Violence against protesters in Khartoum on June 3, 2019

Violence against protesters in Khartoum on June 3, 2019

Wed Jun 03 2020
More than 100 killed and at least 326 injured

Introduction

This investigation is a collaborative project between the Sudanese Archive and the Human Rights Center Investigation Lab, UC Berkeley, on the anniversary of the June 3rd massacre that killed over 100 people, 40 of whose bodies were later collected from the Nile, and injured at least 326 others, as a result of Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and other security forces violently dispersing sit-ins across the city of Khartoum. Our report will explore how the RSF rounded up protesters, violently attacking them, as seen in footage from that day that we have verified and chronolocated using open-source tools. This report is the first of a series of investigations related to June 3rd to further establish evidence of the RSF’s - and other security forces’ - violence against protesters.

What happened?

Almost two months after the fall of Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s former long-standing President, scores of Sudanese people continued to protest on the streets of Khartoum and in cities all across the country. Though the country rid itself from its 30-year ill-famed dictator, protesters felt that an entire regime was still in charge. This prompted activists and pro-democracy groups such as the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors (CCSD) and Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), to call for continued protests. These protests were accompanied by strikes and sit-ins, the most prominent of which were around the Army Headquarters, also famously referred to as Al-Qiyada Street.

In the early hours of June 3rd 2019, the CCSD announced on its Facebook page that there were indications that the Sudanese military might be planning to disperse the Army HQ sit-in. In the post, the CCSD called for all medical professionals to be alert lest there was need for medical assistance.

A facebook post where the CCSD sent out a warning about the sit-in dispersal

Al-Qiyada Street served as a very important venue for hundreds of protesters, who were distributed over a space of 10 square kilometers. The area included points of gathering around Nile Street, Al-Imam Al-Mahdi Street, and most prominent of all, the Mosque University of Khartoum.

As the day progressed, the CCSD’s warning became real: army and security forces started rounding up protesters, especially around two important points;the first was the Army HQ and the second was Mosque University of Khartoum.

Prior indications of violence

According to a report by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), many perpetrators identified themselves as RSF to their victims. The same report indicated that before June 3rd, particularly towards the end of May, authorities redistributed security forces around the sit-in location, replacing peaceful forces with hostile ones. Those forces were armed with a variety of weapons including teargas, batons, whips, sticks and firearms, even Kalashnikov rifles.

Upon verification and analysis of more than a hundred videos and images, it became clear that the attacks were semi-organized, if not premeditated. The below visuals show locations of RSF, protesters and violent acts. The map clearly shows the proximity of attacks and indicates security forces had barricaded that part of Khartoum.

The Sudanese Archive obtained a copy of a document that was sent to embassies in Khartoum recommending employees and diplomats stay away from the vicinity of the Army HQ, all Khartoum bridges and around any sit-ins or protests taking place around the country. The document is dated May 30th, 2019 and seems to have been sent out by Sudan’s ministry of foreign affairs.

The document sent out to embassies and foreign missions by Sudan’s ministry of foreign affairs, which was obtained by the Sudanese Archive

An illustration of some key verified locations of security forces and violent incidents

Visual evidence

The Sudanese Archive team analysed hundreds of visual content. This article highlights a few main points to give shape to the dawn of June 3rd, while others will appear in future investigations. While some of the verified videos were live-streamed, others were posted later, which could have been due to an internet outage that took place in June 2019, hindering footage filmed on June 3rd from being posted to social media.

Netblocks announced on June 10th that Sudan’s internet connections or what left of them were being cut

This half-hour video which was live streamed at 4:45 a.m. June 3rd, starts off showing protesters chanting, but the lighting is too poor to determine the location. Around 5:54 a.m. the videographer, who is later identified as Rani Farah, moves towards a bridge with arches. There is a small shrub at the road divider and a tree at the left of the frame, closer to the bridge. By cross-referencing the bridge caught on video with other bridges in Khartoum, the Blue Nile Bridge appears to be the one in the video. From the positioning of the trees, the bridge and a dashed side road, it looks like the videographer moved from a spot on the road around 15.613111, 32.545371 west toward the bridge 15.612874, 32.544257.

An illustration of the landmarks in the video cross-referenced with Google maps.

Further along in the video, are scenes of what look like security forces in blue fatigues, which camopedia indicates belong to Sudan’s police forces.

A screenshot of what appear to be police forces in the video

Around 18:45 in the video, an obelisk can be seen and by checking Google Earth, it can be matched to be Mosque University of Khartoum. There are also two radio towers when the videographer turns around. This shows that it was filmed at 15.610368, 32.544879, in an intersection opposite the university.

The obelisk and radio towers visible in the video

Fast forward to 25:07, the videographer crosses from the intersection near the Mosque University of Khartoum and stays at a point on the road, around 15.610027, 32.545273, until the end of the video.

The landmarks as seen in the video, marked on Google maps

Shooting can be heard in the video, coming from multiple directions, until the videographer appears to receive a hit himself. Later, pictures also posted on social media of Rani Farah show him in the hospital after having been shot in the chest.

The first picture was found online showing an injury in the chest and the second is of the videographer in a scene in the video showing according to his account that he was shot

Another video that was confirmed to have been shot near Mosque University of Khartoum shows the university’s obelisk as well as the radio towers. From 0:01 to 3:04, the person filming passes by three roadblocks and a gate. This is consistent with the satellite images confirming the video was filmed at 15.611353, 32.544543. The person then walks through a blockade that doubles as a gate. This is when the obelisk can first be seen, indicating the gate is closer to the Mosque University of Khartoum than the roadblocks. This relationship is mirrored in the satellite imagery.

