September 19, 2021

In Sudan, two years after June 3 massacre, protesters still demand justice

It has become a habit, almost a ritual. Before each demonstration, soldiers set up concrete blocks and armored vehicles across the main avenues of Khartoum to block access to the “Qiyadah”, the headquarters of the Sudanese armed forces.

It is on this immense space, crossed by the railway, that thousands of citizens opposed to the regime of Omar al-Bashir gathered, from April 6, 2019. In this square also that, barely two months after the dictator’s dismissal by the army, the security forces of the Transitional Military Council dispersed in blood, on June 3, the peaceful sit-in which demanded the advent of ‘civil government.

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To commemorate this massacre – the bloodiest of the Sudanese revolution, with at least 127 dead – thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Khartoum on Thursday, June 3 in the afternoon. Among them, Mohamed Abdelazim, a 24-year-old medical student. He woke up on June 3, 2019 in the middle of a square surrounded by men in uniform. “We took refuge near the Khartoum University bridge, he remembers. The Quick Support Forces soldiers started shooting in all directions, a friend of mine fell in front of me. “

Mohamed Abdelazim was shot in the chest. The bullet is still lodged there and the young man warns of the after-effects: speech problems and local paralysis. “This is not the country we dreamed of, he laments. We did not donate our blood to keep the military in power. “

Under pressure from the streets, the Transitional Military Council ended up signing, in August 2019, a power-sharing agreement with the Forces for Freedom and Change (FLC), a coalition of civilian parties supported by the revolution. But under the windows of the Council of Ministers, a few streets from the locked Qiyadah, the slogans chanted by the crowd on Thursday recall those shouted two years earlier against the deposed dictator: « Tasgut bas ! » (” the fall [du régime], that’s all “).

Over 3,000 witnesses heard

Cries of rage addressed to the soldiers but which did not spare the civilian prime minister, Abdallah Hamdok, from the FLC. On Wednesday, the head of government said he understood the exasperation of the protesters and compared the massacre to “A wound that could not heal without justice”. However, two years after the establishment of an investigative committee to shed light on the events, no conclusion has yet been made.

Yet more than 3,000 witnesses were heard. “It is progressing, but we lack human and technical resources”, is justified Nabil Adib, the lawyer at the head of the investigations, who ensures that criminal charges will be retained and presented to the Attorney General. “If we get the necessary technical support, we will deliver our results in three months”, he promises. A cabinet of international experts is expected in July to carry out an impartial autopsy of the remains found in November in mass graves on a hill in Omdurman, northwest of the capital.

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Most of the demonstrators directly implicate certain generals who sit on the Sudanese Sovereignty Council. In particular its vice-president, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, alias “Hemmeti”, head of the Rapid Support Forces (FSR) – powerful paramilitary units from Janjaweed militias guilty of ethnic cleansing in Darfur during the reign of Omar al-Bashir . The one who has become one of the most powerful men in the country has acknowledged the presence of his men on the day of the massacre, but denies any responsibility for the atrocities committed and accuses infiltrators of the former Islamist regime.

“This operation was prepared, premeditated. They wanted to shatter the protest and the dreams we had. All the state apparatuses participated in this crime, the FSR, the police, the intelligence services, the militias of the old regime and the army, which let it happen. I saw them with my own eyes », ton Doha Mohamed Ahmad, short hair encircled with a checkered headband. On the day of the massacre, this 24-year-old nurse rushed to the heart of the sit-in in fire and blood to provide first aid. “I helped young girls who had just been raped, treated others with broken legs or ribs. Some were burned by flames or shot. “

“The practices of the old regime have not ceased”

Two years later, activists doubt the ability of the investigative committee to carry out its mission. “The evidence is there, it’s obvious. But the context is too tense, the situation too unstable. Their hands and feet are tied and above all lack political will “, analyzes Moneim Adam, human rights lawyer at Sudanese Archive, an independent platform which, since the start of the revolution in December 2018, has meticulously cataloged hundreds of videos showing the abuses committed by the security forces.

“This committee is paralyzed. He was mandated by the Prime Minister from the civilian parties who made a pact with the military in an unacceptable partnership. The practices of the old regime have not ceased. Arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and torture continue ”, denounces the father of “martyr” Abdelsalam Kisha. On his doorstep, where graffiti has been painted with the effigy of his son, the old man recalls that on May 11, the soldiers opened fire on a rally at the initiative of the families of the “martyrs” , killing two people. The government claims to have reacted quickly by handing over seven soldiers to justice. But their line managers were not worried.

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According to Sudanese law, “The one who shoots can be condemned, but not the one who gave the order to shoot”, deplores Mohamed Osman, researcher for Human Rights Watch, who pleads for the international community to help Sudan rapidly reform its security system and its judiciary. “The members of the various security organs, and in particular the FSR, benefit today from an immunity which often prevents the justice from doing its work”, he continues.

More than 150 corpses in a container

On Thursday, part of the procession moved towards the al-Imtidad neighborhood after being repelled by tear gas launched by the police. For several weeks, a smell of death has been hanging over these dusty alleys in the south of the capital. At the end of April, residents complained of pestilential reflux emanating from the morgue of the academic hospital. Over 150 rotting corpses were found in a large container adjoining the building.

For Fadia Khalaf Awad, founder of the Initiative for the Disappeared of June 3, there is no doubt that this collective tomb of a few cubic meters houses the remains of some of the sit-in. “This episode in the morgue is the perfect example of the incompetence and corruption of the authorities. Some seek to protect those responsible for the massacre ”, she believes. His association has already found traces of nearly 80 missing out of a hundred cases listed. But the actual number of victims could be much higher.

A thick fog surrounds these macabre discoveries. Lawyer Altayeb Alaabasy, member of the committee of the missing, confirmed to the World Africa that two bodies belonging to June 3 victims were identified in the container, as well as the corpse of Wad Akar, a protester who disappeared in April during a march. The administration had however denied its presence. Faced with what they consider to be a “Criminal tampering with evidence”, the militants perched for forty days on barricades around the morgue are not ready to give up the fight.