AN OPEN LETTER OF PUBLIC CONCERN FROM AFRICAN AND SUDANESE CIVIL SOCIETY

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RE: The Militarization of Public Space in Rural and Urban Areas in Sudan and the Corresponding Increase in Cases of Sexual Violence, Sexual Harassment and Intimidation in the Aftermath of the Khartoum Massacre

(8 July 2019) We, the undersigned are a coalition of Sudanese and African civil society organizations working in and concerned with Sudan, which is supported, collectively, by hundreds of thousands of people across Sudan and Africa. This initiative came together with the shared goal of bringing to light the ongoing violations against the Sudanese people, with a particular focus on the targeting and intimidation of women and girls.

We acknowledge the agreement reached on Thursday 4th July 2019 between the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Freedom and Change Alliance (FCCA), and we encourage the mediators to continue supporting Sudan in the establishment of a civilian and democratic state that meets the expectations and recognizes the sacrifices of Sudanese people.

The people of Sudan have witnessed three decades of fundamental transformation of civil space. The Sudanese government’s failure to engage peacefully with its citizens has led to the escalation of civil wars. By and large, the response to increasing insecurity and uprising in the outlying regions of the country has been a heavy reliance on the militarization of civilians, transforming these regions into battlefields.

Over time, the militarization of civil spaces has slowly become the norm. The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) is an extension of the Janjaweed militia that was used by the Bashir regime to terrorize civilians in Sudan’s western regions of Darfur and Kordofan. Eventually, these forces were brought to Khartoum by Bashir to protect the regime’s interest and maintain their hold on power. The use of these militias that represent the violent state and their ever-present position in civil space is a violation of human rights and rule of law and preys on the vulnerabilities of civilians, particularly women.

As the Revolution in Sudan has gradually gained traction in the media and on the global scape, the signatories of this Letter of Concern view it as imperative to bring to the fore the manner in which sexual violence and sexual harassment are being used as a deliberate strategy to destroy the solidarity of the people of Sudan, with a particular aim to break the involvement of women in the current popular Revolution and transition. This goal can be illustrated in the statement by the leader of the RSF/Janjaweed militia who said, “After this – (referring to June Khartoum Massacre), “all women should go back home”.    

During the Khartoum Massacre on 3 June, the Sudan Doctors’ Committee documented 70 cases of rape, and cases of sexual violence and sexual harassment in the aftermath of the Massacre continue to be documented by women’s rights and civil society organizations.

To date, female students and workers, women traders and street vendors continue to report incidents of aggressive sexual harassment including grabbing and the use of demeaning sexist and insulting language on the streets of Khartoum and other towns and cities of Sudan by the RSF/Janjaweed soldiers.

The sustained sexual harassment and intimidation of women as they walk the streets of Greater Khartoum on their way to work, schools or the market, can be understood as a response to and a direct attack on the key role women have played throughout the protests that have been ongoing since December last year. The intimidation directed at women is clearly an attempt to reverse the gains they made in the occupation of public space despite the discriminatory laws and policies imposed by Bashir’s regime.

A statement by the Women’s Cooperatives Union of Food and Beverage Vendors in Khartoum attested to more than five thousand female vendors being victimized by the actions of the military and Janjaweed forces that actively perpetrated abuse and sexual violence, as well as theft and deliberate property damage against women vendors. The damages caused have had significant influence on the economic livelihood of the women vendors as their business apparatus was destroyed strategically as means of economic dis-empowerment.

Many women, female and male children report that they feel threatened to walk home from work or school because of the consistent harassment and grabbing by the soldiers. Men who have attempted to aid some of the women themselves have also been subject to beating and have been shot at with live bullets, leading to death or serious injuries – as happened to a young man along Gumhureya Street on 18 June when he tried to defend some women who were being grabbed aggressively by the RSF/Janjaweed soldiers, but was instead shot at and badly injured. Other reports following the Khartoum Massacre stated that the RSF/Janjaweed soldiers forcefully entered university female student hostels and a number of the female students were raped.