The obelisk, blockade and gate-like structure as visible in the video and on Google maps

At 6:28 in the video, officers can be seen beating a protester with a cane. An injured man is also hit by a police officer near 15.609920, 32.544720 at 7:12 in the video. This man is the leader of a large group of protesters that seems to be being herded by officers. Officers begin swatting and hitting these protesters at 7:18 in the video. A police officer can also be seen violently herding a protester at around 8:01in the video.

The police officer violently pushing the protester

The video was posted online on July 10th 2019 but through verification using Wolfram Alpha for weather, it appeared to be consistent with the grey, clear sky of June 3rd. A reverse-image search of photos from the video on Yandex, a tool to search for images on the Internet, found that none of the images appeared prior to July 10th.

The closest to June 3rd satellite images found on Google Earth was taken on June 1st, 2019. However, this image shows a large green tent to the east of the obelisk still standing intact. In the video, this tent has been completely burned. This indicates the video was filmed after June 1st, 2019. Another image on Google Earth was taken on June 7th, 2019. In it, the roadblocks, tents, and building on the corner north of the obelisk have been cleared away. This indicates that the video was filmed before June 7th, 2019. This establishes a range from June 1st-7th, 2019.

Landmarks as cross-referenced with Google Earth

The aggressors in this video are identified as the police forces and RSF (which can be identified as those wearing sandy brown uniforms) by looking up their fatigues on Camopedia. The video also seemed to have been filmed by an RSF officer who is visible at one point in the livestream.

The RSF officer in question

This video was also taken near Mosque University of Khartoum and Nile Street. Because of this, the Human Rights Center (HRC) decided to make a composite panorama of the area by taking multiple screenshots of the video and stitching them together. They used these panoramic images to scan for open courtyard areas with light to medium vegetation, a right angle fence immediately next to two buildings, and several tall/long buildings with blue water containers on top directly opposite the aforementioned two buildings. One that looked similar was found using Google Earth at 15.612386, 32.547792.

The panoramic view followed by a screenshot of the location on Google Earth

The key similarity that helped our researchers verify the location of the video in question was the right-angled fence, the two buildings immediately next to it, and the nearby vegetation. The person filming begins the video by facing a relatively tall fence (west). He then turns to the right (north) and shows an approximately 2-3 story building. The fence intersects at a right angle close to/in front of this building (the initial wall runs perpendicular to it, the wall made visible next runs parallel to the building and continues off to the right (east). There is light vegetation (several mid-height shrubs) in front of the corner formed by this fence.

The men in the video are wearing two kinds of fatigues showing that there are RSF and police forces. From 00:03 to 00:42, security forces, which appear to be mostly RSF, can be seen berating a young man and threateningly moving sticks at him. This is followed by a scene showing officers chasing a man who’s crawling away and beating him with sticks. Another graphic scene shows an RSF officer holding a gun and shouting at a man lying on his back whose head seems to bleed profusely. This is followed by another supposed protester being beaten by officers. It is not clear whether the man is conscious at that point or not, but the soldiers get him up eventually and take him somewhere.

Photos depicting the abuse inflicted on protesters

Though we cannot be sure that the footage was shot on June 3rd, there’s a strong indication it was shot near or on that date because of features and findings deduced from Google Earth and Wolfram Alpha.

The next video takes place at a different location, near the Army HQ. The video is quite graphic and shows protesters trying to move a dead body while one is screaming “They killed one! They killed one!” while gunshots are heard in the background. As protesters run from the gunshots, to their right we can see the Army HQ building and the arched structure surrounding it, while to their left there are makeshift tents. This indicates the video was shot at 15.606288, 32.544943.

Army HQ and its surrounding arched structure as seen on Google Earth

Though the video was uploaded at 9:19 a.m. on June 3rd, it is estimated that the video was captured around 5:30 a.m. on June 3rd, based on our analysis.

Another video captured around the Army HQ shows what looks like an army officer in a beige uniform swatting and beating protesters from inside a building that turns out to be at the front of the Army HQ. When the camera pans across, the arch that was seen in the previous scene can be seen above. The protesters in the video can be seen looking scared, ducking away from the stick to avoid the beating while looking around in apprehension.

The barred windows as seen in the video were found in a picture of the Army HQ

That structure was then matched and verified using Google Earth indicating the video was filmed around 15.608083, 32.547111.

What looks like an Army HQ gate can be seen on Google Earth

This video was also mostly likely captured around 5:30 a.m. on June 3rd despite being posted on July 9th, based on analysis conducted by the Sudanese Archive and the HRC of shadows, weather, and corroborating the video contents with others showing events taking place on that day.

Conclusion

After analysis of multiple videos and live streams showing violence that occurred on June 3rd, the Sudanese Archive determined that much of the violence that led to protesters injuries and deaths was as a direct result of the behaviour of Sudanese security forces. Verified videos indicated a strong military presence and excessive violence against protesters. The videos also helped us confirm that security forces surrounded the sit-in location and dismantled it employing violent tactics against protesters. This is the first of several upcoming investigations into specific violent incidents that occurred on that day.