A Sudanese court sentenced six officers in the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces to death for the 2019 killing of six students protesting as civilians negotiated power-sharing with the military.
The prosecution of personnel from the RSF – commanded by the deputy head of Sudan’s transitional governing body – over the killings and others is seen as a test of government’s commitment to democratisation after decades of autocratic Islamist rule.
In a statement on the convictions, the civilian court in Elobeid, where the killings occurred, said the defendants broke RSF law and behaved individually, adding “their actions have no relation to the forces they were part of.”
The teenage victims were part of a student protest following the June 3, 2019 killing of dozens of protesters demanding a faster transition to civilian, democratic government after an uprising toppled veteran President Omar al-Bashir.
Members of the RSF, which emerged from Janjaweed militias loyal to Bashir were accused of atrocities during the Darfur conflict in the early 2000s, were blamed for post-uprising bloodshed.
In May, another RSF member was convicted and sentenced to death for running over a protester after the June attack.
There are calls from civilian Sudanese leaders – who share power with the dominant military on the Sovereign Council – as well as world powers for the RSF to be included in the regular armed forces.
General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, RSF commander and deputy head of the Sovereign Council, voiced reluctance for this step.
The Sovereign Council will guide the country to free elections in 2024.
The Elobeid court acquitted two other RSF officers, ruling they had not carried weapons and tried to prevent the fatal shootings.
One of nine RSF personnel originally accused was found guilty but referred to a minor’s court for sentencing as he was underage at the time, the court said.