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Sudanese judges, U.S. denounce protest crackdowns

KHARTOUM, Jan 20 (Reuters) – Sudanese head of judiciary and judges condemned violence against anti-military protesters in a rare public statement on Thursday, while the United States said it would consider unspecified steps against those holding up efforts to resolve Sudan’s political crisis.

At least 72 civilians have died and more than 2,000 have been injured as security forces have cracked down on frequent demonstrations since a military takeover on Oct. 25, according to medics aligned with the protest movement.

Angered by the killing of seven civilians earlier this week, protesters took to the streets once more on Thursday in eastern Khartoum and other locations across Sudan.

Military leaders have said that the right to peaceful protest is protected and have commissioned investigations into the bloodshed. The violence has deepened the deadlock between pro-democracy groups and the military leadership.

In a statement, Sudan’s ruling council affirmed the need for national dialogue, a technocratic Cabinet, and adjustments to a transitional constitutional document negotiated after the ousting of former leader Omar al-Bashir in a 2019 uprising.

The document formed the basis for a power-sharing arrangement between the military and civilians that was halted by the coup.

After a failed bid by former Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok to salvage some civilian control following the coup, the United Nations has been trying to facilitate dialogue between opposing factions. read more

Late on Thursday, military leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan announced the appointment of 15 Cabinet ministers, most of whom had been promoted to acting roles by Hamdok. No prime minister or defence or interior ministers were named.


The coup drew condemnation from Western powers that largely froze badly needed economic assistance to Sudan. read more

That assistance would only be restarted if violence ended and a civilian-led government was restored, visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Molly Phee and newly appointed special envoy David Satterfield said. read more

Condemning the use of force on protesters, they “made clear the United States will consider measures to hold accountable those responsible for failure to move forward” with a political transition and an end to violence, a U.S. statement said.

A statement from 55 Sudanese judges to the judiciary chief said military leaders had “violated [international] agreements and covenants since the October 25 coup, as they have carried out the most heinous violations against defenceless protesters.”

They called for an end to the violence and a criminal investigation.

In response, the head of the judiciary said in a statement that the ruling sovereign council must do the utmost to prevent violations.

“We in the judiciary affirm that we will not hesitate to take the measures we have at hand to protect the lives and constitutional rights of citizens,” the statement said.

Separately, more than 100 prosecutors announced they would stop work from Thursday to call for security forces to cease violations and lift a state of emergency. They said prosecutors had been unable to carry out their legal duty to accompany police to protests and determine the acceptable use of force.

It is unusual for Sudan’s judges and prosecutors to make public statements about the conduct of the security forces.

Asked for comment, Acting Information Ministry Minister Nasreldin Ahmed noted that Burhan had ordered an investigation into protester deaths on Monday and a probe was under way.

Protesters in the capital could be seen pulling up paving and barricading a main road and several side streets.

One, a student named Taysir, said they were doing so to protect themselves from security forces. She dismissed Burhan’s moves to appoint a caretaker Cabinet.

“He doesn’t want to give up, but we don’t want to give up either,” said another protester, who gave her name as Muzan.

Writing by Nafisa Eltahir; Editing by Aidan Lewis, William Maclean, Mark Porter and Jonathan Oatis

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