GENEVA (AP). On Friday, a top UN human rights official condemned the actions of military leaders in Sudan following a coup nearly two weeks ago and called on them to “step back” to allow civilian rule to return.
Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemned the excessive use of force by the security forces, which left at least 13 people dead and more than 300 injured following the coup. She also expressed concern about the “numerous” arrests and disappearances of civil society leaders and protesters, journalists and activists.
Bachelet spoke at an emergency meeting of the Human Rights Council on the Sudan. Great Britain, the USA, Germany and Norway demanded that the expert monitor the situation in the African country.
The debate in the Human Rights Council took place at a time when the UN still recognizes the ambassador of the ousted Sudanese government as the country’s official representative in Geneva. Representatives of Sudan’s top generals did not appear to be present at the meeting.
“The events that took place after the coup brought to mind a dark page in the history of the country, when freedom of expression was suppressed and human rights were comprehensively suppressed,” Bachelet said, referring to the 30-year rule of Sudan by former dictator Omar al-Bashir.
EXPLANATOR: How months of tension led to a coup in Sudan
“I call on the Sudanese military leadership and their supporters to back down to allow the country to get back on track of progress in institutional and legal reform,” she added.
The October 25 coup comes more than two years after a popular uprising forced the military to overthrow al-Bashir and his Islamist government in April 2019. He turned the country’s fragile planned transition to democratic rule over. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest after the seizure of power.
Mass protests against the coup have on several occasions met with excessive use of force, including live ammunition, as documented by the UN Joint Office for Human Rights in Sudan, especially in the capital Khartoum and the city of Omdurman.
According to medical sources, since 25 October, at least 13 civilians have been killed by the military and security forces and more than 300 have been injured.
Sudan’s chief general, General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, and the forces loyal to him, who dismissed the Sudanese transitional government and detained other government officials and political leaders, are facing mounting international pressure. Western countries condemned the coup.
“It’s basically about respecting democracy and human rights,” said Simon Manley, the British ambassador in Geneva, in a statement sent to the Associated Press. “I hope that fellow councilors today stand in solidarity with the brave people of Sudan.”
The draft resolution of the four Western countries, presented earlier this week, was significantly revised on Friday. While the project called for a new one-year “special rapporteur” post to oversee the situation, Bachelet’s final text proposes to appoint an expert to oversee the situation until civil rule is restored. The expert will work with his regional office in Khartoum and report back.
The decision was made by a committee of 47 people, without a vote.
The final text also dropped a call for an immediate return to a civilian-led transitional government led by Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok, who was among those detained in the coup. Instead, he calls for a “civilian-led transitional government restoration,” without naming Hamdok, who is under house arrest, but has been allowed to meet with the UN and international diplomats as part of a mediation effort.
Many countries have spoken out against the coup. But Russia and China, which often express concern about alleged international interference in the internal affairs of countries, have taken a different stance. Chinese diplomat Li Sung called for “constructive dialogue and cooperation” and warned that “external pressure will only complicate the situation.”
The representative of Russia, Artur Chernyakov, expressed Moscow’s disagreement with the holding of a special session, organized mainly by Western countries, calling it a “hasty decision.” “
“Any interference in the internal affairs of this state is counterproductive and unacceptable,” said Chernyakov.
Inside Sudan, reports of further arrests of opposition figures continue to emerge.
On Friday, a UN mission tasked with facilitating Sudan’s transition to democracy condemned the arrest of three leaders of the Forces for Freedom and Change, a coalition built around the 2019 protest movement.
The mission said in a statement that Taha Osman Isahak, Sharif Mohamed Osman and Hamza Farouk were arrested outside the mission’s headquarters in Khartoum on Thursday.
It says the new arrests are a step backward after reports that some of the previously detained officials will be released.
The Sudanese state news agency reported on Thursday that Burkhan had ordered the release of four government ministers who were also detained. The ministers’ lawyer said they have not yet been released.
Sami Magdi contributed to this report from Cairo, Egypt.