnesty's deputy regional director, as calling for a "joint, coordinated, and strong regional and international response" to rights violations in Sudan.

"The Sudanese people have the rights to peaceful protest, to liberty and security, fair trial, and many more that the military cannot undermine," she said.