August 15, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Around 20 civil society groups in Sudan have demanded, in a memorandum submitted to the country’s human rights authorities, an investigation into what they described as the brutality with which security authorities have been responding to peaceful protests.
The memo was submitted by the groups’ representatives during a meeting held on Monday, 13 August, with the deputy chairman of the state-owned Sudanese Commission for Human Rights (SCRH).
The memo, which SCRH promised to study and take measures accordingly, demanded investigations into what it called “the brutal security and military campaign” with which authorities responded to peaceful protests in various parts of the country in recent weeks.
It refers to the wave of protests that erupted in the capital Khartoum and other regional towns since the government started in mid-June implementing a set of austerity measures that ended fuel subsidies in an attempt to make up for a budget gap of 2.4 billion US dollars attributed by officials to the loss of three quarters of the country’s oil production due to South Sudan secession.
Forces of police and the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) forces broke up dozens of protests in Khartoum using mainly teargas, batons and rubber bullets. They also used live ammunition particularly in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur State, where they killed 13 people on 31 July.
Security authorities also waged a campaign of arrests that included 2000 activists, according to local NGOs.
In the memo, the groups expressed deep concern over the fate of women detainees, saying that some of them recounted “disgraceful” details of their time in NISS custody.
According to the memo, some women were subjected during detention and investigation by the NISS to practices of sexual harassment including verbal abuse and threats of rape.
The memo said that the detention by security authorities of dozens of women and girls for protracted periods without allowing them visitation by family members or lawyers “represents a departure from Sudanese customs and code of morals which dictate respect for women and avoidance of humiliating them”
The memo documented cases of extreme violence including murder, dangerous injuries, torture, and forced disappearance of men and women from all age brackets, “all in ways of punishment for exercising their constitutional rights.”
It also pointed out that security authorities arrested and mistreated a number of politicians, civil society leaders as well as hundreds of youth from both genders who were subjected to physical and psychological torture.
The memo was also keen to point out that those who took to the streets were exercising their rights to protest against the austerity measures which greatly diminished the purchasing power of their limited income.
“Rather than listening to the voice of the people and seeking comprehensive political reforms to address the root causes of the crisis, the political leadership chose to instruct security authorities to suppress the demonstrations using a level of force that is disproportionate to their peaceful nature” the memo said.
The memo demanded that SCRH takes an immediate action to secure the release of all detainees or allow them to be charged in a court of law. It also demanded that security authorities reveal the whereabouts of women and girls in detention and to ensure their physical and psychological wellbeing.