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BRIEFING NOTES: (1) Chad; (2) Sudan; (3) Syria

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani 

Location: Geneva 

Date: 21 October 2022 

Subject:        (1) Chad

(2) Sudan 

(3) Syria 

1)         Chad 

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk deplores the lethal use of force against protesters in several cities in Chad, including killings by live ammunition. Our Office has also received reports of violence by protesters following the lethal repression, including attacks on property. We call for calm and for all sides to show restraint. 

The authorities have said some 50 people were killed and nearly 300 injured in Thursday’s demonstrations against the 24-month extension of the transition. Our Office has been informed that one of those killed was a journalist. We have also received reports that at least 500 people were arrested. 

The OHCHR Chad Office received information from several sources that early in the morning of 20 October, several hundred protesters, mostly young people, started demonstrating in N´Djamena, and that internal security forces used tear gas and fired live ammunition to disperse the protesters. 

We remind Chad that it is bound by its obligations under international human rights law to protect and respect human rights, including the right to life, and to ensure the exercise of the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of opinion and expression. 

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Defence and security forces must refrain from the use of force against peaceful protesters and ensure that force is not used unless strictly necessary and, if so, in full compliance with the principles of legality, precaution, and proportionality. 

All those detained for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly must also be promptly released. 

We also call on all relevant State institutions to conduct impartial, prompt, effective investigations into any human rights violations that may have occurred – including the apparent use of unnecessary or disproportionate force to disperse protests. 

The United Nations also expresses its solidarity with the population impacted by severe floods in the country, and we call on international partners to continue to provide assistance to Chad. 

2)         Sudan 

Ahead of mass protests planned next week to mark one year since the 25 October coup, we call on the Sudanese authorities to ensure that people can exercise their rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of opinion, and expression; and to ensure that security forces refrain from the use of force, which has marred previous protests. People’s expression of longstanding grievances must be facilitated rather than suppressed. 

We urge the military authorities to ensure that ongoing investigations into human rights violations committed following the coup are expedited and conducted in full compliance with international norms and standards, and that all those found responsible are held to account. 

We once again remind the Sudanese authorities that the right to peaceful assembly is protected under international human rights law, including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sudan is a State Party. 

3)         Syria 

An escalation in hostilities in northern Syria this month has resulted in the deaths and injuries of civilians. This worrying development was also marked by the targeted killing in eastern rural Aleppo of a social media activist and his pregnant wife. We are very concerned for the wider population affected by the fighting, as well as further mass displacement of civilians. 

We fear this latest rise in hostilities involving a number of parties, particularly Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and some of the Turkish-affiliated armed groups, could spread and impact other areas in northern Syria, including Aleppo and Idlib. 

On 7 October, a social media activist and his pregnant wife were shot and killed in the al-Sinaa area of al-Bab city. He had been organizing, and reporting on, sit-ins and demonstrations against the actions of Turkish-affiliated armed groups in the area, which included the seizure of properties. 

Subsequently, over a seven-day period from October 12 to 18, our Office verified the killing of at least seven civilians, including four women and three children, in northern Syria. At least 11 others were injured—two women, seven men, and two children. The total number of civilians killed and injured may be higher. 

The casualties occurred in areas in and around the cities of al-Bab, Afrin, and Kafr Janna, as well as other areas in northern Aleppo. The victims were hit by ground-based strikes or small arms and light weapons fire in residential areas as a result of the fighting between the various warring parties. 

It is essential that parties to the conflict take constant care to spare the civilian population and civilian objects in the conduct of hostilities and adopt all feasible precautions to avoid, and in any event to minimize, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, and damage to civilian objects. 

Reports of ground-based strikes affecting residential areas are also particularly alarming, raising concerns as to the breach of the prohibition of indiscriminate attacks. 

We also call on all parties that exercise government-like functions and effective control of the areas at stake to ensure that the right to life of individuals is respected and protected, while guaranteeing people’s rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association. 

We urge all States, particularly those that control armed groups or have influence over parties to the conflict, to use their power to ensure a de-escalation of military operations and the protection of civilians in northern Syria. 

All efforts should be made to achieve a sustainable political solution, centred on ensuring the full protection of all civilians.

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