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

GENEVA (3 October 2013) – The United Nations Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, Mashood Adebayo Baderin, today 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.

“I urge the Government of the Sudan to charge all those arrested with a recognizable offence or immediately release them,” Mr. Baderin said. “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, Mr. Baderin called on the authorities “to conduct prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into these incidents, and to hold those responsible to account.”

The mandate of the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Sudan was created by the UN Human Rights Council on 18 June 2009. In September 2013, the mandate was renewed for a period of one year. As Independent Expert, Mashood Adebayo Baderin serves in his individual capacity, independently from any government or organization.

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