The Guardian | Sudan paramilitaries raped and assaulted protesters and medics

Paramilitaries who killed 35 people when they attacked pro-democracy protesters in Khartoum on Monday also committed multiple sexual assaults, beat up medical staff and volunteers at clinics, looted and destroyed property in hospitals and threatened doctors and medical workers with reprisals if they provided care to the wounded, witnesses have said.

Hundreds were injured in the attack on a sit-in in the centre of the Sudanese capital and in clashes afterwards as the paramilitaries, from the feared Rapid Support Forces (RSF) spread through the city to quell sporadic unrest.

Video clips circulated on social media show the RSF and other armed forces shooting and beating unarmed people on the streets.

Harrowing details of rapes by the paramilitaries are also emerging, despite restrictions on communications in Sudan.

At least one such assault took place when the RSF invaded a hospital close to the site of the sit-in where injured protesters were being treated. Others occurred in the street when paramilitaries chased and caught fleeing civilians, activists said.

Jehanne Henry, the associate Africa director of Human Rights Watch, said the reports of sexual assaults were credible but the extent of such violence was unclear.

“There are beatings on the streets. It looks like a bunch of thugs. There has been sexual violence … This would not be a surprise,” Henry said.

Khartoum and other cities were tense on Tuesday as scattered protests continued and thousands defied an order from military leaders to postpone religious gatherings marking the festival of Eid. Many roads were blocked by makeshift barricades.

Witnesses said the RSF were still driving through streets in the capital in columns of armoured vehicles, often shooting into the air or at people near roadblocks.

“They are shooting … harassing and robbing people, anybody. They don’t care,” one told the Guardian.

Lt Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the leader of the transitional military council (TMC) that took power in April after ousting president Omar al-Bashir, announced on national television early on Tuesday morning that polls were planned in nine months.

Burhan also said that all previous agreements with the main opposition coalition had been cancelled.

The military’s move against Bashir, whose brutal, repressive rule lasted 30 years, followed months of protests that culminated in a massive demonstration outside the defence ministry in Khartoum.

Madani Abbas Madani, a leader of the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF) opposition alliance, said an open-ended civil disobedience campaign would continue to try to force the council from power.

“What happened [on Monday] – the killing and injuring of protesters, the humiliation – was a systematic and planned attempt to impose repression on the Sudanese people,” he said.

The opposition groups have resisted a rush to early elections which are likely to be dominated by the former ruling National Congress party (NCP).

The NCP is currently the only organised political party with significant resources and there are widespread fears that any poll would be rigged.

Rosalind Marsden, an associate fellow at the Chatham House thinktank and an expert on Sudan, said the military council intended to use the election as a means of legitimising their interests.

“The concern is the TMC … will now link up with old regime elements and so the elections will open the way for the old regime to come back into power. It is very worrying,” Marsden said.

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