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Sudan protesters demand independent inquiry into military violence

A protester during a protest in Khartoum, Sudan July 27, 2019.
A protester during a protest in Khartoum, Sudan July 27, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

Fresh protests broke out in Khartoum on Saturday after the release of a probe which found that RSF paramilitaries were involved in a deadly June raid along with some members of other security forces. Protesters want an independent inquiry, saying the death toll was much higher than the stated 87.

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The protest group Sudanese Professionals Association, part of the opposition coalition, said it rejected the probe outright.

"It was commissioned by the (ruling) military council, this is challenging its integrity as the military council itself is accused in this case," said the group that first launched protests against President Omar al-Bashir in December.

Bashir was ousted on April 11, but protesters pressed on with the sit-in, demanding that the military council which replaced him cede power to civilians.

Call for an independent investigation

"We have called for an independent investigation, so we reject the findings of this probe," Ismail al-Taj, a leader in the SPA, told reporters.

The joint probe, carried out by prosecutors and the ruling military council, was set up to investigate the events of 3 June, when gunmen in military fatigues raided the site of a weeks-long sit-in outside army headquarters.

Demonstrators and rights groups accused the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces of carrying out the crackdown in which they shot and beat protesters in an operation that also left hundreds wounded.

This charge was denied by the group's powerful chief, General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo.

The joint probe revealed on Saturday that RSF paramilitaries were indeed involved in the raid along with some members of other security forces.

Forces disobeyed orders

Fatah al-Rahman Saeed, a prosecutor who headed the investigation, said orders had been given to security forces to clear an area called Colombia, near the protest camp.

But, he said, an RSF general had separately ordered a colonel to disperse the sit-in, despite having no such order from further up the chain of command.

"They led the forces... inside the sit-in area and ordered them to get down from their vehicles and whip the protesters," Saeed told reporters.

Saeed gave the ranks and initials of eight officers charged with crimes against humanity, which is punishable by death or life imprisonment under military law.

The SPA insists that the accused be identified by their full names, rather than by their initials.

Disputed death toll

On the question of the death toll, doctors linked to the protest movement say 127 people were killed during the 3 June raid, but Saeed gave a lower toll on Saturday.

He said that 17 people were killed on 3 June, while a total of 87 died between that day and June 10.

Angry protesters rejected those figures and the probe's finding that "no cases of rape" had taken place during the sit-in, in contrast to numerous allegations by the protest movement.

The sit-in raid caused the collapse of talks between protest leaders and Sudan's ruling generals, which did not resume until weeks later, after intense mediation by African Union and Ethiopian diplomats.

The two sides have now agreed to form a new joint civilian-military ruling body for a transitional period of 39 months.

 

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