Khartoum — On Wednesday, hundreds of activists in Khartoum and state capitals staged vigils marking the first anniversary of the violent dismantling of the sit-in in front of the army command in Khartoum. According to Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok the June 3 massacre is a criminal act against the Sudanese people for which the perpetrators must be held accountable. An investigation report of the Sudanese Archive and the Human Rights Center Investigation Lab UC Berkeley, states that the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and other security forces are responsible for the violent dispersal of sit-ins across Khartoum in June last year.
The sit-in in Khartoum was organised on April 6 last year, to pressure the then ruling Omar Al Bashir to step down. Five days later, the dictator was deposed in a military coup. The protestors continued occupying the space in front of the Defence Ministry, calling on the military to cede power to a civilian government.
Two months later, on June 3/Ramadan 29, the people at the sit-in were attacked by government forces. The attacks cost the life of 127 demonstrators. About 700 protesters and others present at the sit-in that day were injured. More than 100 people went missing.
An independent Committee of Inquiry started to investigate the 'June 3 massacre' in December. In March this year, hundreds of young protestors demonstrated in Khartoum demanding a final report from the committee. Many Sudanese also expressed their frustrations on social media about the passing of a year without prospects on accountability or promising investigation findings.
At the first anniversary of the massacre, leaders of the Forces for Freedom and Change and the Sudanese Professionals Association, the driving forces behind the Sudanese uprising, in Khartoum, Kassala and Port Sudan in eastern Sudan, the northern towns of Dongola and Atbara, Wad Madani in El Gezira, El Obeid in North Kordofan, and El Fula in West Kordofan commemorated the victims with speeches and Koran recitations.
'I will find you, my lost brother' -
In Khartoum, demonstrators in El Haj Yousef, Jabra, and other neighbourhoods held banners and chanted slogans calling on the investigation committee to expedite the presentation of the investigation results in preparation for the prosecution of the perpetrators.
Relatives of protestors killed during the uprising have given the Public Prosecutor and the Chief Justice a week to establish a special prosecution mechanism and a court to follow up the files of the victims.
At a press conference in Khartoum on Wednesday, Doctor Saadiya Seif, Representative of the relatives, expressed her "deep dissatisfaction" concerning "the incomplete processing of the file of any martyr except teacher Ahmed El Kheir".
She warned for street protests if their demands are not met, and called on the relatives of the victims to daily hold vigils in front of the offices of the Public Prosecution until June 17, to back the demands.
She reiterated her categorical rejection of the investigation committee headed by human rights defender Nabil Adib, describing his statements as provocative.
Nabil Adib told Madania News on May 24 that the investigations have been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The remaining work however is "minimal", he said.
Members of the committee and civil society organisations have heard the testimonies of more than 3,000 people, and checked the many videos taken by protestors during the violent dispersal. A number of official documents have been obtained as well, the lawyer added.
According to a detailed first investigation report of the Sudanese Archive and the Human Rights Center Investigation Lab, UC Berkeley, members of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and other security forces are to be held accountable for the violent dispersal of sit-ins across Khartoum in June last year.
The RSF "rounded up protesters, violently attacking them, as seen in footage from that day that we have verified and chronolocated using open-source tools", the report states.
It cites a report by Physicians for Human Rights saying that many perpetrators identified themselves as RSF to their victims. Before June 3, "particularly towards the end of May, authorities redistributed security forces around the sit-in location, replacing peaceful forces with hostile ones. Those forces were armed with a variety of weapons including teargas, batons, whips, sticks and firearms, even Kalashnikov rifles".
RSF patrolling in Khartoum, June 2019 (Social media)
The RSF, set-up by the former regime in 2013, grew out of the Janjaweed militiamen who fought for the Sudanese government in Darfur since the war broke out 2003. Its members are widely believed to be responsible for atrocities in Sudan in the past six-seven years.
Tens of thousands of RSF troops have joined the Saudi-led campaign against the Houthi rebels in Yemen since 2015.
Following the ousting of Al Bashir last year, the RSF was integrated into the Sudan Armed Forces. At the same time however, the militia stays a force unto itself, commanded by Lt Gen Mohamed Hamdan 'Hemeti', who is also Deputy President of Sudan's Sovereign Council.
The RSF has reportedly built up a vast business empire that covers not only a large part of the country's gold industry, but has huge interests in many sectors of the Sudanese economy as well.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok described the violent breaking-up of the sit-in last year as a criminal act against the Sudanese people for which the perpetrators must be held accountable.
He said the government is awaiting the completion of the work of the independent investigation committee.
All those accused of participating in the massacre will be brought to fair and public trials to ensure that justice is done and to develop sustainable social peace in Sudan.
In an interview with the US National Public Radio in December last year, Hamdok stated that "anybody" responsible for atrocities in Sudan must be held accountable. When pressed by the interviewer whether that includes 'Hemeti', he replied: "Absolutely".
The PM reiterated last week that those responsible for the massacre will definitely be held accountable.
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