Human Rights Watch is urging Sudan’s government to instruct security forces not to use lethal force against protesters.
The New York-based group says security forces have used tear gas and live ammunition against protesters who have taken to the streets since December 19 to demand that Sudan’s autocratic president Omar al-Bashir should step down.
The statement came hours before a day of renewed of protests, with demonstrators in the capital, Khartoum, expected to try to march on Mr al-Bashir’s palace to demand he relinquishes power.
Amnesty International said it has “reliable reports” that 37 protesters were killed in the first five days of protests.
The government has acknowledged 19 deaths, while Human Rights Watch said independent groups monitoring the situation in Sudan have put the death toll at 40.
An umbrella of independent professional unions which called for Monday’s protests in Khartoum have urged Sudanese people to take to the streets elsewhere in the country.
Mr al-Bashir, who has been in power since 1989, vowed in a meeting with police commanders on Sunday that his government would not tolerate any attempt to undermine the stability and security of Sudan, according to the state news agency.
An Islamist, he also sought to justify the killing of protesters, quoting from Islam’s holy book, the Koran, according to a video clip of his comments.
He said: “It’s deterrence to others so that we can maintain security, which is a valuable commodity and, God willing, we will not risk the security of the citizens or the nation.
“The objective is not to kill the protesters, but … to safeguard the security and stability of citizens.”
Human Rights Watch’s Jehanne Henry said: “President al-Bashir appears to be making public speeches that justify excessive use of force instead of condemning this brutality.
“With more protests planned, Sudanese authorities should send an unambiguous message to all security forces to respect the rights of protesters and not to use lethal force.”
Sudan’s economy has struggled for most of Mr al-Bashir’s rule. He has also failed to unite or keep the peace in the religiously and ethnically diverse nation, losing three quarters of the country’s oil wealth when the mainly animist and Christian south seceded in 2011, following a referendum in which southerners voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence.
A year earlier, Mr al-Bashir, who is now in his mid-70s, was indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide in Sudan’s western region of Darfur.