logo
Sudanese Archive
logo
Sudanese Archive

INVESTIGATIONS

Patterns of violence against protesters in the year since Sudan's coup

Thousands of injuries, many killed in efforts to quell anti-coup protests

Print Article

The Coup Files

Since the military in Sudan took power nearly one year ago, people have continued to take to the street to protest.

Those protests have been met with violence.

For a year, the Sudanese Archive has gathered videos and photos shared online of these incidents…

- Videos of people being hit with tear gas canisters

img

- Videos of people shot with bullets

img

- Videos of numerous headshots

image20

- Videos of people beaten by security forces

img

These tactics are not new. It’s nearly the same as used by the Khartoum regime’s government before the revolution ousted Al-Bashir.

Thousands have been injured since the coup. But the Sudanese Archive is watching.

This is the COUP FILES

Inside this collection of documentation are:

  • Videos showing perpetrators appearing to be Police, Riot police, Central Reserve Forces or Rapid Support Forces, and perpetrators in civilian clothing
  • Videos showing those perpetrators performing actions that could be considered excessive force
  • Videos showing those perpetrators using tear gas and other crowd control methods in ways that could be unlawful
  • Videos showing what appear to be arbitrary arrests

The Sudanese Archive has been searching for videos and photos showing violence against protesters since Dec. 2018, when protests against the former Al-Bashir regime intensified. We have archived those visual documents of the violence, and began sorting and structuring the information to understand the realities facing protesters. After the coup in October 2021, we refocused on understanding how security forces are working to suppress dissent and anti-coup demonstrations. This project has involved the archiving and reviewing of thousands of videos, and the publishing of videos or photos that have been subjected to a rigorous verification process. This report is not a comprehensive overview of every violent act that took place - it would not be possible to do so using open source documentation as not every violent act is captured on camera, shared with the world, or easily investigated or verified. Rather, this report tries to offer corroboratory evidence to the many other ways this violence has been documented. Here, we provide as much clarity as possible on who is perpetrating the violence in the incidents we investigated, the patterns we found in the violence incidents, and whether there are indicators of unlawful acts.

A timeline of events

Protests intensify across the country

In December 2018, protests sparked by the cost of living intensified, and were met with violence by security forces. Protesters remained on the streets at protests over months , and in April 2019 reached the military headquarters in Khartoum.

Ousting of Omar Al-Bashir and the formation of a transitional government

On April 11, 2019, Omar Al-Bashir was ousted from power and arrested by the military after months of consistent protests. Protesters formed a sit-in outside the military headquarters calling for the formation of a civilian-led government. On June 3, 2019, security forces violently dismantled the sit-in, resulting in many people injured and killed.

Transitional government formed

On June 30, 2019, protesters again marched against the government - and were met with violence. As a result, the military and civilian parties came to an agreement to form a transitional government.

The deadline for civilian-led government and elections approaches

By October 21, 2021 the deadline for a power-sharing agreement was approaching, and Marches of the Millions occurred across the country in support of a civilian-led government.

A military coup and the arrest of Prime Minister Hamdok

image30

In the early morning hours of October 25, 2021, military take power and arrest the Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. Protests against the coup ensue, including a particularly violent day on October 30. These protests occur across the country. The Sudanese Archive identified incidents on October 30, 2021 of the excessive use of tear gas and crowd control tactics in Nyala, the use of live ammunition in Zalingei, and in Omdurman and Khartoum we documented tear gas, gunfire, coordinated security forces, and protesters injured and killed.

Anti-coup protests intensify

Protests continue and are met with increasingly violent and aggressive suppression tactics in November. The Sudanese Archive documented the chasing of protesters with live ammunition and arrest attempts in Al Qadarif on November 13, 2021, and beatings, shootings and attacks on a journalist in Khartoum and Bahri on November 17, 2021.

Hamdok is reinstated

Sudanese Prime Minister Hamdok is reinstated on November 21, 2021, after an agreement with the military, but opposition forces reject the deal. Protests continue. The Sudanese Archive investigated an incident in Khartoum on December 19, 2021, in which tear gas and live ammunition were used against protesters. On December 30, 2021 in Omdurman, the Sudanese Archive identified several violent incidents, including an attack on a news station, teargas and gunfire at protests, beatings and unlawful arrests of civilians, and protesters injured by gunfire.

