Targeting of medical facilities in Khartoum on June 3, 2019

Targeting of medical facilities in Khartoum on June 3, 2019

Mon Aug 17 2020
Evidence security forces blocked access to health care and targeted doctors

Introduction

This investigation was produced by Sudanese Archive in collaboration with the Human Rights Centre Investigations Lab at UC Berkeley, using open-source tools to verify videos and images of violence. Some video content was contributed by BBC Africa Eye, with support from open-source investigative journalist Benjamin Strick. In this report, we analyzed videos that show how security forces, likely members of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the police, targeted health care workers and blocked access to health care facilities on June 3, 2019. The attacks on health care workers came as security forces dismantled an established sit-in in Khartoum, near the army headquarters, dubbed the ‘June 3rd massacre’ by protesters. The violence killed more than 100 people, 40 of whose bodies were found in the Nile, and injured several hundred more. This investigation is part of a series being produced by the Sudanese Archive to establish clear evidence that RSF used violence and force against protesters on June 3, 2019.

What happened?

On June 3, 2019, Sudanese security forces, especially the RSF, led an organized attack on sit-ins and pro-democracy protesters around two key points; the Army Headquarters and Mosque University of Khartoum. The Sudanese Archive was also able to confirm through verifying videos and images from the day that security forces also surrounded hospitals, beat people on the hospital grounds, and injured medical workers.

A report by Physicians for Human Rights, conducted through interviews and clinical evaluations of 30 survivors and witnesses, found indications of attacks on health care workers, including “harassment, intimidation, or violence; forcing detained health workers to provide medical care; preventing access to health care; and attacks on hospitals and informal sit-in clinics” at the following locations:

  • Feda’il Hospital
  • University of Khartoum Faculty of Science
  • Makeshift Detention Site
  • Continuing Professional Development Center
  • University of Khartoum
  • Al-Kahriba “Electricity Building” Clinic
  • Al-Moallem Hospital
  • Royal Care Hospital

According to the report, RSF soldiers specifically targeted physicians and, in some cases, separated them from other protesters in a bid to intimidate them. In one example, general surgeon Dr. Yaseen recounted to PHR that while preparing to operate on a patient with a head wound at a medical center around four kilometers from the Army HQ, a bullet went through to the patient’s chest, killing him.

As well, there were numerous reports on social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook, of security forces targeting medical centres on June 3 itself, as the events occurred. For example, a user with the handle of @mohammedAlBshA tweeted that he was shot in the femur (upper leg) because he was carrying a man shot in the head. His Tweet said that an RSF soldier then beat him until he dropped the injured man and the soldier shot that man with another bullet in the head, following that with, “now, you can bury him.”

A Tweet describing a reported RSF attack on already-injured protesters, published on June 3, 2019.

Activists and people on the scene also reported that injured protesters were blocked from arriving to receive treatment at hospitals.

A Sudanese activist reporting allegations of RSF blocking access to medical facilities

A spokesperson for the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors (CCSD) told NPR on June 3, 2019: “The Transitional Military Council forces are firing live ammunition inside East Nile Hospital and chasing peaceful protestors inside the hospital's campus. Royal Care Hospital in Buri area is under siege by the Transitional Military Council (TMC) forces at the moment. TMC's forces are preventing volunteers from reaching the hospital."

Video evidence of these incidents can be difficult to access as in some cases people deleted the videos or stopped filming under orders from security services, or deleted the videos and images shortly after posting them. The Sudanese Archive worked to document and preserve as many videos and images as possible in our archive. Using these, the Sudanese Archive has so far been able to confirm:

1) the presence of security forces outside Royal Care hospital grounds, then entering the grounds by force, beating people within hospital grounds, and the sound of shots fired outside the hospital

2) a video showing an injured medical worker within the Al Moalem hospital, security forces injuring someone on hospital grounds, and the presence of RSF forces outside the hospital earlier that day

Visual evidence

Presence of security forces outside hospitals

In a Facebook post that was published at 7:21 a.m., a well-known journalist shared two images reported to have been taken outside Royal Care International Hospital. While both images have been posted by other users or in other locations online, such as here and here, neither appear to have been on the Internet before June 3, 2019, according to searches with TinEye and Google Image Search. An analysis of shadows in the photos using SunCalc also corroborates the timeline, indicating they were likely to have been taken around 7:20 a.m.

