By Bahram Abdel Moneim
KHARTOUM, Sudan (AA) – The European Union and Western countries on Thursday called on the Sudanese authorities to conduct an independent investigation into allegations that security forces raped demonstrators in the capital, Khartoum.
In a joint statement, the European Union Mission to Sudan, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States “strongly condemn the use of sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon to drive women away from demonstrations and silence their voices.”
“We urge the authorities to carry out a full and independent investigation into these allegations of violence and ensure perpetrators are held accountable regardless of their affiliation. Sudan's citizens must be afforded the right of freedom of political expression and assembly free from violence,” the statement said.
It pointed out that “today, Sudanese women and their allies will take to the streets to march against the sexual violence and harassment, including rape that occurred during protests on December 19.”
On Tuesday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called on the Sudanese authorities to conduct a "rapid, independent and thorough" investigation into the "allegations" of raping 13 women and girls and sexual harassment of others by security forces during Sunday's protests.
Since Oct. 25, Sudan witnessed protests, in response to the military’s dismissal of the transitional government and declaration of a state of emergency.
Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, however, was reinstated on Nov. 21 under an agreement with Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the Sudanese army chief, in a move that aimed to resolve a political crisis that threatened to undermine Sudan’s transition to democracy.
On Sunday, thousands of Sudanese staged protests in Khartoum to express their rejection of the political agreement with the military and demanded full civilian rule.
While countries and regional and international organizations, including the United Nations, welcomed the agreement, Sudanese political and civil forces rejected it, considering it an "attempt to legitimize the coup."