Hamdok resigns

The Prime Minister Hamdok resigns from his role at the beginning of January 2022. Anti-coup protesters continue to take to the streets, and are met again with violence. On January 6, 2022, the Sudanese Archive investigated an incident in which a military vehicle ran over protesters, and another in which security forces shot from a rooftop and an injured protester is carried away with a head wound. In Khartoum on January 17, 2022, the Sudanese Archive investigated shooting, chasing, and protesters being targeted by vehicles, and the death and injuries of protesters.

Continued protests met with violence

As protests continued across the country against the coup and calling for a civilian-led government, violence also persists, including reports of many injured by shots to the head or by being hit or run over by vehicles driven by security forces. The Sudanese Archive investigated documentation of the use of tear gas and live ammunition against protesters in Khartoum on February 28, 2022. On March 8, 2022, the Sudanese Archive documented the use of tear gas, head injuries, and crowd control tactics employed in Khartoum. On April 6, 2022, the Sudanese Archive found documentation of the use of live bullets in Omdurman. The 21st of May, 2022, there are videos showing a military vehicle nearly hitting a protester and the use of tear gas and gunfire, as well as protesters appearing injured by gunshots.

Another million march

On June 30, 2022, protests again happen across the country about two years after the ‘Million March Massacre’, when on June 3, 2019 more than 100 were killed as security forces cracked down on demonstrations seeking a civilian-led government. The Sudanese Archive documented violence on June 30, 2022, including security forces shooting directly at a protester and then approaching him and kicking the man’s limp body. On the same day, there were also other direct shooting incidents from Mac Nimer Bridge. On July 24, 2022, in Omdurman, the Sudanese Archive documented again the use of gunfire and injured protesters.

One year since the coup occurred

In October 2022, it is one year since the coup in Sudan. Protests continue.

The patterns

Our investigation uncovered numerous patterns of violence, seen both within Khartoum, Bahri, and Omdurman, and outside those cities in Gadaref, Nyala, and Zalingei. These widespread tactics include:

  • Protesters injured by gunshots
  • Multiple people with injuries, especially noted injuries to the head
  • Tear gas thrown directly into densely crowded groups of people
  • Sustained beatings of unarmed people
  • Intervention with crowd control tactics into protests that appear to have been peaceful
  • Preparation and coordination of security forces in ways that indicate an intention to use excessive force

These patterns were identified by first reviewing each video and noting characteristics of each, such as visible uniforms and vehicles, weapons, types of violence, and injuries noted. We then combine those videos into clusters of corroborating information, to identify key incidents at specific moments in time. Some of those incidents are corroborated by numerous videos - such as a shooting at a protest in which we were able to compare videos of before, during and after the shooting showing the victims at the protest and later in hospital. Other incidents are represented by only one video or photo and as such are considered a lower level of credibility.

Protesters injured by gunshots

Since protests against the coup began, reports have alleged the security forces use live weapons to deter demonstrators and quell dissent. This has been reported in the media, by medical associations, and by human rights documentation organisations. Our findings corroborate those claims, with incidents that we investigated showing victims in hospital or being carried away from protests with what appear to be gunshot wounds, the sounds of gunfire, and incidents in which security forces armed with heavy weapons point and shoot toward protesters.

One example is an incident near the Al Ghali Gas station on Jan. 17, 2022, analysed through four videos appearing to be filmed between 2 and 3 p.m. The videos reviewed by the Sudanese Archive team appear to show the presence of the Central Reserve Forces, who wear a beige uniform, and the Riot Police, who wear a blue camouflaged uniform, carrying weapons, targeting the peaceful demonstrators. There is white smoke and tear gas canisters, and protesters take shelter behind a flimsy cardboard box, in an attempt to protect the “Al-Jawdah” hospital, to which the injured were taken. At a point in the video, a protester appears to be shot and is carried away. In one video, a voice can be heard saying:

“The January 17 million, very heavy shooting, very many injuries among young people, excessive repression by the forces of the revolutionary council of peaceful demonstrations here.”

Multiple people with injuries, especially noted injuries to the head

In numerous protests we identified civilians with injuries - these included what appear to be severe injuries, in which the people appear limp and are carried, or serious wounds, with blood dripping from the injury. As well, there are videos and photos documenting bruising and small cuts. These videos and photos, which went through our verification process and were investigated, corroborate reports from the CCSD, media and human rights organisations that many have been injured during the protests, and many of those injuries include head wounds.

