Sudanese protesters flash victory signs and shout slogans, as they march during a protest against the military council, in Khartoum, Sudan, June 27, 2019.
Sudanese protesters flash victory signs and shout slogans, as they march during a protest against the military council, in Khartoum, Sudan, June 27, 2019.

STATE DEPARTMENT - The United States is urging the Sudanese security forces and military not to use violence as the planned June 30 mass demonstration approaches. 

June 30 is the deadline that the African Union (AU) gave Sudan's Transitional Military Council (TMC) to transfer authority to civilian rule. Sudan has been run by the military after its longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir was ousted on April 11. June 30 also marks an anniversary when al-Bashir seized power in a military coup in 1989.

"The most important thing and the most important message is: Please, no violence," a senior U.S. official told reporters Thursday, adding Sudanese people and civilians have the rights of assembly. 

Sanctions on table

The senior U.S. official said sanctions are one of the tools on the table, should violence be used against civilians. 

"We reserve the right to respond with anything that's in our tool box," he said.

On Friday, a senior Democratic lawmaker asked President Donald Trump's administration to sanction Sudan's Rapid Support Forces and its commander Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo for violently suppressing pro-democracy protesters in recent weeks. 

"Recent events in Sudan are part of a lengthy pattern of gross human rights abuses perpetrated against unarmed civilians," said Representative Eliot Engel, who is the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., walks through the Hall of Columns at the Capitol as House Democratic chairs gather for a meeting, March 27, 2019.

The U.S. sanctions would "reaffirm our unwavering support for democratic principles in Sudan and send a powerful message to the Sudanese people that the United States stands in solidarity with them in their fight to end the human rights abuses under Sudan's Transitional Military Council," wrote Congressman Engel in a letter.

The U.S. State Department has said Washington "strongly supports a peaceful and democratic Sudan." Senior officials said the U.S. government's objective is "a transfer to a civilian-led government that's acceptable to the Sudanese people." 

On June 3, Sudanese security forces broke up a protest site outside the Defense Ministry in Khartoum, killing or wounding dozens of people.

"There was no reason for the apparent violence on June the 3rd, there certainly would be no reason for violence on June 30th," said the senior official.

Crackdown "very well planned"

U.S. officials who talked to victims said the violent crackdown by security forces on June 3 had hallmarks of being "very well planned" and "systematic" in its implementation. The State Department has called for a credible and independent investigation.

The AU suspended Sudan's membership and threatened its leaders with sanctions for failing to hand over power to a civilian-led government after the June 3 killings. 

It's "a very positive step" by the AU, said the senior official.