Images shared by a journalist showing RSF vehicles near Royal Care Hospital

In the first photo, a number of land cruisers carrying security forces in beige fatigues, similar to ones worn by RSF, drive along a street. The land cruisers are similar to the Toyotas used by the military or RSF. There are also machine guns mounted on these cruisers. We located that one around 15.598472, 32.571452 using Google Earth’s historical imagery and looking up the name of a restaurant that shows in Arabic as ‘كفتنجى’, ‘Koftangi’. The below images show the location of an electricity tower and a street heading north plus the restaurant’s building.

Landmarks as shown on Google Earth

In the second image, we can see the road takes a curve in front of several distinctive buildings, which can also be seen in Google Earth satellite imagery of Royal Care Hospital. This indicates the forces were around the coordinates 15.597373, 32.572698, just south of Royal Care, opposite Al Amal Specialized Hospital, driving east.

Comparing a curve in the road and the presence of buildings from the video and as seen on Google Earth

These images indicate that it is likely there was a large presence of RSF soldiers in close proximity to Royal Care International Hospital, Al Amal Specialized Hospital, and other medical facilities nearby.

Royal Care International Hospital

Reports of security forces blocking access to Royal Care and targeting hospital workers

Early on June 3, 2019, as reports began circulating of security forces attacking the sit-in, there were also reports of the same forces surrounding the Royal Care International Hospital, a health care hub receiving many of the injured protestors.

For example, a Facebook post published at 9:40 a.m. by the CCSD reported that security forces had surrounded the hospital, “A total siege is being enforced around Royal Care Hospital preventing medical workers from reaching it.”

Facebook post announcing security forces had barricaded Royal Care Hospital the morning of June 3, 2019

A medic also told Al-Jazeera that RSF soldiers had ordered Royal Care Hospital staff to expel wounded protesters, according to a story published the following day. Other sources told the news outlet that the RSF had also arrested Waleed Abdullah, a doctor they shot in the leg.

Sounds of shooting outside the hospital

In another video that was posted on Twitter, there are indications of RSF shooting just outside the hospital. The video was posted to Twitter at 9:46 a.m., and a shadow analysis, using the online tool Suncalc, corroborates this time, indicating that the video was most likely captured around 9:00 a.m.

A screenshot of people in the grounds of Royal Care International Hospital from a video in which the sound of gunfire heard nearby

In it, the videographer appears to be running inside the hospital with other people while shooting sounds are heard outside. It appears to have been filmed in a parking area in the northeastern part of the hospital. In the footage, we can see the name of the hospital in Arabic and English, a gate, a security booth and two distinctive buildings which can be matched with the surroundings of Royal Care Hospital on Google Earth around this point: 15.600006, 32.571304.

The hospital name as seen in a video screenshot

Landmarks helping situate the video at Royal Care International Hospital

Landmarks as seen on Google Earth that can be matched to the video screenshot

Security entering Royal Care hospital and beating people

Another video at the same location was posted at 7 p.m. Khartoum time on June 3rd, but appears to have been filmed just shortly after the last one of the sound of gunfire. This video shows what appears to be police forces making their way into the Royal Care Hospital, attacking and beating people.

The security forces are wearing uniforms that match those of police as seen in multiple published images from the media and the United Nations. In the video, one of the officers heads toward a man in what looks like a medical gown, likely one of the hospital’s medical staff, and the person filming rushes back. This video appears to have been captured at around 10:20 a.m. according to shadow analysis.

