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USCIRF Annual Report 2005 - Sudan

Publisher United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
Publication Date 1 May 2005
Cite as United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, USCIRF Annual Report 2005 - Sudan, 1 May 2005, available at: [accessed 1 June 2016]
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 government of Sudan commits egregious and systematic violations of freedom of religion or belief in the Northern part of the country, in the Western region of Darfur, and in other areas under its control, particularly against Christians, Muslims who do not follow the government's extreme interpretation of Islam, and followers of traditional African religions. Due to the ongoing severe human rights violations committed by the government throughout much of the country, the Commission continues to recommend that Sudan be named a "country of particular concern," or CPC. The State Department has repeatedly adopted the Commission's recommendation that Sudan be designated a CPC.

The signing of comprehensive North-South peace accords provides new opportunities for promoting human rights, including freedom of religion or belief, in Sudan. The U.S. government must act decisively to advance respect for human rights throughout Sudan, as respect for human rights is crucial to securing lasting peace.

In the past, the Commission has identified Sudan as the world's most violent abuser of the right to freedom of religion and belief and has drawn attention to the Sudanese government's genocidal atrocities against civilian populations. As a result of the government's policies of Islamization and Arabization, two million people, mostly non-Muslims in southern and central Sudan, died in the now-concluded North-South civil war. With the signing of comprehensive North-South peace accords during the past year, the conditions for religious freedom in certain parts of the country have changed significantly from previous years. However, the Commission continues to be seriously concerned over severe human rights violations being committed by the Sudanese government in other regions of the country, including against both non-Muslims and Muslims who dissent from the government's interpretation of Islam, as well as in the Western region of Darfur, where the State Department has determined that acts of genocide have taken place and may continue to be occurring. In addition, despite the signing of the North-South peace accords, continued attention and monitoring by the United States and the international community are necessary to ensure that the terms of the accords are implemented.

Following prolonged negotiations, the government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army formally ended 23 years of conflict with the signing of comprehensive peace accords on January 9, 2005. The peace accords affirmed a series of prior agreements, including the Machakos Protocol of July 2002, which established a number of principles regarding freedom of religion or belief, and the Protocol on Power-Sharing of May 2004, which addresses a number of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Protocol on Power-Sharing states explicitly that "The Republic of Sudan, including all levels of Government throughout the country, shall comply fully with its obligations under the international human rights treaties to which it is or becomes a party." The rights specified in the Machakos and Power-Sharing Protocols are supposed to be reflected in a new permanent national constitution. Under the terms of the peace accord, at the end of a six-year interim period, a popular referendum will be held on whether the South will remain within Sudan or become independent. Until the permanent national constitution is adopted, Sudan will be under an interim constitution, a draft of which is expected shortly.

Peace efforts have brought improvement in human rights conditions in the South and in the Nuba Mountains. In the Western region of Darfur, however, since 2003, government forces and "Janjaweed" (government-backed militia from Arab tribes) have employed abusive tactics and brutal violence against African Muslim civilians, tactics similar to those used previously against non-Muslim Africans during the North-South civil war. The government has exploited ethnic and religious differences in the Darfur conflict, consistent with its continuing coercive policies of Arabization and Islamization. Serious human rights abuses have included aerial bombardment of civilians, forced starvation as the result of deliberate denial of international humanitarian assistance, and the forcible displacement of civilian populations.

Following a visit to Sudan in June 2004, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions reported that "it is beyond doubt that the Government of Sudan is responsible for extrajudicial and summary executions of large numbers of people over the last several months in the Darfur region" and "the current humanitarian disaster unfolding in Darfur, for which the Government is largely responsible, has put millions of civilians at risk, and it is very likely that many will die in the months to come as a result of starvation and disease." The report of the UN International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur, issued in January 2005, "established that the Government of Sudan and the Janjaweed are responsible for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law amounting to crimes under international law." To date, efforts by the United Nations and the African Union to protect Darfur's civilian population have been wholly inadequate; the general protection of civilians is not a part of the mandate of the African Union forces in Darfur. With villages destroyed and lives at risk from further attack by government-supported Arab militiamen, many civilians remain in camps, unable to return home to raise crops and thus end their dependence upon international humanitarian assistance.

