Group urges Sudan to ensure protester safety during rallies
CAIRO (AP) — Amnesty International said Friday that Sudanese military rulers must guarantee the safety of protesters ahead of planned mass rallies over the weekend calling for civilian rule and following a deadly military crackdown that has left more than 100 dead since early June.
Sudan’s pro-democracy movement said they would proceed in their demonstrations despite intensified efforts by the African Union and Ethiopia to end the political impasse and bring protest leaders and the ruling military council back to the negotiating table. The rallies are planned nationwide, with a focus on Khartoum.
“The horrific unprovoked use of lethal and unnecessary force against peaceful protesters as witnessed on 3 June must not be repeated this Sunday, or ever again,” said Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty’s secretary general.
Protest leader Sherif Osman, from The Forces for Decoration of Freedom and Change, which represents the protesters, told reporters in a news conference in Khartoum that the “peaceful” marches planned for Sunday could only be called off “if the military council handed over power to civilians.”
The demonstrations are planned to mark the 30th anniversary of the Islamist-backed coup that brought Omar al-Bashir to power in 1989, toppling Sudan’s last elected government.
Amnesty warned the military council of repeating the June 3 crackdown, when security forces led by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces violently broke up a protest sit-in outside the military’s headquarters, dealing a massive blow to the protest movement.
The break-up of the sit-in and ensuing clampdown has killed at least 128 people cross the country, according to protest organizers. Authorities say the toll is at 61, including three security forces.
The military took over the country after protests drove Al-Bashir from power in April. Negotiations with protesters over the transfer of power to civilians reached a deadlock following the clampdown on their sit-in.
In recent weeks, Ethiopia and the AU have been mediating between the two sides. On Thursday, they presented a proposal to resume talks after the military refused to accept an Ethiopian initiative, which had been approved by the protesters.
The military council did not comment on the joint proposal and a spokesman for the council did not answer phone calls seeking comment.
The Ethiopian proposal also stipulates that the military would chair the council in the first 18 months, and the FDFC the second half of the transition.
Associated Press writer Noha ElHennawy in Cairo contributed to this report.