Sunday, December 4

Sudan accused of trying to ‘bury the truth’ with mass graves for protesters | global development

The families of those missing after three years of political unrest in Sudan are to meet government officials to discuss how to bury more than 3,000 unclaimed bodies in the country’s mortuaries.

Last week, the government announced plans to dig mass graves as Sudan’s senior public prosecutor said mortuaries were overcrowded, many remains were decaying and they needed to be cleared.

But the move angered families and campaigners who said it would “bury the truth”, eliminating any remaining evidence about the pro-democracy protesters presumed to have been killed by paramilitaries during and after the 2018 uprising and 2019 coup that ousted former president Omar al- Bashir.

On Thursday, government officials will sit down with UN officers, families of the missing and activists to discuss the matter.

The families of the missing have been consistently told there were no unclaimed bodies in mortuaries. But in May, authorities closed down a hospital morgue in the capital, Khartoum, after more than 1,000 bodies were found to be decaying in the heat. Officials said another 1,300 bodies were being kept in two other Khartoum hospitals.

Tayeb el-Abbas, a lawyer and the head of the missing persons investigation committee set up by the transitional government in 2019, said all bodies should be formally identified and buried in individual graves.

“If they actually did so, it will be for the first time in Sudan that they will be burying every missing person in a separate grave after getting their DNA and all their details,” he said. Identifying the bodies might give some clue about how they died. “We are hoping that if this identification process uses the right procedure we will be able to know.”

Sumia Osman has been looking for her 24-year-old son, Ismail, since 3 June 2019 when the controlling Rapid Support Forces (RSF) launched a brutal crackdown on protesters, many of whom were conducting peaceful sit-ins around government buildings.

They [the government] left the bodies [to decompose] to bury the truth,” she said. They deliberately did it.”

Osman only knows Ismail was stopped by RSF soldiers while driving with a friend in Khartoum. The friend “ran away, and my son stayed in his car from him. We never heard anything about him after that and his car was found later, miles away on a bridge, ”she said. “We are so depressed.” She said she would “never give up looking for the truth.”

Iman Musa, whose brother, al-Mukashfi Musa, 28, went missing during the crackdown, said: “What they [the government] are going to do now is worse than your feelings of not knowing whether he is dead or alive. We have reached a point where we think there is no justice on this planet.”

In a statement, the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors said: “Considering the human rights violations of the coup authorities and in particular the judiciary’s interaction with the victims of the revolution and its martyrs, we read this as an attempt to bury irrefutable evidence of the systematic killing by the country’s armed forces and a destruction of justice.”

The government declined Guardian requests for comment.

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