Despite the agreement that was reached last week, the presence of the RSF/Janjaweed militia is still very conspicuous. There are large numbers combing the city’s streets throughout the day. It is clear that these forces have neither been withdrawn nor returned to their camps. In another incident that occurred over the past weekend in Khartoum, a woman working at the Apple Café, in Khartoum II area was raped by RSF/Janjaweed soldiers. Reports have been received from the rural and urban centers around the country, specifically Darfur and Blue Nile that civil spaces are highly militarized and civilians continue to be terrorized. To date, well over 150 deaths have been recorded and almost as many rape cases have been documented, amounting to crimes against humanity.

Despite the ongoing attacks against civilians, on 30 June millions of Sudanese across the country from all walks of life came out to further assert their demands for a civilian and democratic government with thousands of women protesters. Yet again, they were met with extreme violence from the RSF/Janjaweed and former Bashir forces who fired live ammunition, killing at least 15 people and injuring many more across the country.

Sudan is in the midst of a political crisis, the 4 July agreement needs to spell out clearly how it will be represented by and be accountable to marginalized groups and women.  The yet to be established Joint Sovereign Council will be responsible for ending hostilities, enforcing rule of law, and ensuring accountability and justice representing the legitimate demands of Sudanese men and women.

Amidst rising recognition by the African and international community of Sudan’s plight at this very pivotal time, the following recommendations should be considered:

  • The African Union and international community must categorically address the high level of militarization of civil spaces in Sudan and the strong presence of armed militia.
  • The AU and international community must pressure the upcoming Sudanese government and support Sudan in establishing rule of law institutions and abiding by regional and international mechanisms that would address and challenge sexual violence and sexual harassment as crimes;
  • The African Union and the United Nations must establish mechanisms to address the extensive recruitment of child soldiers into Sudan’s paramilitary RSF/Janjaweed immediately considering their violations of regional and international child rights’ mechanisms and the serious ramifications on the country’s peace and stability;
  • The Sudanese authorities must acknowledge sexual violence as a crime, and address accountability and justice for sexual violence survivors and those who were killed;
  • There are hundreds of victims and eyewitnesses to the Khartoum Massacre and the aftermath. We stress the urgent need for an independent investigation, where Sudanese should play an instrumental role. This committee should consist of Sudanese activists and advocates who have documented the cases and are informed of the local context including credible Sudan-based lawyers, civil society, and African male and female expertise. This committee needs to be formed immediately and the collection of the testimonies of survivors and witnesses should be prioritized;

Copy to:

  • The IGAD led by H.E. Abiy Ahmed Ali The Prime Minster of Ethiopia
  • Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat
  • African Union Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security H.E  Bineta Diop
  • The Minister of State for Africa – United Kingdom, H.E. Harriett Baldwin
  • The United States Special Envoy to Sudan, Ambassador Donald Booth
  • United Nations Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict, Ms. Pramila Patten
  • UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet
  • Members of the United Nations Security Council

Sudan crisis: accountability is a key ingredient for moving forward

(21 June 2019) Khartoum, Kampala, The Hague, New York Following the presentation of the 29th report of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), FIDH, ACJPS and SHRM call on members of the UNSC, and the international community as a whole, to recognise the importance of accountability in resolving the current and past crisis in Sudan, including in the Darfur region, and to take concrete steps to bring all those allegedly responsible for atrocities committed in Sudan to justice. Particularly, the Council must take action to support the ICC’s mandate, including by addressing states’ non-cooperation with the Court and to execute the pending arrest warrants.

Read the full statement at http://www.acjps.org/sudan-crisis-accountability-is-a-key-ingredient-for-moving-forward/

ACJPS: End enforced disappearances and account for hundreds of political dissidents disappeared since December 2018

(19 June 2019) The recent wave of enforced disappearances that have taken place in Sudan over the past seven months, particularly of peaceful protesters is deeply concerning and, calls for urgent action by both Sudanese authorities and the international community to end such acts and ensure accountability for victims and families. Article 2 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances (ICPPED) defines enforced disappearance as “[…] the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.” Since 19 December 2018, following the outbreak of a nation-wide anti-government protests that led to the ousting of President Omar al Bashir on 11 April 2019, the practice of enforced disappearances has increasingly been used by Sudanese national security forces and government-backed paramilitaries, purportedly to “preserve national security”. 

