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UN urges Sudan army to restore government

November 5, 2021

Top UN rights official Michelle Bachelet has slammed the military's violent repression following the October 25 coup. Sudan's prime minister is under house arrest.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet attends the launch of a joint investigation into alleged violations of international human rights
UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet called on the military to step back and let the country 'return to the path of progress'Image: Denis Balibouse/REUTERS

The UN human rights chief on Friday called on Sudan's military leaders to "step back in order to allow the country to return to the path of progress" after the coup on October 25.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet condemned the army's use of live ammunition at anti-coup protests, which has left at least 13 people dead and more than 300 injured.

Bachelet also hit out at the "numerous" arrests and disappearances of civil society and protest leaders, reporters and activists. After intense international pressure, the army said it would free four detained ministers.

She was speaking during an urgent Human Rights Council session on Sudan in Geneva. During the meeting, the 47-member council passed a resolution denouncing the coup and appointing an expert to monitor alleged rights violations on the ground.

A Sudanese woman and child walk past as protesters burn tires to block part of 60th Street in the capital, Khartoum
At 13 protesters have been killed in the post-coup unrestImage: AFP/Getty Images

What did Michelle Bachelet say?

Bachelet said army attacks on freedom of expression after the coup reminded her of "a somber page" in Sudan's history when it was ruled by former autocrat Omar al Bashir, who was ousted after an uprising in 2019.

She said "freedom of expression was stifled and human rights were comprehensively repressed" during the 30 years he held power. 

"I urge Sudan's military leaders, and their backers, to step back in order to allow the country to return to the path of progress towards institutional and legal reforms," Bachelet said.

How did the UN resolution come about?

The resolution was led by Britain and backed by the US, Germany and Norway. 

The countries had originally asked the UN to name a special rapporteur to keep the council informed of the developing situation, and reappoint former Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who is currently under house arrest.

Instead, an expert will be assigned to the UN Khartoum regional office to monitor the situation.

Germany's ambassador to the UN, Katharina Stasch, said the resolution was "an important step to ensure accountability for human rights violations committed."

"Fundamentally, this is about respect for democracy and human rights," Simon Manley, the UK ambassador to the UN, told The Associated Press news agency.

US envoy Robert Riley pledged to continue "full throttle efforts" to support democratic aspirations in Sudan.

Sudan was not represented at the session after putsch leaders were excluded from the meetings. However, Ali Ibn Abi Talib Abdelrahman Mahmoud, Sudan's ambassador to the UN and a representative of the ousted government, told Reuters he supported the resolution. 

Only China and Russia opposed the resolution, arguing against meddling in other countries' internal affairs.

What has happened since the coup?

The same man who deposed al-Bashir in 2019, General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, took down the transitional government led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and detained its leaders two weeks ago.

Since the coup, security forces have confronted tens of thousands of protesters who took to the streets in the capital Khartoum and Sudan's most populous city, Omdurman.

But the army has shown no sign of easing its repression. On Thursday, the army arrested two members of the former ruling National Congress Party and a key member of the taskforce dismantling al-Bashir assets.

"These detentions hinder efforts to restore stability and a return to the path of democratic transition in Sudan and nullifies the impact of the release of four of the detained ministers yesterday," the UN mission in Khartoum said.

Putsch leaders on Friday also dissolved all state companies and national agricultural projects, according to state TV.

jc/nm (Reuters, AP)