News from Khartoum
Lawyers warn government of consequences of use of violence and extrajudicial killing
A group of Sudanese lawyers have expressed grave concern over the manner in which the government quells popular protests, by use of excessive force and extrajudicial killings.
In a memorandum delivered to the Attorney General last week, the lawyers warned that government’s violent crackdown might lead to an international intervention.
“We are aware of the latest development in the international law which allows the international community to intervene under the principle of the responsibility of protection,” the memorandum said.
The memo rejected the government’s justification of the violence so long as the protesters are demanding economic and political reforms and they are peacefully voiced. “This is a right guaranteed to the citizens by the constitution,” the memorandum said.
The memo pointed out that according to the legal measure live bullets should not be used to quell demos without consent of a judge, warning that if this measure is not followed; killing using live bullets is considered extrajudicial killing, and a crime that contravenes human rights principles.
The lawyers said concerned that the government permitted masked elements at locations of demos. “We are concerned that the government confronted the protests with excessive violence and allowed unlawful groups to disperse the demonstrators, denying citizens their right to live, safety of person and personal security,” the lawyers said in their petition.
They said allowing masked men in plain clothes aboard vehicles without plate numbers is a violation of the law, adding it is intended to frighten protesters and other citizens, and stressed the need for authorities to prevent that.
The memo added that dispersing assemblies threatening riots should be the responsibility of the police personnel commanded by an officer and accompanied by a prosecutor, so that names of a certain force dispatched to deal with demonstrators is known, and their weapons whether firearms, sticks, batons or teargas should also be disclosed, and processions should not be prevented so long as they pose no threat to peace.
The petition indicated that the commander of the force may determine the route for the procession without dispersing it so long as it does not threaten public peace, adding in this case demonstrators will be asked to disperse and force will not be used unless it is absolutely necessary and even in that case it should be the minimum amount of force.
According to Al Jareeda newspaper, the petition warned of repetition of scenarios in other countries that experienced violence because of commission of horrors such as in Rwanda and the Balkans in the 1990s. The petition recalls that the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) is of the view that sovereignty does not only grants a country exclusive power over their internal affairs, it also placed on them the responsibility to protect the people within their border, and suggested that in case a certain country fails to protect its people due to inability or unwillingness, the responsibility falls on the international community.
The memo demanded that immediate and necessary measures should be taken to prevent extrajudicial killing through the establishment of full control over forces and subjecting them to judiciary and prosecution to immediately arrest any element who does not wear the uniform or unmask his face whether he is carrying firearms, “white arms” or batons and to detain vehicles that do not carry plate numbers.
It is to be noted that the right to demonstrate and protest is a human right and such right may be a facet of freedom of assembly, association and expression. Many international conventions carry clear provisions on the right to protest. Article 40 of the constitution of Sudan provides: The right to peaceful assembly shall be guaranteed; every person shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form or join political parties, associations and trade or professional unions for the protection of his/her interests. According to jurists, these provisions are explicit and clear in guaranteeing, safeguarding and protecting the right to peaceful assembly and other rights associated with it. The right to peaceful assembly, expression, and sit-in and to demonstrate is guaranteed under the constitution.