A screenshot from a video that can be used to confirm it was shot at Royal Care International Hospital

Landmarks as seen on Google Earth that can be compared with the video screenshot above

AL MOALEM MEDICAL CITY HOSPITAL

Security forces surrounding Al Moalem Medical City

In this graphic video, taken from inside the hospital grounds, security forces, which are likely to be RSF based on their uniforms, can be seen walking outside the Al Moalem Medical City hospital. At the first appearance of the shot of the security forces, two men in jeans and T-shirts can be seen running east, chased by a man in a beige military uniform resembling the RSF. He is holding up a stick and appears to be about to hit them. At least a dozen other security forces can be seen walking in the other direction, toward the west, all wearing beige uniforms of different shades. Several are holding weapons, including large firearms. The video also shows numerous people with injuries or bleeding, seeking treatment inside the hospital, and shows others standing looking out at the security forces through the gate.

A screenshot from a video showing the presence of security forces outside Al Moalem Medical City

Sudanese Archive was able to verify the video was taken at the hospital by its distinctive red, metal gate and the dotted curb/road across from the hospital entryway. Though the Twitter user says the video was captured at 6:27 a.m., there are faint shadows in the video that suggest it might have been taken around 11:20 a.m. according to shadow analysis.

Gate and curb indicating RSF were circling around this point 15.610869, 32.551794

Security beating someone within hospital grounds

This video which claims RSF attacked the injured on Al Moalem grounds was posted to Youtube at 22:32. This video was also verified by the HRC and reported on in the PHR report, corroborated by testimony. In the video, we can see about 10 men in police and RSF clothing beating a person who is on the ground. The building structure and color in the video match those of Al Moalem Hospital. By comparing satellite imagery and online images of the hospital, we could confirm the window shape and building color to those in the video.

Window structure as seen in the video. The second picture was found online of Al Moalem Hospital

By comparing landmarks with imagery on Google Earth, it can be concluded the incident likely happened around 15.611240, 32.551457, on the grounds of Al Moalem hospital

Video of an injured medical worker

Another video, which was provided to us by the BBC Africa team, shows the indoors of a hospital that matches the inside of the Al Moalem Medical City. The video was posted to Twitter on June 18, 2019, but the Twitter post says it was captured on June 3 at 5:41 a.m. While it’s not possible to confirm this, as the video’s metadata will not include the time it was filmed, there are no indications that it appeared on the Internet prior to June 3.

In the video, we can see amid many people with injuries, a man wearing a hospital uniform. In the picture, the shirt says Al Moalem Medical City under the hospital’s logo which we cross-referenced with the hospital’s Facebook page. The person filming and another person in the video call for help, saying “a doctor was injured,” after which the camera moves to what seems like a bullet wound in the lower abdomen.

A video screenshot showing the injured person wearing a shirt with the Al Moalem Medical City’s name and logo

The Al Moalem Medical City logo, as seen on the hospital’s website

A scene of the hospital corridor in the video

An image of a hallway at Al Moalem Medical City from the hospital’s Facebook page

A video posted by the same user, from the same hospital, reportedly taken around the same time, shows other victims being treated for their gunshot wounds, while in the background we can hear a woman screaming about the military and the sounds of firearm shooting. Other people can be seen in this video wearing similar blue hospital shirts to that worn by the man with the bullet wound in the earlier video.

Conclusion

The Sudanese Archive was able to confirm the presence of security forces outside Royal Care hospital grounds, then entering the grounds by force, beating people within hospital grounds, and the sound of shots fired outside the hospital, as well as a video showing an injured man, likely a medical worker, within the Al Moalem hospital, and the presence of RSF forces outside the hospital earlier that day. This evidence, corroborated by a research report based on testimony by the Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and numerous media reports, allows us to conclude that RSF and police targeted medical staff and facilities on June 3, 2019, disrupting medical services for injured protesters - protesters who likely sustained their injuries because of RSF and other security forces, as seen in a previous report.