A Sudanese court on Thursday sentenced six paramilitary Rapid Support Forces officers to death over the 2019 killing of six students who were protesting at economic hardship as civilians negotiated power-sharing with the military.
The prosecution of personnel from the RS, which is commanded by the deputy head of Sudan’s transitional governing body over these killings and others alleged, is seen as a test of the government’s commitment to democratization after decades of autocratic Islamist rule.
In a statement on the convictions of the RSF officers, the civilian court in Elobeid, where the killings occurred, said the defendants broke RSF law and behaved individually, adding that “their actions have no relation to the forces they were part of”.
It was not immediately known whether the six would appeal against the verdict.
The teenage victims were part of a student protest following June 3, 2019, killing of dozens of protesters demanding a faster transition to civilian, democratic government after an uprising that toppled veteran President Omar al-Bashir.
Members of the RSF, which emerged out of the Janjaweed militias loyal to Bashir that was accused of atrocities during the Darfur conflict in the early 2000s, were widely blamed for the post-uprising bloodshed.
In May, another RSF member was convicted and sentenced to death for running over a protester soon after the June attack.
There have been calls from civilian Sudanese leaders who share power with the long-dominant military on the Sovereign Council as well as world powers for the RSF to be folded into the regular armed forces.
General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commander of the RSF and deputy head of the Sovereign Council, has voiced reluctance to take such a step.
The Sovereign Council has said it would guide the country to free elections in 2024.
The Elobeid court however acquitted two other RSF officers, ruling that they had not carried weapons and tried to prevent the fatal shootings of protesters. (Reuters/NAN)