The perpetrators of these crimes, both members of the Sudanese armed forces and allied militias, have acted with impunity. This lack of accountability and the persistent use of such methods by the government of Sudan raise serious questions about the government's commitment to abide by the terms of the peace accords. Close U.S. monitoring of compliance, and sanctions for non-compliance, will be necessary to ensure a just and lasting peace.

Actions by the government of Sudan against its own citizens have been repeatedly condemned as genocide. In the Sudan Peace Act of 2002, Congress found that the Sudanese government had committed acts of genocide during the civil war. By concurrent resolution in July 2004, Congress found the atrocities being committed in Darfur to constitute genocide. In congressional testimony delivered in September 2004, Secretary of State Powell announced that the State Department "had concluded that genocide has been committed in Darfur and that the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility – and genocide may still be continuing." In a statement issued by the White House the same day, President Bush urged the international community to work with the United States to prevent and suppress acts of genocide in Darfur and called on the United Nations to undertake a full investigation.

The government's genocidal actions stem from a policy of the governing elite in Khartoum to advance an Arab and Muslim identity in all parts of Sudan. This policy effectively relegates non-Arabs and non-Muslims to a secondary status and, moreover, conflicts with the reality that Sudan is a religiously diverse country with a large minority of Christians and followers of traditional African beliefs, as well as Muslims from a variety of Islamic traditions. Opposition to this coercive policy has fueled support for armed resistance by non-Muslim and non-Arab populations in the South, the Nuba Mountains, and elsewhere. During the North-South civil war, the current regime in particular used appeals to Islam, including calls by senior government officials for "jihad," to mobilize northern Muslim opinion. Religious incitement by government officials contributed to the horrific human rights abuses perpetrated by government security forces and government-backed militias.

In the areas under its control, the government of Sudan continues severely and systematically 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. The government's policies of Islamization and Arabization result in severe violations and discrimination against non-Muslims and non-Arabic speakers. In government-controlled areas, Muslims are reported to receive preferential access to limited government services and preferential treatment in court cases involving Muslim against non-Muslim. Public religious expression and persuasion of non-Muslims by Muslims is allowed, but that of Muslims by non-Muslims is forbidden. Conversion from Islam is a crime punishable by death. In practice, suspected converts are reportedly subjected to intense scrutiny, intimidation, and torture by government security personnel who act with impunity. Corporal punishments adopted from sharia, Islamic law, are sometimes imposed on non-Muslims and on Muslims who did not traditionally follow such practices. Government approval is required for the construction and use of places of worship. Although permits are routinely 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 in areas under its control.

During the North-South civil war, some children from non-Muslim families captured and sold into slavery by pro-government militias were reportedly forced to convert to Islam. Reports continue of coerced conversion in government-controlled camps for internally displaced persons, as well as among prison inmates, Popular Defense Force trainees, and children in camps for vagrant minors. The government has also allegedly tolerated the use of humanitarian assistance to induce conversion 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.

The Commission has made a series of recommendations regarding U.S. policy toward Sudan, including that the U.S. government appoint a nationally prominent individual to bring about a peaceful and just settlement of the war in Sudan. In September 2001, President Bush appointed former Senator John Danforth as Special Envoy for Peace in Sudan, energizing the Sudan peace process. Other U.S. actions followed Commission recommendations, including the Administration's decisions to give peace in Sudan a higher priority on its foreign policy agenda, engage actively to move the warring parties toward peace, monitor progress toward implementation of a series of partial and preliminary peace agreements, and use U.S. assistance more effectively in alleviating the suffering of the Sudanese people and in aiding development in southern Sudan. The Commission's consistent advocacy of strong U.S. pressure on the Khartoum regime, including economic sanctions, was also reflected in the Comprehensive Peace in Sudan Act of 2004, signed by President Bush on December 23, 2004.

