by Adam Vaughan
Police fired teargas and rubber bullets at thousands of protesters in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Friday after five protesters were killed the day before during the Arab Spring-style demonstrations calling for economic and political reforms in the oil-rich nation.
The protests were the third straight day of unrest amid rising prices, a faltering economy and corruption in the capital and elsewhere.
Interior ministry spokesman Al-Sawarmi Khalid has said officials have been coordinating with local governors to ensure security and accused foreign media of organising the protests.
“This is a provocateur story from the western media about… threats from a foreign power,” Khalid said in a statement, referring to Iran.
“We do not see a country like Iran interfering in our domestic affairs as a Muslim state,” he said.
The security forces “will not hesitate to deal with any demonstration violently”, he said.
In Geneva, the UN human rights commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, criticised the government for allegedly ignoring the rights of those protesting, and said he was “deeply disturbed” by the fatal shootings of protesters during the unrest.
“I am deeply disturbed by recent developments in Sudan, which I fear are setting the stage for further violence.
“It is a fundamental principle of international law that a state cannot use force or violence to disperse the peaceful protests of its own people.
“On the contrary, it is a duty for governments to ensure that the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are respected.
“Regrettably, I believe that some elements in Sudan have undermined this obligation, and that the authorities have been unwilling or unable to uphold the rule of law.”
Zeid urged the Sudanese government to restore and protect the right to freedom of assembly and dialogue.
Protests broke out earlier this month when government officials announced steep price rises and an end to fuel subsidies.