- A new report from the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD) said that 108 people were killed and more than 500 were injured during a paramilitary attack on Sudanese protestors on June 3.
- The Sudanese government contradicted the CCSD report on Thursday when a Health Ministry official told Reuters that the death toll was at 61.
- International leaders have condemned the paramilitary forces that attacked the protestors.
- They have also expressed concern about stalled negotiations and clashes between the Sudanese military and protest leaders, who have been battling over who will lead the country’s transitionary government.
Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors Report
The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD), an opposition-linked doctors’ union, reported that 108 people were killed and more than 500 others were injured in a violent attack on Sudanese protestors in Khartoum on Monday.
Earlier this week, paramilitary security forces attacked a weeks-long demonstration staged by Sudanese protestors who have been camped outside the military’s headquarters since early April.
The security forces entered the camp, opening fire at civilians and torching their tents. It was also reported the security forces used live ammunition inside a hospital where wounded protestors were being treated.
After several hours, the paramilitary forces were successful in gaining control over most of the camp, having effectively dispersed the protestors and sealing off nearly a square mile area that the sit-in had previously occupied.
Since the attack, the reported death toll has been steadily rising. The CCSD first posted the recent information on their Facebook page late on Wednesday, and then provided more information in an updated post on Thursday.
However, there is a discrepancy between the doctor’s field report and the numbers given by the government. On Thursday, the director general of Sudan’s Health Ministry, Suleiman Abdel Jabbar, told Reuters that the death toll was at 61 people.
While Monday’s attack was especially violent and lethal, Sundanese demonstrators have been clashing with security forces since anti-government protests first broke out in December.
Ever since a military coup overthrew the long-time Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir on April 11, civilians and the military have been grappling for control of power.
Following the coup, the military installed the Transitional Military Council (TMC) to oversee a transition of power that they said will last at most two years.
However, demonstrators have demanded that the military ruler hand over power to a civilian-led government immediately.
Military leaders agreed to negotiate with protest leaders to form a transitional government, but the military and the opposition protesters have not been able to agree on the role of the military in that transition.
Over the last month or so, Sudan’s political climate has been defined by on-and-off negotiations as well as continued protests and demonstrations, some of which have reportedly been met with violence from security forces.
Following the attacks, numerous foreign leaders and government officials responded by condemning the violence.
U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton referred to the attack as “abhorrent” in a tweet.
That was also echoed in a statement from a U.S. State Department Spokesperson that said: “The United States condemns the recent attacks on protesters in Sudan.”
U.K. Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt condemned the incident in a tweet and said that the security forces’ actions would “only lead to more polarisation and violence.”
The following day the U.S., Norway, and the U.K. issued a joint statement condemning the security forces for attacking civilians, and calling for “an agreed transfer of power to a civilian-led government as demanded by the people of Sudan.”
The African Union, Egypt, Germany, and Qatar also issued separate statements calling for protest leaders and the TMC to return to negotiations, and the European Union called for a peaceful transition to a civilian government, according to Al Jazeera.
A number of international organizations responded to the attack too, like Human Rights Watch, which referred to the attack in a statement as “egregious rights violations” that “require urgent international action to halt further violations.” The group also called for the U.N. to launch an official investigation.
On that note, the U.N. Secretary General’s office released a statement following the attack. “The Secretary-General strongly condemns the violence and reports of the excessive use of force by security personnel on civilians, that have resulted in the deaths and injury of many,” the statement said.
However, on Tuesday, China and Russia blocked an effort by the U.N. Security Council to formally condemn the killing of civilians and call on world powers to stop the violence.
Additionally, on Thursday, the U.N. announced that it will be pulling all its personnel from Sudan, Al Jazeera reported.
The African Union also issued a more formal response on Thursday, announcing in a tweet. that they will suspend Sudan’s membership from the union.
With everything that has happened this week, it’s unclear how Sudan will proceed. Following the attack, the TMC said they would no longer negotiate with the protestors and called for snap elections in nine months.
Then on Wednesday, military leaders went back on that decision and said they wanted negotiations, but were rebuked by the protest leaders, who refuse to negotiate with them after the attack.
Meanwhile, demonstrators are still protesting and the military has said they will investigate the attack.
See what others are saying: (Al Jazeera) (The Washington Post) (BBC)
U.K. Court Rules Julian Assange Can Be Extradited to U.S.
The judgment overrules a lower court decision that blocked the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition on the grounds that his mental health was not stable enough to weather harsh conditions in the American prison system if convicted.
New Developments in Assange Extradition Battle
A British court ruled Friday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can be extradited to the United States to face charges of violating the Espionage Act that could land him in prison for decades.
Prosecutors in the U.S. have accused Assange of conspiring with former army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010 to hack into a Department of Defense computer network and access thousands of military and diplomatic records on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The information obtained in the hack was later published by WikiLeaks in 2010 and 2011, a move U.S. authorities allege put lives in danger.
In addition to a charge of computer misuse, Assange has also been indicted on 17 espionage charges. Collectively, the charges carry a maximum prison sentence of 175 years.
The Friday decision from the High Court overturns a lower court ruling in January, which found that Assange’s mental health was too fragile for the harsh environment he could face in the U.S. prison system if convicted.
