Sudan protesters rally one year after bloody crackdown

Sudanese PM Abdalla Hamdok flashes the victory sign during a ceremony for the first anniversary of the uprising that toppled Omar Al-Bashir. (File/AFP)
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Updated 04 June 2020

Sudan protesters rally one year after bloody crackdown

  • PM Abdalla Hamdok vows justice for all those killed in pro-democracy protests
  • The demonstration was the culmination of weeks of protests that led the army to overthrow veteran leader Omar Al-Bashir

KHARTOUM: Sudanese protesters took to the streets of Khartoum on Wednesday, angrily demanding justice for scores of pro-democracy demonstrators killed a year ago in a bloody crackdown.

The popular mass movement had already brought down long-time ruler Omar Bashir but was still on the streets demanding further reforms when it was attacked by men in military fatigues on June 3, 2019.

“We won’t forget and we won’t forgive,” read one Arabic-language protest sign held up by a mask-clad Sudanese woman as scores of other protesters rallied and the smoke of burning car tires blackened the sky.

At least 128 people were killed and hundreds more wounded in the attack outside Khartoum’s army headquarters, according to doctors linked to the protest movement. Official figures say at least 87 died.

The attackers in military fatigues perpetrated “murder, torture, rape, sexual violence, enforced disappearance of persons and potentially other inhumane acts,” says a March report by the US-based group Physicians for Human Rights.

Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, under post-Bashir civilian-military transition authority, pledged justice for the pro-democracy protesters killed.

“I assure you all, that achieving comprehensive justice and retribution for the souls of our hero martyrs ... and for the wounded and missing is an inevitable and irreversible step,” Hamdok said in a televised speech on Wednesday.

“We are awaiting the completion of the independent investigation committee’s work, which will be followed by referring all those found guilty of participating in the massacre that dispersed the sit-in to fair and public trials.”

Protesters on Wednesday hung up effigies of soldiers of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), the paramilitary group they blame for the bloodbath — a charge firmly denied by Sudan’s military leaders.

One protester held up a large photo of Abdulsalam Kisha, a 25-year-old protester who was killed in the attack last year in the capital’s eastern Riyadh district.

The dead man’s father, Kisha Abdulsalam, told AFP days ago that he still held out hope the killers would be brought to justice by post-revolution authorities.

“We demand an international probe to ensure justice for those killed,” said Kisha, a leading member of a campaign group for the families of protest victims.

A memorial portrait of his slain son has been painted on the Khartoum house of the bereaved father, who has two other sons and a daughter.

He recalled the day he heard the shocking news.

“I rushed to the protest site after receiving multiple random phone calls saying my son had died,” he said, only to find out later the young man was killed by multiple gunshots.

Sudan’s transitional authorities, which came to power in August last year, with Bashir behind bars, have formed a committee to probe the violence, but it has yet to announce its findings.In July last year, an initial probe by Sudan’s military officials and prosecutors showed that some members of the RSF and other security forces were involved in the killings.

Military officials insist the operation had been planned to purge an area near the protest camp where people were allegedly selling drugs.

Hamdok in October tasked veteran lawyer Nabil Adib with leading the investigations and to present findings within three months.

Adib told AFP that three months was “not enough, especially given that this is a crime with political overtones and involves a large number of defendants. “It may even involve powerful figures,” he said.

He said the investigation had been further hampered by the coronavirus pandemic which has so far infected more than 5,000 people and killed over 300 in Sudan.

International rights groups, which have documented multiple witness accounts, have called for a transparent investigation.

Physicians for Human Rights said the violence “could rise to the level of international crimes for which there should be no immunity, including crimes against humanity.”

Adib said the committee has so far received many testimonies but did not elaborate.

“We gave them assurances that their identities will remain anonymous,” he added.

But families of the victims remain skeptical.

“I don’t believe this committee will bring justice to the martyrs,” said Amna, Abdulsalam’s mother, as she tearfully showed an album of photos of her son.