In addition to recommending that Sudan be designated a CPC, the Commission recommends that the U.S. government should remain engaged at the highest levels in bringing about a just and lasting peace for all of Sudan through:

Efforts to build on the peace accords and to protect civilian populations, including by

  • closely monitoring compliance with and implementation of the peace accords and continuing to urge compliance by the government of Sudan with Security Council Resolutions addressing the conflict in Darfur;
  • supporting a stronger United Nations and African Union presence in Sudan sufficient to protect civilian populations and monitor compliance with the peace accords and Security Council resolutions, including by
    • urging the expansion of the African Union's mandate in Darfur to explicitly include active protection of civilians and preventative protection;
    • providing resources such as improved communications equipment, reliable vehicles and helicopters, and logistics assistance to enable African Union troops to move quickly to places where abuses are occurring;
    • bringing in advisors on civilian protection issues in armed conflict to train and work with African Union commanders;
    • ensuring that there is a secure environment for the delivery of humanitarian aid and the return of refugees and the internally displaced; providing an early warning system with GPS capability to warn camps and villages of approaching forces;
    • supporting the assignment of designated protection teams to camps for internally displaced persons;
    • supporting the active enforcement of the aerial "no fly" zone already specified in Security Council Resolution 1591 of March 29, 2005, which calls for the immediate cessation of "offensive military flights in and over the Darfur region;"
    • taking measures to prevent – and providing aid to those victimized by – widespread sexual violence and rape in Darfur, including by training advisors for the African Union mission and encouraging the African Union to include female troops and female police officers in their deployment to handle rape cases effectively; and
    • supporting a substantial increase in the number of human rights monitors from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and in the number of African Union troops deployed in Darfur;
  • holding the government of Sudan, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), and officials at all levels of administration accountable for violations of the peace accords, including by mandating UN and African Union monitors to take the names and other information about attacking forces and report them to central command for consideration regarding possible future prosecutions;
  • prevailing upon the government of Sudan to provide needed humanitarian access to international relief organizations;
  • continuing efforts to aid the suffering civilian population of Darfur, including by seeking an end to killing, to ethnic cleansing and forced displacement, and to Sudanese government impediments to the distribution of international humanitarian assistance; assisting refugees and internally displaced persons to return home in safety; and promoting a ceasefire as well as a peaceful and just resolution of the grievances that underlie the crisis;
  • dispersing funds quickly for humanitarian purposes, to build civil society, and to promote economic development in southern Sudan;
  • urging the Sudanese authorities to cooperate with the international prosecution of those accused of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in connection with the events in Darfur since July 1, 2002, in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1593 of March 31, 2005; and
  • continuing to keep in place existing sanctions on Sudan pending the cessation of particularly severe violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief and the resolution of the situation in Darfur.

Efforts to promote respect for international human rights, including by

  • ensuring that universal human rights, including freedom of religion or belief, are guaranteed in Sudan's new constitution and subsequently implemented in all parts of Sudan;
  • urging the government of Sudan to (a) allow all religious groups to conduct their activities freely; (b) ensure that all religious groups are free to build, repair, and operate houses of worship and social service ministries without delay or harassment; and (c) repeal any laws that punish changing one's faith or encouraging another to do so;
  • urging the government of Sudan to ensure that (1) Islamic law, sharia, (a) is not applied to non-Muslims or to individual Muslims who do not wish to be subject to sharia; (b) does not result, in practice, in violations of international human rights standards with regard to freedom of religion or belief, due process of law, or freedom of expression; and (c) does not violate the right of women to equal treatment before the law, and that (2) all individuals are
  • protected against coercion by quasi-official or private groups purporting to enforce sharia or Islamic social norms;
  • insisting that national institutions such as the military, law enforcement, and the highest level of the judiciary be representative of and equally protective of all Sudanese regardless of religious affiliation;
  • supporting the Human Rights Commission mandated by the peace accords and urging that it meet international standards for such organizations in terms of a broad mandate, independence, adequate funding, a representative character, and fair application of human rights protections for all;
  • building upon the work of the International Eminent Persons Group to end enslavement that followed abduction by government-sponsored militias and to ensure the voluntary repatriation and family reunification of all victims;
  • working to increase reporting on human rights abuses in Sudan, including through the media, and to promote grassroots reconciliation among Sudanese;
  • providing adequate staffing in the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum and in any new constituent posts, such as may be established in the South, for monitoring and reporting issues relating to religious freedom and other universal human rights and for the promotion of these rights; and
  • appointing a high-ranking official to the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum to advance human rights, including freedom of religion or belief.

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