A flare-up of attacks on medical facilities seen during an uprising in Sudan three years ago has recurred during protests against an October coup, further inflaming the anger of protesters and further straining a chronically under-resourced health system.
The coup marked the end of the shared power agreement between the military and major political parties following the revolution that ousted Omar al-Bashir after three decades of autocratic rule.
The continued violence against demonstrators could aggravate the standoff between the military and the large protest movement.
At least 63 protesters have died as a result of live gunshots and tear gas canisters since the coup, according to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD), a medics’ union aligned with protesters.
The coup’s leaders claim their coup saved Sudan from chaos, and they promise to protect peaceful protest. The Khartoum State Security Committee issued a statement on Friday regretting the alleged violations of hospital premises and committing to station high-ranking officers inside hospitals to monitor any violations.
Assaults on medical facilities have mainly targeted hospitals along protest routes that regularly treat injured protesters.
Several times, security forces have tried to disperse protesters as they march toward the presidential palace, which is 1.2 kilometers away from Khartoum Teaching Hospital.
Khartoum Teaching Hospital has been attacked with tear gas three times, according to its director, Dr. Elfatih Abdallah.
Security forces fired tear gas into an emergency room filled with protesters injured in a nearby demonstration on the afternoon of Dec. 30 after banging on the windows of Khartoum Teaching Hospital.
According to deputy hospital director Emad Mamoun, protesters were chased into wards by security forces as well as assaulted and arrested inside the hospital.
According to medical experts, it is not always clear which part of the Sudanese security apparatus is responsible. Even when security forces do not enter the hospital, tear gas is frequently fired nearby, hindering staff’s ability to work.
The CCSD claims that the security forces besieged hospitals during protests and blocked ambulances from entering and leaving.
Medics marched in lab coats on Sunday to hand over a report to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that documents more than 20 incidents of security forces impeding medical care.
The caretaker health minister resigned following the attacks, but his colleagues later persuaded him to remain.
Witnesses said that tear gas was fired once more near Khartoum Teaching Hospital on Sunday, despite there being less security than normal.
Norwegian Ambassador Therese Loken Gheziel expressed concern that attacks would limit the ability of the international community to engage with authorities during a visit to the hospital.
“Trust has to be rebuilt, people need to see justice, and the violence has to stop. Then we can facilitate consultations,” she said.
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