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Killing of protesters “utterly shameful,” says UN High Commissioner

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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has condemned the killings of peaceful protesters against military rule in Sudan.

It is “utterly shameful” that live ammunition keeps being used against protesters, Ms Bachelet said in a statement from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.

According to reports, security forces killed at least 15 people and wounded thousands of Sudanese protesting on Wednesday against military rule.

The protesters, marching against an October 25 coup across the capital Khartoum and in the cities of Bahri and Omdurman, demanded a full handover to civilian authorities and for the leaders of the October 25 coup to be put on trial.

Ms Bachelet said at least 39 people had been killed by security forces in Sudan since the October 25 military coup, 15 of whom were reportedly shot dead on Wednesday.

“Shooting into large crowds of unarmed demonstrators, leaving dozens dead and many more injured, is deplorable, clearly aimed at stifling the expression of public dissent, and amounts to gross violations of international human rights law,” she said.

According to reliable medical sources, more than 100 people were wounded during protests on Wednesday in Khartoum, Khartoum-Bahri and Omdurman.

Of the injured, 80 sustained gunshot injuries to their upper bodies and heads.

Arrests were reported to have been made before, during and after the demonstrations. Police issued a statement saying that 89 police officers had also been injured.

On Wednesday, the military imposed a total shutdown of phone and mobile communications across the country, in addition to the continued shutdown of internet services, effectively cutting off Sudan from the world.

Only satellite links continued to function.

Ms Bachelet explained that people were unable to call for ambulances to treat injured protesters.

She said families were unable to check on the safety of their loved ones, and hospitals were also unable to reach doctors as emergency rooms filled up, to name just a few very real and serious consequences.

“Blanket internet and telecommunications shutdowns violate core principles of necessity and proportionality and contravene international law,” the High Commissioner said.

Since the military coup, journalists, particularly those perceived to be critical of the authorities, have been targeted.

Journalists have been arbitrarily arrested, attacked while reporting, and had their homes and offices raided by security forces.

There have also been disturbing reports of their attempted abduction by armed assailants in plain clothes.

“With the internet shutdowns, the role of journalists in getting essential information out on the current situation is particularly crucial, but I fear the increasingly hostile environment against them may lead to self-censorship, and further threaten media pluralism and independence,” she said.

Ms Bachelet also urged the authorities to immediately release all those who had been detained for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, as well as all detained political actors.

She upheld that all members of the security forces and political and military leaders responsible for unnecessary and disproportionate use of force against protesters must be held accountable in line with international human rights law.

The Commissioner also stressed the need to ensure that healthcare workers were not targeted for providing medical care to injured protesters and that their essential work is not hampered. 

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