(Nairobi) – Sudans transitional government should accelerate efforts to investigate and prosecute crimes against protesters by government security forces since December 2018, Human Rights Watch said today. December 2018 was the start of the wave of protests triggered by price increases that forced president Omar al-Bashir to step down on April 11, 2019.
“Scores of protesters, including teenagers and children, paid with their lives to force al-Bashir out, but a year on, the families of those killed are still searching for justice,” said Jehanne Henry, East Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Sudanese authorities should step up their efforts to do right by these victims. Justice should not be denied or delayed.”
Government security forces, particularly the National Security and Intelligence Service (NISS), used lethal, excessive force including live ammunition to break up the protests, killing dozens of unarmed protesters every month. While the exact death toll of protesters is not known, independent groups estimated that over 100 people were killed between December 2018 and April 11, 2019, and Amnesty International verified at least 77 killings during that period.
On April 11, a transitional military council took power and announced that al-Bashir and several of his allies in the ruling National Congress Party were in detention. Salah Gosh, the former head of the NISS, was not detained and reportedly fled to Egypt in May.
Protesters remained at the sit-in demanding that military authorities hand over the government to civilian rule. On June 3, security forces violently dispersed the sit-in, killing over 120 protesters between June 3 and 18, according to doctors groups. The security forces were led by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which have a documented record of abuses and attacks on civilians in Darfur, Southern Kordofan, and Blue Nile.
On August 17, opposition groups and the military agreed on a transitional government, forming a sovereign council composed of military and civilian leaders but led by military for the first 22 months, with a civilian prime minister and cabinet. Gen. Abdelfattah al-Bourhan and Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, “Hemedti,” commander of the RSF, are chair and deputy chair of the sovereign council respectively. Dr. Abdalla Hamdok, a former United Nations official, is prime minister.
Human Rights Watch concluded after documenting the events on June 3 and the following days that the killings and abuses could qualify as crimes against humanity because they were part of a government policy of using excessive, lethal force against unarmed protesters. Human Rights Watch recommended that the authorities should establish an independent entity to investigate abuses committed since December 2018, including sexual violence.
Despite the transitional governments promises to ensure justice, it has made slow progress in the face of many serious problems, including a collapsing economy. In September, the authorities appointed a committee to investigate the June 3, 2019 crackdown. However, the committee has attracted wide criticism for its slow pace and inaccessibility, especially for victims of gender-based violence.
The authorities have not established a body specifically to address the crimes against protesters since December 2018, but are handling cases alleging violations against protesters in an ad hoc manner, if and when victims families come to them with evidence. Legal aid groups told Human Rights Watch that prosecutors, who lack resources and technical capacity, do not actively investigate but rather rely on victims families to collect evidence.
“It is very disappointing to protesters, victims, and their families, to see that justice is not moving one step further one year after ousting al-Bashir,” said Rifat Makkawi, a prominent human rights lawyer and director of PLACE legal aid center.
The Attorney Generals office has focused on corruption charges and the coup that brought al-Bashir into power in 1989. Al-Bashir was convicted of financial crimes on December 14, 2019, and sentenced to two years in a rehabilitation facility. On April 1, 2020, prosecutors announced new charges against him and 15 former military officers for their involvement in the 1989 coup. Twenty-three other former government officials are also detained in Kober federal prison, media reported. None has been charged with crimes related to the crackdowns against protesters or other human rights violations.
The transitional government should ramp up efforts to ensure justice for the protester killings by investigating cases and identifying suspects, including those at the top of the command chain, whether active or dismissed from service, Human Rights Watch said. This effort could take the form of a special entity, such as an investigation committee or special court. The international community, including donors, should seek to provide technical and financial support to achieve these goals.
The authorities should also move ahead with their cooperation with the International Criminal Court in its Darfur investigation, which includes executing outstanding arrest warrants against al-Bashir and two others who are in detention for their role overseeing serious crimes in Darfur. In February 2020, the prime minister and head of the sovereign council re-affirmed their commitment to cooperate with the court but have yet to take action to carry out that commitment.
“Sudans leaders should not let protesters sacrifices be in vain,” Henry said. “They need to step up efforts at investigating and prosecuting those responsible for killings and other crimes against protesters, including officials at the highest levels.”
Removal of artwork showing names of murdered women, children draws anger
An artwork depicting names of Australian women and children lost to male violence has been removed from a museum, amid claims it was considered “inappropriate” and “uncomfortable”.
