Last Updated: Friday, 11 July 2014, 13:14 GMT

USCIRF Annual Report 2003 - Sudan

Publisher United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
Publication Date 1 May 2003
Cite as United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, USCIRF Annual Report 2003 - Sudan, 1 May 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48556969c.html [accessed 11 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has identified Sudan as the world's most violent abuser of the right to freedom of religion and belief. In the Commission's view, the Sudanese government has committed genocidal atrocities against civilian populations in the South and in the Nuba Mountains. In the Sudan Peace Act of 2002, Congress found that the Sudanese government has committed acts of genocide.

Religious conflict is a major factor in Sudan's ongoing and prolonged civil war. In the context of the civil war, government and allied forces continue to commit egregious human rights abuses, such as forced starvation as part of the denial of international humanitarian assistance, abduction and enslavement of women and children, the forcible displacement of civilian populations (e.g., from oil-producing regions), and aerial assaults and bombardment of civilians, including church property, and of humanitarian facilities. Sites bombed have included clearly identifiable hospitals, schools, churches, markets, and relief organization compounds. Rather than random acts, many of these abuses appear to be the result of deliberate government policies. The need for accountability for these crimes is not diminished by the current peace process, including the references to freedom of religion made in the Machakos Protocol.

Current and previous governments in Khartoum have attempted forcibly to convert non-Muslims to Islam and to impose Sharia on Muslims and non-Muslims alike. According to the State Department's 2002 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, "fears of Arabization and Islamization and the imposition of Islamic law (Sharia) fueled support for the civil war throughout the country." In turn, Islamic sentiment has been used to arouse greater popular support for the war effort, termed a "jihad" by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and other senior government officials.

The government of Sudan severely and systematically continues to violate the religious freedom of Christians and followers of traditional African religions, as well as of Muslims who are associated with opposition groups or who dissent from the government's interpretation of Islam. Proselytizing of non-Muslims by Muslims is allowed in government-controlled areas, but public religious expression and persuasion of Muslims by non-Muslims is forbidden.

Conversion from Islam is regarded as apostasy, a crime punishable by death. Suspected converts have reportedly been tortured by the security forces.

Religious groups must be registered by the government to operate legally. Unregistered groups cannot build places of worship or meet in public. Approval can be difficult to obtain, and even registered groups face difficulties. Although permits are regularly granted to build mosques, permission to build churches is routinely denied. For over 30 years, the government has denied permission to construct Roman Catholic churches.

Some children from non-Muslim families captured and sold into slavery by progovernment militias reportedly have been forced to convert to Islam. There are similar reports that some in government-controlled camps for internally displaced persons, as well as prison inmates, Popular Defense Force trainees, and children in camps for vagrant minors, have been coerced into converting to Islam. The government also allegedly has tolerated the use of humanitarian assistance for religious purposes. The Commission has received reports from credible sources – Anglican and Catholic bishops in Sudan – that UN-provided humanitarian aid to the country's displaced and needy population is being distributed on the condition that the recipients convert to Islam. In government-controlled areas, children who have been abandoned or whose parentage is unknown are considered by the government to be Muslims and may not be adopted by non-Muslims.

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