Amnesty condemns state killing of university student

Amnesty International has called for an urgent investigation into the killing – allegedly by intelligence agents – of a student during a peaceful march at the University of Kordofan in Sudan. Up to 27 students were wounded in an attack related to student elections.

Amnesty International described the killing on Tuesday 19 April as “the latest incident in a brutal crackdown against students that began in 2012 and has seen scores killed, injured or detained, sometimes incommunicado”.

Abubakar Hassan Mohamed Taha (18) died after being shot in the head. He was a first year engineering student at the University of Kordofan in Al-Obeid in North Kordofan state, some 560 kilometres southwest of Sudan’s capital Khartoum.

Sudan Tribune reported that five of the injured students had also been shot, and some had sustained serious head and pelvis wounds. Dozens of students had been detained, and a vehicle and two motorcycles of university guards were burned.

The attack

Founded in 1990, Kordofan is considered one the country’s leading universities and is also one of the biggest.

According to Sudan Tribune, “bloody clashes” erupted between students belonging to opposition parties and those supporting the ruling National Congress Party or NCP during an election campaign to win control of the student union.

A statement by opposition students said NCP supporters, who controlled the student union previously, held a general assembly on Monday prior to the election. The assembly directed students to submit lists of candidates by 05h00 on Tuesday, when the election was to be held.

The statement added that while opposition-supporting students were on their way to submit candidate lists at dawn on Tuesday they “were attacked by plain clothes officers”.

According to Amnesty International, shortly after the march began plainclothes agents of the National Intelligence and Security Services or NISS intercepted the opposition-supporting students in an attempt to stop them from taking part in the elections.

“One student told Amnesty International that he saw 15 pick-up trucks arriving at the university full of NISS agents armed with AK47 rifles and pistols, who then started shooting indiscriminately at the crowd.”

Radio Tamazuj reported sources confirming “hearing gunfire inside the university campus when students supporting the ruling party entered the university with security organs and clashed with students supporting opposition parties”.

However, NCP-supporting students accused ‘movements’ – a reference to Darfuri armed movements – of killing and injuring the students, Radio Tamazuj reported.

The University of Kordofan’s council of deans issued a statement on Tuesday regretting the violence and acknowledging Abubakar Hassan Mohamed Taha’s death, but did not mention the involvement of NISS agents, describing the clashes as being between rival student groups.

‘Intense and sustained crackdown’

Amnesty International said that last month security officers beat up and fired tear gas at students at the University of Kordofan – injuring 15 – during a demonstration against poor service delivery. They also arrested seven students.

It had documented “an intense and sustained crackdown by the police and security forces since 2012” on the activities of university students across Sudan in which scores have been killed, wounded or detained.

Since January 2016 cases of excessive force against students had been reported at El-Geneina University in West Darfur – where a student was killed and dozens arrested – the University of Bakhit El Rhida in White Nile, University of Kordofan, Al-Zaiem Al-Azhari in Khartoum North and the University of Khartoum.

Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s regional director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, said: “This violent attack is yet another shocking episode in a string of human rights violations against university students across Sudan and underlines the government’s shameful determination to put out the last vestiges of dissent.

“The reprehensible violence by state agents against the students must be thoroughly and impartially investigated and those responsible brought to justice.”