The Lost Petition artwork, listing almost 1000 women and children who have died since 2008, was hung in the Her Place Women’s Museum Australia in East Melbourne for only a week when it was taken down on Wednesday.
Femicide researcher Sherele Moody, who collaborated with artist Dans Bain on the artwork, said the museum had asked to exhibit it.
But when the 30m artwork was hung along the ceiling featuring the names of the murder victims, it drew a reaction.
“While Dans was hanging it, someone came up and said it was really confronting and inappropriate and shouldn’t be there,” Ms Moody said.
“She just brushed it off.
“But then yesterday the museum contacted her and said they were taking it down because it wasn’t appropriate to have it alongside the Emily’s List exhibition there at the moment.”
Ms Moody, a News Corp journalist and founder of the Red Heart Campaign, which aims to end domestic and family violence, said the decision to take it down was “infuriating”.
“Literally what they’re saying, from my perspective, is the stories of women and children lost to violence are not worthy of being seen or heard,” she said.
“These women and children are an inconvenience and inappropriate.
“The murder of women and children is too uncomfortable for them.”
Ms Moody said a museum dedicated to women was the perfect place to display the work.
But the organisation based on celebrating women had now taken down an artwork detailing the greatest social issue facing them.
Families of the victims depicted were “extremely upset” at its removal, as it was a tribute to their memory and highlighted the impact of domestic violence, Ms Moody said.
Her Place museum said the Emily’s List exhibition organisers requested the artist remove the petition from the space, where a new exhibition marking the 25th anniversary of Emily’s List – a network for progressive Labor women in politics – was installed.
“Due to the size and scale of the Lost Petition, there was no alternative space at Her Place Museum to exhibit the artwork,” the museum said.
The Her Place board would reinstall the artwork later in the year, in a move it said the artist agreed on as part of the Her Voice program of Australian Women’s activism.
“The exhibiting of The Lost Petition was at the invitation of Her Place Museum Australia. It is a powerful artwork and that power is reflected in the feedback we have received,” the museum said.
Artist Dans Bain said the decision to remove her artwork made her “uneasy”.
“The fact that this work has been censored speaks to the stigma of male violence against women and children. It is an uncomfortable reality,” she posted on Facebook on Thursday.
“This work lists almost 1000 women and children, every woman and child on the Lost Petition is a loved one and has families that love them. They are not an inconvenience.”
Emily’s List Australia said it had a long term booking at the museum, which as a new facility had competing demands for space.
“Difficult decisions need to be made about how to display significant material in a small public space, during limited run exhibits,” the organisation said.
“The removal of The Lost Petition was temporary to enable installation in a more permanent way … and to ensure other women’s history exhibits move seamlessly in and around it.
“It’s a big, bold piece of art and it deserves showcasing.”
The organisation added protecting women from gendered violence was far from complete and “we are all dedicated to this work”.
Senator Claire Chandler unable to answer question on who is calling for ban of trans women in single sex sports
A Tasmanian senator pushing for transgender people to be excluded from women’s sport has been unable to name a single sporting organisation in the state who has called for the change.
Under a proposal introduced to parliament earlier this month, senator Claire Chandler wants the Sex Discrimination Act to be amended so it would not be unlawful for a sporting club to ban a person from a team based on their biological sex.
In a sensational grilling on ABC Radio Hobart, Senator Chandler was repeatedly asked to clarify who in particular is calling for the change.
“I’m not going to get into specifics,” she said.
When asked a further three times by host Leon Compton, the senator stood firm.
“What I will say is that I’ve been contacted by parents of girls who have realised how despondent their girls have become competing in sport, in situations where they’re competing against males and feeling like they’re not good enough to be in the game.”
“Is it possible, Claire Chandler, that this isn’t an issue at all; the fact that you can’t name a single group,” Mr Compton quipped back.
“Leon, like I said, I’m not going to get into specifics with you,” she responded.
She added she had been contacted by “sporting administrators” who have been concerned about the legal action that could be taken against them if they do exclude a transgender person from a single-sex sport.
“You look at what is happening with Leah Thomas in the United States, where this trans woman, I should say, swimmer, who’s beating her female counterparts by seven seconds in the pool. That is just madness,” Senator Chandler said.
Senator Chandler’s bill came back into the spotlight after Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed he had encouraged her to pursue it.
