Intimidation and Persecution: Sudan’s Attacks on Peaceful Protesters and Physicians, April 2019 [EN/AR]

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Executive Summary

Since Sudanese protesters took to the streets in December 2018 to demonstrate against government corruption, economic mismanagement, and brutal repression, forces loyal to the government of President Omar al-Bashir have carried out massive violations of human rights. Peaceful protesters have been attacked by government security forces using disproportionate, unnecessary, and sometimes lethal force.[1]They have been arrested and detained without charges and denied access to their families or medical care. Government security forces and police have prevented medical personnel from attending to the wounded and, in many cases, have arrested and detained these personnel, conducted incursions and attacks inside medical facilities, and targeted, injured, and even killed health workers while they have been carrying out their medical duties or participating in the protest movement.[2]

To date, police and National Intelligence and Security Services forces have entered and conducted attacks on at least seven medical facilities, arrested at least 136 health personnel, fired teargas and other weapons into hospital wards, and closed access to medical care for patients.[3][4][5] At the time of publication, 60 protesters had been killed by government forces (one was a practicing doctor and two were medical students). Virtually all of these violations are explicitly prohibited by international law and by Sudanese national law. These incidents also have long-lasting impacts on health[6]: tear gas and rubber bullets have significant medical impacts and can cause permanent disability and even death; live ammunition utilized on this massive scale against crowds causes many injuries in addition to the deaths already reported, and the severe reduction in health care capacity from attacking hospitals and detaining and torturing doctors undermines the already strained Sudanese health care system.

By reviewing and confirming reliable on-the-ground reporting from contacts in Sudan and employing open-source investigation methodologies for verification, this report details these attacks. Based on the available information, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) finds that the government of Sudan has used unnecessary and disproportionate force against its citizens, illegally attacked medical responders and facilities, and tortured detainees. This campaign of intimidation and persecution violates both national and international laws and interferes with basic norms of medical ethics and care for the wounded and sick. PHR calls on the government of Sudan to immediately cease attacks on medical personnel, release detainees being held without charge or trial for exercising their fundamental rights and ethical obligations, ensure basic protections for medical facilities, seek accountability for members of the government and security forces who have perpetrated these crimes, and demand justice for the victims. Additionally, PHR calls on UN member states, regional bodies, and the international medical community to press the government of Sudan to stop the violent suppression of dissent, to respect the ethical obligations of doctors and the sanctity of health facilities, and to hold the government of Sudan accountable for its human rights violations.