UK seeks urgent Human Rights Council session on Sudan

Thousands of people shout slogans and hold national flags during anti-coup protests as a part of nationwide demonstrations after the military took over the government on 25 October, in the capital Khartoum, Sudan 30 October 2021. Sudan's military launched a coup attempt on 25 October and arrested the Prime Minister and other senior ministers and civilian members of the Transitional Sovereignty Council during early morning raids. (Keystone/EPA/STR)

Nearly 50 countries requested an emergency session of the UN Human Rights Council on Monday in response to last week’s military coup in Sudan.

The request was sent by the United Kingdom on behalf of 18 member states – more than the one-third required to hold a special session – including Sudan. It was also backed by 30 observer states including the United States.

"The actions of the Sudanese military are a betrayal of the revolution, the transition & the hopes of the Sudanese people," tweeted the UK’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva Simon Manley, who requested the meeting.

Sudan’s military seized power on 25 October, when General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan dissolved the government and declared a state of emergency, detaining civilian leadership officials and politicians.

The coup has sparked opposition and demonstrations across the country throughout the past week. Tens of thousands of people joined protests which have been met by violence, with reports of at least ten fatalities and more than 100 people wounded.

The country has been ruled by a joint civilian-military council since the overthrow of Sudan's long-time leader Omar al-Bashir in August 2019. The power-sharing agreement aimed to help the country's democratic transition but has proved fragile, having met a number of previous coup attempts.

General al-Burhan, who previously headed the power-sharing council, has said Sudan is still committed to transitioning to civilian rule and that elections planned for July 2023 will go ahead.

Member states' request for a special session follows calls from NGOs last week for the Council to urgently respond to the situation in Sudan to “stop military rule and protect the transition.”

Speaking on the day of the takeover, UN secretary general António Guterres strongly condemned the coup and “all actions that could jeopardize Sudan's political transition and stability,” calling for the immediate release of detained government officials and politicians including prime minister Abdalla Hamdok.

“Any attempts to undermine this transition process puts at risk Sudan's security, stability and development,” said Guterres.

UN special representative to Sudan Volker Perthes said on Sunday he had met the prime minister, who is being held under armed guard by the ruling military junta.

“He remains well but under house arrest,” Perthes said in a tweet. “We discussed options for mediation and the way forward for Sudan. I will continue these efforts with other Sudanese stakeholders.”