Read the full statement.

Arab Media Network for Crisis rejects the violations of the Military Council and warns against the return of security services

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(16 June 2019) The Arab Media Network for Crisis  noted the unfortunate statements made by the Chairman of the Political Committee and the Spokesman of the Military Council, Shamseddine Kabbashi, in which he explicitly stated that the Internet service would not be returned as a threat to national security in the greatest violation of the inherent right to human rights. freedom of expression.

It is one of the most important necessities such as electricity, water and other services. Its sources confiscate the right to freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of voice, video and electronic communication, and a failed attempt by the military junta to impose media blackouts. As he did to close the Al Jazeera office in Khartoum and withdraw its license and put off reporters.

Read the full statement.

30 civil society organisation call for urgent UN Security Council action to prevent further bloodshed in Sudan

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(11 June 2019) The undersigned, 30 civil society organisations from around the world, are writing to you at a critical time, the fate of the Sudanese people hangs in the balance and bold leadership is needed to prevent further violence and support those seeking democratic change in Sudan.  

The situation in Sudan is at a critical juncture. There is an immediate and urgent need for intervention to restore civilian rule in Sudan and to address the demands made by protesters since December 2018. The moment that held so much promise for the brave people of Sudan who exercised their democratic right to clamor for change through peaceful protest now seems to be turning to a more oppressive context.

Read the full letter in English or Arabic.

Killings of Peaceful Sudanese Democracy Protesters Demand Accountability

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(6 June 2019) The attack on peaceful democracy protesters in Khartoum that began on June 3 that has reportedly seen the killing of at least 100 people and hundreds more injured demands a strong international response to immediately stop such attacks and ensure accountability for this and other violence in response to peaceful protests.

Read the full letter.

Sudan: Violent Crackdown on Protesters Requires Urgent Action by International Community

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Khartoum, Kampala, Paris, 5 June 2019 – According to medical sources in Khartoum at least 60 peaceful protesters were killed and more than 600 were injured since early Monday morning during a violent crackdown by security forces in Khartoum. ACJPS, SHRM and FIDH call for the urgent deployment of an international fact-finding mission, led by the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU), to investigate this repression and hold those responsible to account. The international community should also consider targeted sanctions and facilitating a process of accountability against the perpetrators.

Read the full press release.

SUDO: Statement on Behalf of Dr Mudawi Ibrahim Adam

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(3 June 2019) I condemn in the strongest terms the killings that were committed today
by the Transitional Military Council (TMC). It is they and they alone
who hold sole responsibility for the events that took place.

We had trusted, for the good of the country, that the TMC was a credible
partner that could work with the Sudanese people to restore Sudan to
democracy and the rule of law.

However, the TMC have demonstrated they cannot be trusted and they no
longer represent the Sudanese Armed Forces. The TMC is only interested
in controlling the power of the country and protecting the previous regime.

Subsequently, no deal can be procured with the TMC. The only way to
fulfil the goals of the Sudanese people is to continue the civic
resistance and to engage in complete civil disobedience.

The violations that were committed today have destroyed the political
process and negotiations. These violations represent criminal offences
against the Sudanese people and they will not go without due
accountability.

Dr Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, June 3, 2019

SUDO Condemns Attacks on Peaceful Protesters

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(3 June 2019) The Sudan Social Development Organisation (SUDO) condemns in the strongest terms the killings and violence orchestrated against peaceful protesters at the sit-ins and the use of force against civilians in the towns.

SUDO calls upon civil society organisations, governments and inter-governmental organisations to condemn these barbaric actions and to call upon them to press the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to urgently form a committee of investigation to examine the events and to bring the perpetrators to justice.