US voices concern over Sudan protests crackdown

Sudanese demonstrators run from a teargas canister fired by riot policemen in Omdurman, Khartoum. (Reuters)
Updated 23 January 2019
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US voices concern over Sudan protests crackdown

  • Excessive use of force and intimidation of the press 'would jeopardize ties with the US'
  • The statement was the first by Washington after a month of mushrooming protests

WASHINGTON: The United States on Wednesday urged Sudan to release activists detained in a wave of protests and to allow peaceful expression, warning that better ties with Washington were on the line.
The statement was the first by Washington after a month of mushrooming protests in what is widely seen as the biggest threat to President Omar al-Bashir's 30 years of iron-fisted rule.
The United States said it was "concerned about the increasing number of arrests and detentions" and urged the government to free "all journalists, activists and peaceful protesters who have been arbitrarily detained."
"We also call on the government to allow for a credible and independent investigation into the deaths and injuries of protesters," State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in the statement.
"Moreover, to address the legitimate grievances of the population, the government must create a safe and secure environment for public expression and dialogue with the opposition and civil society in a more inclusive political process," he said.
He said that excessive use of force and intimidation of the press and rights activists would jeopardize ties with the United States.
"A new, more positive relationship between the United States and Sudan requires meaningful political reform and clear, sustained progress on respect for human rights," Palladino said.
The United States has been slowly mending relations with Sudan after decades of tension, including over Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden's refuge in the country in the 1990s and an anti-rebel campaign in the western region of Darfur that Washington described as genocide.
President Donald Trump's administration lifted sanctions on Sudan in 2017 and has said that, in return for further progress, it would remove the country from its list of state sponsors of terrorism -- a designation that has held back foreign investment.
Human rights groups say that more than 40 people including several medics have been killed in clashes with security forces since the protests erupted on Dec. 19.
The authorities say 26 people have been killed, including at least one doctor, but blame rebel provocateurs they say have infiltrated the ranks of the protesters.


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