Amnesty International Urges Sudan to Halt Crackdown

Sudan’s police used “excessive force” to quell protests that erupted this week following the death of four students who were arrested for participating in a peaceful sit-in at their university, Amnesty International said.

Police beat protesters calling for an end to President Umar al-Bashir’s government, dispersed them with tear gas and arrested “scores” in the capital, Khartoum, London-based Amnesty said late yesterday in a statement. About 100 students were wounded in clashes on Dec. 11, the state-run Sudanese Media Centre said. Sudanese police spokesman al-Ser Ahmed Omar had his mobile phone switched off when called for comment.

The demonstrations were sparked by the death of the four students from the western region of Darfur after they were arrested by the National Security Service following the Dec. 3 sit-in at their university in Jazeera state, Amnesty said. Their bodies bore signs of beatings, it said.

“Sudanese security services have clearly used excessive force since the first peaceful murmurings of dissent at last week’s student sit-in,” Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Africa director, said in the statement.

The Minister of Justice promised to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the deaths of the four students, Amnesty said. In the past, the government has failed to conduct impartial probes, it said.

The authorities also used force to clamp down on a wave of protests that started in mid-June against austerity policies, Amnesty International and New York-based Human Rights Watch said at the time. The government imposed them after Sudan lost about three-quarters of its oil production when South Sudan gained independence last year.

“The economy is doing horribly, corruption is a problem, prices are increasing,” EJ Hogendoorn, East Africa analyst with the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, said in an e-mailed response to questions. “The student protests are not a threat in and of themselves, but if they expand they would put a huge amount of pressure on the regime.”

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