Notably, the January ruling did not determine whether or not Assange was guilty. In fact, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser explicitly rejected the defense’s arguments that the charges against him were politically motivated and that he should be protected under freedom of press.
However, she agreed that the defense had provided compelling evidence that Assange suffers from severe depression and that the conditions he could face in the U.S. prison system were “such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America.”
The U.S. appealed the ruling, arguing that Assange’s mental health should not be a barrier to extradition and that the psychiatrist who examined him had been biased.
In October, the Biden administration vowed that if Assange were to be convicted, he would not be placed in the highest-security U.S. prison or immediately sent to solitary confinement. Officials also said that the native Australian would be eligible to serve his sentence in his home country.
High Court Ruling
The High Court agreed with the administration’s arguments in its ruling, arguing that the American’s assurances regarding the conditions of Assange’s potential incarceration were “sufficient.”
“There is no reason why this court should not accept the assurances as meaning what they say,” the ruling stated. “There is no basis for assuming that the USA has not given the assurances in good faith.”
Assange’s fiancé, Stella Moris, said in a statement that his legal team would appeal the decision to the British Supreme Court at the “earliest possible moment,” referring to the judgment as a “grave miscarriage of justice.”
The Supreme Court will now decide whether or not to hear the case based on if it believes the matter involves a point of law “of general public importance.” That decision may take weeks or even months.
If the U.K. Supreme Court court objects to hearing Assange’s appeal, he could ask the European Court of Human Rights to stay the extradition — a move that could set in motion another lengthy legal battle in the already drawn-out process.
Assange and his supporters claim he was acting as an investigative journalist when he published the classified military cables. They argue that the possibility of his extradition and prosecution represent serious threats to press freedoms in the U.S.
U.S. prosecutors dispute that Assange acted as a journalist, claiming that he encouraged illegal hacking for personal reasons.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
Early Data Indicates Omicron is More Transmissible But Less Severe
The studies come as Pfizer and BioNTech claim that preliminary research shows a third shot of their COVID vaccine appears to provide sufficient protection against the new variant, but two doses alone may not.
More Information About Omicron
Several preliminary studies published in recent days appear to show that the new omicron COVID-19 variant may be more transmissible but less severe than previous strains.
One recent, un-peer-reviewed study by a Japanese scientist who advises the country’s health ministry found that omicron is four times more transmissible in its initial stage than delta was.
Preliminary information in countries hit hard by omicron also indicates high transmissibility. In South Africa — where the variant was first detected and is already the dominant strain — new COVID cases have more than doubled over the last week.
Health officials in the U.K. said omicron cases are doubling every two or three days, and they expect the strain to become dominant in the country in a matter of weeks.
In a statement Wednesday, World Health Organization Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that while early data does seem to show high transmissibility, it also indicates that omicron causes more mild cases than delta.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevent Director Rochelle Walensky echoed that sentiment, telling reporters that of the 40 known omicron cases in the U.S. as of Wednesday, nearly all of them were mild. One person has been hospitalized so far and none have died.
Studies on Vaccine Efficacy
Other recent studies have shown that current COVID vaccines are effective at preventing severe illness and death in omicron patients, and boosters provide at least some added protection.
On Wednesday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that laboratory tests have shown a third dose of their COVID-19 vaccine appears to provide sufficient protection against the omicron variant, though two doses may not.
According to the companies, researchers saw a 25-fold reduction in neutralizing antibodies for omicron compared to other strains of the virus for people who had just two Pfizer doses.
By contrast, samples from people one month after they had received a Pfizer booster presented neutralizing antibodies against omicron that were comparable to those seen against previous variants after two doses.
Still, Pfizer’s chief executive also told reporters later in the day that omicron could increase the likelihood that people might need a fourth dose earlier than previously expected, which he had initially said was 12 months after the third shot.
Notably, the Pfizer research has not yet been peer-reviewed, and it remains unclear how omicron will operate outside a lab, but other studies have had similar findings.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Bloomberg) (NBC News)
40 Camels Disqualified From Beauty Contest After Breeders Inject Their Faces With Botox
The animals were barred from competing for $66 million in prizes at this year’s King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in Saudi Arabia.
Camels Booted From Beauty Contest
More than 40 camels were disqualified from a beauty contest in Saudi Arabia this week after judges found artificial enhancements in their faces, marking the biggest crackdown on contestants in the competition to date.
The animals were competing for $66 million in prizes at the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, a month-long event that is estimated to include around 33,000 camels.
However, according to The Guardian, they were forced out of the contest when authorities found that breeders had “stretched out the lips and noses of the camels, used hormones to boost the animals’ muscles, injected heads and lips with Botox to make them bigger, inflated body parts with rubber bands, and used fillers to relax their faces.”
Those types of alterations are banned since judges look at the contestant’s heads, necks, humps, posture, and other features when evaluating them.
An announcement from the state-linked Saudi Press Agency said officials used “specialized and advanced” technology to detect tampering.
“The club is keen to halt all acts of tampering and deception in the beautification of camels,” the SPA report added before warning that organizers would “impose strict penalties on manipulators.”
While it’s unclear what that actually entails, this isn’t the first time people have tried to cheat in this way.
In 2018, 12 camels were similarly disqualified from the competition for injections in their noses, lips, and jaw.