Sudan: all security agencies were involved in brutal protest attacks - and must be held to account

New report reveals how security forces beat, raped, tortured and killed protesters 

‘We are urging Sudan’s transitional authorities to hold thorough, effective and independent investigations... Every victim must get justice’ - Deprose Muchena

An Amnesty International investigation has exposed how all branches of Sudan’s security forces were involved in the violent crackdown on protests against the government of deposed President Omar al-Bashir in 2018 and 2019. It also reveals new evidence about how protesters were killed.

In a new report, They descended on us like rain, Amnesty documents how the police, the National Intelligence Security Service (NISS) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) led deadly assaults on protesters.

Security forces used excessive force to inflict maximum harm on protesters and committed numerous human rights violations, including the arbitrary mass detention of thousands of people and torture. They also invaded hospitals, arrested and beat medical staff and patients. Amnesty documented horrifying testimonies of rape and sexually assault of female protesters.

Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa, said:

“The unprovoked attacks on protesters filled with hope and peacefully looking forward to a quick resolution of the political crisis was a despicable violation of the Sudanese people rights.

“During our research many victims and their families clearly pinpointed specific arms of the security forces that ruthlessly attacked protesters. We have documented evidence of the specific killings and which of the security forces were involved.  

“We are urging Sudan’s transitional authorities to hold thorough, effective and independent investigations into all protester killings and other human rights violations. Every victim must get justice.

“All those found responsible, including through command responsibility, must be brought to justice through fair trials, but without resorting to the death penalty.”

Amnesty v Government: Conflicting data on deaths

Amnesty documented 77 protesters killed between mid-December 2018 and 11 April 2019, while the government said 31 had been killed.

The General Intelligence Services (GIS) – formerly NISS - and its shadowy armed operational units were responsible for the first lethal crackdowns on protesters in December 2018 and led attacks on protesters until April 2019 when Omar al-Bashir was deposed.

Its armed operation unit in Atbara ‘Hyaṯ Alamlyat’, shot at protesters on 20 December 2018, resulting in the first deaths of the Sudan protests - three people in Atbara, the city where the Sudanese protests were sparked off by the sky-rocketing price of bread.

The first victim, Tariq Ahmed, an engineering student in his early twenties studying at the Nile Valley University, was shot in the chest and died an hour later in hospital. The second victim, 27-year-old labourer Isam Ali Hussein, died from a lethal gunshot wound to the head. The third victim, Mariam Ahmed Abdalla, was shot dead inside her house.

Enter the RSF

After Al-Bashir was deposed by the military, the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) was deployed to help disperse protesters.

On 3 June, RSF officers led a deadly raid on peaceful protesters at the sit-in area outside the military headquarters in Khartoum in which at least 100 people were killed. Those who survived the attack identified not only RSF officers, but also NISS officers and the police as having been involved in the massacre.

On 13 June, Lieutenant General Shams al-Deen al-Kabashi, spokesperson for the Transitional Military Council which was running the country at the time, publicly admitted that the Council had ordered the dispersal of protesters on 3 June.

Unanswered questions

Shockingly, not one government agency could precisely and authoritatively state how many people were killed during the protester crackdowns. All agencies had widely divergent data for the numbers of people killed on 3 June 2019.

Amnesty estimates that at least 100 people were killed, and more than 700 others were injured[1].

Hundreds of protesters were also arrested, many of whom were subsequently released. At least 20 are still missing, according to Fadia Khalaf, founder of the Initiative for Missing People.

The table below reveals the extent of the disparity in recording the 3 June deaths:


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