Lack of Justice for Massacre Victims Spurs Protests in Sudan

Sudanese investigators probing the massacre of more than 100 protesters in the wake of dictator Omar al-Bashir’s overthrow two years ago are struggling to complete their work amid warnings that their findings could undermine a fragile political transition.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok appointed human rights lawyer Nabil Adeeb in October 2019 to investigate the actions of security forces who stormed a peaceful sit-in near the army headquarters in Khartoum. The protracted process has frustrated many Sudanese, with several thousand taking to the capital’s streets on Thursday’s second anniversary to demand those responsible be brought to book.

“We have not been faced by open rejection to our demands, but some of the documents we need are still to be handed to us with different excuses” being made for why they are not forthcoming, Adeeb said in an interview. Even so, “the rate of progress of the investigation is very good” and any repercussions “should be dealt with by political leadership,” he said.

The probe has coincided with attempts by the impoverished African country, a pariah for much of Bashir’s 30-year-rule, to rebuild its economy and global reputation. Sudan’s transitional government, a mix of civilians who took part in the protests that ousted the president and army officials once loyal to him, says it expects to win relief for much of its $60 billion in external debt.

Hamdok said before Thursday’s demonstrations that the military was to blame for stalling the massacre investigation. He committed to bringing those responsible to justice, saying victims’ families had every right to protest.

Two government investigators said there’d been a deliberate attempt to hinder their work, asking not to be identified because they’d been instructed by the investigation committee not to talk to the media.

The office of Lieutenant-General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, chairman of Sudan’s Sovereignty Council, didn’t answer several calls seeking comment.

Morgues Full

Some of the bodies were still inside three Khartoum morgues, but investigators had been told not to conduct autopsies or take DNA samples while the probe is ongoing, they said. Finding evidence would also be difficult, because the morgues are filled with bodies and see repeated power cuts, the investigators said.

“We’re opening up to the world but that does not mean we give up on transitional justice” said Samahir el-Mubarak, a member of the Sudanese Professionals Association, a group that steered anti-Bashir protests. “We are carrying a lot of baggage from past grievances and we don’t want to carry that forward with us.”

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