Human Rights Watch (Washington, DC)

3 August 2012

Sudan - Police Fatally Shoot Darfur Protesters - Investigate and Prosecute Authorities Responsible

Photo: Kate Holt/IRIN
Waiting for food (filr photo): Protests over high costs of food and transport has killed and injured dozens in Nyala, South Darfur.

Juba — The Sudanese government should forcefully condemn the killing of 12 peaceful protesters in South Darfur by police and other security forces on July 31, 2012, and investigate and prosecute those responsible, Human Rights Watch said today.

"The Sudanese government needs to take decisive action when its forces shoot and kill students peacefully demonstrating against the government," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "The government should denounce the illegal killings in Darfur and investigate those responsible."

In Nyala, South Darfur, high school students started protesting on July 30 against transportation price increases. The following morning, police and national security forces dispersed the protests by shooting teargas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition at protesters, killing at least eight on the spot and injuring about 100 others.

As of August 2, at least 12 protesters had died, according to Sudanese nongovernmental groups monitoring the situation. A 16-year-old boy, a 17-year-old girl, and four other teenagers were among those killed.

The protests started at schools, then spread to the streets, with some protesters throwing rocks at police, blocking roads, and vandalizing a government building. Police and national security forces used teargas and rubber bullets and fired rifles to disperse them, witnesses told Human Rights Watch.

"Police used live ammunition against students who were just carrying signs that say, 'People want the downfall of the regime,'" a witness told Human Rights Watch.

The United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials provide that security forces shall as far as possible apply nonviolent means before resorting to the use of force. Whenever the lawful use of force is necessary, the authorities should use restraint and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offense. Lethal force may only be used when it is "strictly unavoidable in order to protect life."

The Basic Principles also provide that "[i]n cases of death and serious injury or other grave consequences, a detailed report [on the incident] shall be sent promptly to the competent authorities responsible for administrative review and judicial control."

On August 2, Sudan's justice minister formed a committee to investigate the Nyala killings and present findings within two weeks. Sudan has repeatedly failed to investigate and hold those responsible for serious violations of human rights in Darfur, Human Rights Watch said.

Since June 16, Sudanese security forces have violently suppressed student-led protests throughout the country using rubber bullets, teargas, and batons. The protests started in Khartoum in response to price increases, and soon spread to other towns. Thousands have been arrested and state security forces have targeted human rights activists and other perceived opponents of the ruling party for arrest and detention.

"This is another test of Sudan's will to end serious violations in Darfur," Bekele said. "Authorities should immediately carry out a full and impartial investigation, and prosecute those responsible. The people of Darfur deserve nothing less."

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