“I support it, as Claire knows. I think it’s a terrific Bill and I’ve given her great encouragement,” Mr Morrison told reporters on the hustings in Tasmania.
“Claire is a champion for women’s sport and I think she’s been right to raise these issues in the way that she has. Well done, Claire.”
But it remains to be seen if Mr Morrison’s backing will translate into broader support.
To have the bill introduced to the upper house, Senator Chandler had to do so as a private members bill, meaning she did not have support of the wider cabinet to put it on the agenda.
“If it was such a great bill, why isn‘t it endorsed by the cabinet?” Mr Compton pressed repeatedly.
“I’ve had a number of conversations with the Prime Minister obviously and with my colleagues about this issue. And look, if it’s something that the cabinet wants to consider, then that is obviously a matter for them,” Senator Chandler retorted.
With only three days left in the parliamentary sitting calendar, it is unlikely the Bill will pass, or even make it to the lower house, before the election.
Liberal MP Bridget Archer told Scott Morrison would decide if she could attend Grace Tame speech
Child sex abuse survivor and Liberal MP Bridget Archer was told the decision on whether or not she could attend a speech by Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins was “up to the Prime Minister.”
The confusion was blamed last night on a communication breakdown between the Whip’s office and the Prime Minister’s office.
The PMO insists it instructed the whips this morning to seek pairs from Labor for those Government MPs wanting to attend Wednesday’s National Press Club address.
That didn’t happen with Ms Archer told at 3pm it was “up to the PM” before she was finally told she could go after 7pm when news.com.au contacted the PMO.
In a major speech to be delivered at the national press club on Wednesday, the former Australian of the Year will speak out on tackling child sex abuse in Australia.
Tasmanian MP Bridget Archer secured a last-minute ticket to the sold out event on Tuesday, but her request to attend the event was not immediately granted.
Liberal colleagues claim she was told by party whip Bert Van Manem that it was “up to the PM.”
Despite Labor’s offer to allow her to leave Parliament despite the tight numbers on the floor of the House of Representatives, confusion reigned about whether she could attend.
After news.com.au contacted the Prime Minister’s office at 7:05 pm on Tuesday night, Ms Archer’s office then got a call 5 minutes later confirming she was cleared to attend.
The outspoken MP earlier declared she planned to cross the floor and vote against the Morrison Government’s religious freedom laws because they were in breach of Tasmanian anti-discrimination laws.
She told Parliament she was “horrified” that proposed amendments excluded children that identified as transgender.
“After so much progress how did we get back to a place where we ignore the harm we place on children when we tell them they are ‘other’, ‘less than’ and do not deserve rights and protections afforded to others – I fear it may risk lives,” Ms Archer said.
Labor’s manager of government business Tony Burke took to Twitter on Tuesday to insist there was no barrier from Labor MPs on Ms Archer or other MPs attending.
“If requests come in for the Press Club we will accommodate the same as we did for March4Justice,’’ he said.
“The government’s claim that we are meant to offer pairs that they haven’t requested is weird. And wrong.”
Last year, Ms Archer told news.com.au she burst into tears after she was taken to the Prime Minister’s office to discuss her decision to cross the floor on another matter despite repeatedly telling his staff she wanted to delay the discussion.
While Scott Morrison described the talks as “friendly”, Ms Archer said she was ambushed by the meeting and had earlier asked to delay it.
“I didn’t feel like I was being marched to the principal’s office. I just felt a little disappointed that it happened when I had expressed to the Prime Minister’s office that I would have preferred, that my preference was not at that time,” she told news.com.au.
“And I had said in the text messages to the Prime Minister’s office that I didn’t want to have the meeting, before the meeting.
“They sent me a message saying he wanted to see me at 12.15pm. I said I am not ready. I need a break.
“It was a big thing. It was just the emotion of the moment.”
Ms Archer is a child sexual assault survivor who voted with independent MP Helen Haines to suspend standing orders to establish an anti-corruption commission.
“I have found this year incredibly difficult, personally because of my own history as a child sexual abuse survivor,” she said.
“It has been difficult for me to sit with discipline in unity with all this going on around me and it has hurt me. It has hurt me.
“But I am not weak. I’m telling you that I don’t think that some of these things are the right way forward.
“That language being used yesterday about drones and warm bodies. That’s what I said to him. That I am not a drone.”
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