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UN expert deeply concerned at mass arrests and heavy media censorship during protests in the Sudan

9 October 2013

In his report on the Sudan to the UN Human Rights Council on 25 September 2013, Professor Mashood Baderin expressed deep concern at the large number of arrests and detentions by the authorities since mass protests began on 23 September in parts of the Sudan, as well as the heavy censorship on local media.

According to reports, at least 800 activists, including members of opposition parties, journalists, and others have been arrested amid on-going demonstrations over cuts in fuel subsidies, in which up to 50 people were reportedly killed by security forces. Those detained are being held incommunicado, with no access to lawyers or their families.

The United Nations Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan said: “I urge the Government of the Sudan to charge all those arrested with a recognisable offence or immediately release them. Furthermore, the Government must allow the detainees access to their families, legal representation and medical care.”

The UN Independent Expert also called on the authorities to end censorship on newspapers and media outlets and enable basic freedoms, including the freedom to demonstrate peacefully.
“Civilians have a right to assembly and peaceful demonstrations under international law, and the Government of the Sudan has an obligation to respect these rights under its constitution and under international law,” he underscored.

The fuel subsidy protests, which started last week in Sudan’s central state of Gezira and spread to other parts of the country including Khartoum, Omdurman, Darfur and Eastern Sudan, sparked violent clashes in Khartoum between demonstrators and police forces.   

“I strongly condemn the use of violence against peaceful demonstrators and the destruction of public property during demonstrations. I urge both the Government and the demonstrators to completely refrain from resorting to violence,” he said.

Quoting reports from various sources that Sudanese security agencies used excessive force against unarmed protestors, including firing live bullets against them, Professor Baderin called on the authorities “to conduct prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into these incidents, and to hold those responsible to account.”

Professor Baderin specialises in Islamic Law, International and Comparative Human Rights Law, Public International Law, Human Rights & Islamic Law, especially interaction between International Law, Human Rights Law, and Islamic Law in Muslim States.