Rights groups demand justice over Sudan protest deaths

Khartoum - Global rights groups on Thursday criticised Sudan for failing to provide justice to dozens of protesters killed in a government crackdown on anti-austerity demonstrations three years ago.

In September 2013, thousands of people took to the streets in Khartoum and some other regions calling for the downfall of President Omar al-Bashir's regime after the authorities slashed fuel subsidies.

Rights group Amnesty International said at the time that about 200 people were killed, hundreds were wounded and more than 800 arrested when security forces crushed the demonstrations.

The government gave a death toll of fewer than 100.

On Thursday, rights groups Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) said that three years later Sudan has yet to provide justice to victims of the crackdown.

"Although it seems like Sudan has succeeded in sweeping the horrific violence of September 2013 under the carpet, victims' families still demand justice," Mossaad Mohamed Ali of ACJPS said in a joint statement issued by the rights groups.

Sudan has set up three state commissions of inquiry, but their findings have not been made public so far, the groups said.

Human Rights Watch research showed that many detainees were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment and that female protesters were sexually assaulted by security forces, the statement said.

"The government needs to publicly admit the scale of the killings and the role of its security forces," HRW Africa director Daniel Bekele said in the statement.

"The September 2013 crackdown remains an ugly symbol of Sudan's use of lethal force against peaceful protesters, and the lack of accountability of human rights abuses," said Sarah Jackson of Amnesty.

The protests were the worst urban unrest in more than two decades in Sudan.

Authorities said at the time they had to intervene when crowds turned violent, attacking petrol stations and facilities.

Sudanese have struggled to cope with soaring prices and a weak currency since South Sudan separated in 2011, taking with it around 75 percent of the formerly united country's oil production.

The official rate of the Sudanese pound is 6.50 to the dollar, but it trades for around 15.50 on the black market.

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