“They were mainly aiming for the head or the chest. I got separated from my colleagues and saw one of them get shot. A lot of people were injured to the point we did not know whom to tend to first,” - an eyewitness to the violence on October 30, 2021

On October 30, 2021, the Sudanese Archive investigated several injuries that appear in the documentation, including a limp man being carried away after appearing to be shot on Al-Morada Street in Omdurman, and another man with blood on his right knee being carried off near the Y-intersection of Al-Morada Street and Nile Street. On the same day, the Sudanese Archive also investigated an incident of a wounded man on Al-Arbaeen Street in Omdurman, being escorted away with blood on his lower back. As well, the Sudanese Archive investigated an incident on January 6, 2022, in which a protester was carried away with an injury to the head at the same moment of security forces being seen shooting from a rooftop. That same day another incident showed a military vehicle running into protesters and leaving one person limp on the ground. As well, the Sudanese Archive documented again the use of gunfire and injured protesters in Omdurman occurring on April 6, 2022 and on July 24, 2022.

Tear gas thrown directly into densely crowded groups of people

At nearly every protest in which we were able to investigate acts of violence, tear gas was thrown directly toward people or into a densely crowded area. In line with international standards, tear gas should only be employed when necessary to prevent imminent physical harm and should not be used as a first resort to disperse nonviolent demonstrations, such as during the protests after the coup and in the following year.

For example, on May 21, 2022, the Sudanese Archive investigated an incident of teargas thrown at protesters in Omdurman. Another incident occurred on February 28, 2022, and another in March 2022. In fact, there are archived videos of the use of tear gas at protests from nearly every single protest since the coup occurred, however we only verified incident involving tear gas at protests in which other violent acts also took place.

Sustained beatings of unarmed people

Numerous reports in medical records and the media have said protesters have also been injured by beatings. The Sudanese Archive verified several incidents in which perpetrators - both in uniform and in civilian clothing - beat people already on the ground and submitting. These investigated incidents are indications of the use of excessive force.

In one example, on Nov. 17, 2021, we investigated documentation filmed in Khartoum Bahri of security forces dressed in dark blue camouflage uniforms, often associated with Sudanese Riot police, severely beating a person, dragging him to the ground and then beating him further. There was also a small number of people dressed in light blue uniforms, likely police, and what seemed like men in civilian clothes involved in the attack. In the video, the person is being beaten and kicked for about 35 seconds. Other investigated beating incidents occurred on Deccember 19 and December 30, 2021. In many cases, these beatings are done near a police vehicle that appears to be present for the eventual arrest of the person. The beatings are also done using sticks, batons and whips, with kicking and in some cases by several different uniformed perpetrators working together.

Intervention with crowd control tactics into protests that appear to have been peaceful

According to our legal contacts, the use of force, including the use of less-lethal weapons such as tear gas for the purposes of crowd control, is legitimate only when necessary and proportionate. Indiscriminate use of tear gas and other less-lethal crowd control methods can constitute excessive use of force. As such, incidents in which the documentation shows protesters appearing to be peaceful - for example, with no weapons, not acting aggressively, and with the presence of children or other vulnerable populations - that are interrupted by a moment of state intervention using violence could be an indicator of the use of excessive force.

The Sudanese Archive identified several incidents in which this occurred, most notably on January 17, 2022 on Al Qasr Street in Khartoum, when protesters marching peacefully are met with apparent gunfire and at least seven people are carried away appearing injured. We were able to make this identification using a video livestream shared on Facebook, as well as corroborating information. In a livestream video, there is a harsh sound of gunfire and one person can be seen dropping to the ground on the left side of the video screen. It’s not clear the nature of his injuries, but others immediately rush to him to assist. Shortly after that, another person is seen being carried in the same direction, away from the northern junction known to have security presence, and across the train tracks. Then many are seen carried away, in the opposite direction of the protest march.

Preparation and coordination of security forces in ways that indicate an intention to use excessive force

Our research found several incidents in which more than one perpetrator was present and they appeared to be coordinating. Most notably, on October 30, 2021 right after the coup occurred, we identified a video in which we noted the presence of people uniformed in ways indicative of Sudanese police and Riot Control police, the Sudanese Armed Forces military police, and the Rapid Support Forces. This was determined through the identification of uniform characteristics and vehicles.

As well, on December 30, 2021, the presence of uniformed people that are likely to be the Central Reserve Forces and the Riot police, as well as several individuals in civilian clothing participated in a violent incident or were seen adjacent to it holding weapons. It appears these groups are working together, indicated through their interactions and shared role in perpetrating violence in videos analyzed for the investigation.

