The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, is calling on Sudanese authorities to stop using excessive force to repress peaceful anti-government demonstrations.
Protests against fuel shortages and the rising price of bread in Sudan began nearly a month ago. These quickly turned into demands for the resignation of President Omar al-Bashir, who has ruled for 30 years, and a change of government, which the protesters view as deeply corrupt.
Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, says the governments response has only made things worse.
Numerous witnesses say security forces have fired tear gas and live ammunition at peaceful protesters.
So, we are calling on the government to ensure that any report of excessive use of force, including live ammunition by the state security forces, is investigated and that they engage in a dialogue with the protesters instead of seeking to repress them.
The government confirms 24 people have died in the course of the protests. The U.N. says it has credible reports indicating the death toll may be twice as high.
Sudanese authorities also confirm that up to January 6, at least 816 protesters have been arrested. They reportedly include journalists, opposition leaders and members of civil society.
Shamdasani says these tactics have not deterred people from holding peaceful rallies in a number of cities across Sudan. She says they are being organized by professional doctors, lawyers, and journalist associations. So far, she says there do not seem to be any moves toward dialogue to end the standoff.
In fact, what we have seen is that the president himself has been attending pro-government rallies, while the security forces are cracking down on anti-government rallies.
Shamdasani says High Commissioner Bachelet has been in touch with Sudanese authorities. She has offered to deploy a human rights team to advise them and help ensure they act in accordance with their international human rights obligations.
Shamdasani says the high commissioner is awaiting their response.