“We will not forgive those who shed blood and we will not give up on the martyrs’ rights.”

Family of Palestinian slain by police sees probe dragging on

Updated 11 min 1 sec ago

Family of Palestinian slain by police sees probe dragging on

  • Eyad was fatally shot on May 30 just inside Jerusalem’s Old City as he was making his daily walk to the special-needs school he attended
  • Police said they believed the 32-year-old was carrying a “suspicious object” and said they opened fire when he failed to heed calls to stop

JERUSALEM: The family of a Palestinian man with autism who was fatally shot by Israeli police said on Thursday that it took a month for authorities to confirm the existence of security-camera footage of the shooting, raising concerns that no one will be punished for killing their son.
The existence of the footage had been in question throughout an investigation that the family says has been painfully slow. Rights groups say Israel has a poor record of investigating and prosecuting police violence against Palestinians.
“The police say the investigation is ongoing. Though it is late, we hope that it will end by delivering justice,” said Khiri Hallaq, the man’s father.
His son, Eyad, was fatally shot on May 30 just inside Jerusalem’s Old City as he was making his daily walk to the special-needs school he attended.
At the time, police said they believed the 32-year-old was carrying a “suspicious object” and said they opened fire when he failed to heed calls to stop.
According to various accounts, two members of Israel’s paramilitary border police force chased Hallaq into a nook and shot him as he cowered next to a garbage bin.
Hallaq’s teacher, who was with him, told an Israeli TV station that Hallaq, who had difficulties speaking, fell to the ground after being shot, then ran for cover next to the garbage container. She said she repeatedly cried out to police that he was “disabled” and tried in vain to stop the shooting. At least five bullet holes were seen in a wall of a small structure at the site.
At the time, the shooting drew comparisons to the death of George Floyd in the US and prompted a series of small demonstrations against police violence. The uproar crossed Israeli-Palestinian lines and drew Jewish protesters as well.
Israel’s defense minister, Benny Gantz, said Israel was “very sorry,” while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the incident a “tragedy” and promised a thorough investigation.
Since then, however, the family has heard little while the two officers involved in the shooting have reportedly been released from house arrest.
On Wednesday, after a month of pressure by the family, Israeli officials confirmed in a court hearing that investigators are studying security-camera footage of the shooting, said the family’s lawyer.
Israel’s Haaretz daily had reported earlier this week that there may not be any footage, even though the streets and alleyways of the volatile Old City are lined with hundreds of security cameras.
The lawyer, Jad Qadamani, said the family has not been permitted to see any of the videos because they are evidence in an ongoing investigation.
Nonetheless, he said they are “more calm because we know the videos are there.” He called the footage “an important tool” in the investigation.
Qadamani said the family was frustrated that it had required so much effort for authorities to acknowledge the existence of the videos and that the investigation has dragged on for so long.
“Maybe there is a need to investigate, but not to this extent,” he said.
Cases involving police violence are referred to an independent internal investigations department under the Justice Ministry called “machash.” The ministry said the case remains under investigation and declined further comment. Israeli police referred questions to the ministry.
According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, cases referred to the department rarely end with disciplinary action.
It said that over 80% of more than 5,400 cases sent to machash from 2015 to 2018 were not investigated at all, and no more than 3% of complaints resulted in indictments. About 20 cases each year result in disciplinary proceedings for the use of force, and most of those end up with little more than a reprimand or reduction in rank.
It said the figures were based on official data obtained through a freedom of information request.
The statistics “speak for themselves,” ACRI said. “With an overwhelming majority of complaints against police violence never investigated and a complete lack of accountability on behalf of authorities, the cycle of the abhorrent use of police force will never cease.”
It said the police profiling of minorities is also a “severe problem.”
Qadamani, the family lawyer, said it has been difficult for them to trust the system but they remained hopeful.
“The feeling is very problematic. I expect and very much want to believe that they will take the real and correct steps for justice for Eyad,” he said.