The perpetrators

Our research has documented security forces working in a coordinated way - and sometimes as individual units - to quell the protests.

This includes:

  • The Riot police, inferred by the presence of dark blue camouflaged uniforms and similarly coloured vehicles.
  • The Central Reserve Forces, inferred by their beige uniforms, black vests, and grey helmets, and similarly coloured vehicles.
  • The police, inferred by their solid blue uniforms and similar police vehicles.
  • The Sudanese Armed Forces, inferred by the dark camouflage green uniform and vehicles marked with their named.
  • The Rapid Support Forces, inferred by their desert camouflage uniforms and vehicles, which are often either also desert camouflage or a solid white toyota pickup truck.
  • Perpetrators in civilian clothing, inferred by their actions in violent incidents, adjacent to or in partnership with uniformed perpetrators.

How we do our work

Each video or photo we review goes through an archiving and verification process. First, the post through which the visual documentation was accessed is archived into our system, by taking a screenshot, downloading the metadata and post details, and a timestamp and hash to ensure authenticity in future. Then, those archived posts are sorted and structured through a tagging process, designed to identify characteristics of the media content (such as what uniforms and vehicles are visible, characteristics of the weapons and protests that can been seen), and to identify elements that can assist in the verification: geographic location, date and time of the incident, source who shared or filmed the content, and other relevant details. Those videos or photos together can help to form an idea of an incident that we can then report has been investigated. These incidents are also tagged with indicators that help to identify characteristics such as intentionality or scale.

The Sudanese Archive consults with legal experts to better understand the use of force and weapons that could constitute a violation of human rights in the context of protests and demonstrations. According to our legal contacts, the use of force, including the use of less-lethal weapons such as teargas for the purposes of crowd control, is legitimate only when necessary and proportionate. Indiscriminate use of tear gas and other less-lethal crowd control methods can constitute excessive use of force. In line with international standards, tear gas should only be employed when necessary to prevent imminent physical harm and should not be used as a first resort to disperse nonviolent demonstrations, such as during the protests on October 30, 2021. Security forces and law enforcement should also issue audible, adequate warnings before using teargas, and should avoid exacerbating the situation. Additionally, security forces should avoid targeting enclosed spaces with tear gas, including spaces where protestors are trapped behind barricades.

The use of live ammunition and/or lethal force when there is no imminent threat to life or imminent risk of serious injury violates international human rights standards. Intentional lethal use of firearms may be made only “when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life,” and firearms should never be used simply to disperse a peaceful assembly. Security forces must make every effort to minimise damage and injury at all times by using only the minimum level of force necessary, including by refraining from the indiscriminate use of live fire and intentional targeting of protestors’ heads and chests. Sporadic violence by some protestors that is not an immediate threat to life, such as stone throwing or kicking of teargas canisters back at security forces, does not justify the use of lethal force by security forces and law enforcement.

Conclusion

This investigation identified several instances of violence that could contravene human rights across Sudan. The Sudanese Archive team investigated incidents using videos and photos showing various uniformed people who appear to be Riot police, CRF, SAF, Police, RSF, and perpetrators in civilian clothing. The investigated incidents included videos showing those perpetrators performing actions that are indications of excessive force, the use of tear gas and other crowd control methods in ways that could be unlawful, and indications of arbitrary arrests.

The investigation identified many of the same or similar patterns in violence against protesters as occurred in 2019, both before and after the regime of Omar Al-Bashir. Using the verified videos and corroborating evidence we identified incidents in which protesters were injured by gunshots and incidents in which multiple people were seen with injuries to the head. Incidents also included tear gas thrown directly into densely crowded groups of people, sustained beatings of unarmed people, and the intervention with crowd control tactics into protests that appear to have been peaceful. As well, we can conclude based on the investigation of these incidents, occurring over the course of one year in cities across the country, that there was preparation and coordination of security forces in ways that indicate an intention to use excessive force.

One year after the October 25 military coup, the protests - and the violent suppression tactics - continue.

The Sudanese Archive works to preserve digital evidence for accountability for crimes committed against Sudanese citizens. If you would like to connect with us, please contact us at info@sudanesearchive.org.

logo

Sudanese Archive

We are seeking individual donations to carry out our work. Please consider supporting us.

Connect with us
Mnemonicsyrian archiveyemeni archiveukrainian archive
Subscribe to our mailing list