U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Sudan
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Sudan, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa1d34.html [accessed 1 August 2015]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
SUDANThe 1989 military coup that overthrew Sudan's democratically elected government brought to power Lt. General Omar Hassan Al-Bashir and his National Salvation Revolution Command Council (RCC). Bashir and the RCC suspended the 1985 Constitution, abrogated press freedom, and disbanded all political parties and trade unions. In 1993 the RCC dissolved itself and appointed Bashir President. In March 1996 Bashir won highly structured national elections as President, while a National Assembly with 275 of 400 members popularly elected in a deeply flawed process replaced the transitional national assembly. The opposition boycotted the electoral process. Despite promulgation of national institutions and an interim constitution through constitutional decrees, the Government continues to restrict most civil liberties. Since 1989 real power has rested with the National Islamic Front (NIF), founded by Dr. Hassan Al-Turabi, who became speaker of the National Assembly in 1996. NIF members and supporters continue to hold key positions in the Government; security forces; judiciary; academic institutions; and the media. The supreme political institution, the National Convention, which sets national policy guidelines, is also under NIF control. The judiciary is subject to government influence. The civil war, which has resulted in the death of more than 1.5 million Sudanese, continued into its 15th year. The principal insurgent faction is the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), a body created by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). The SPLA remains the principal military force in the insurgency. In April the South Sudan Independence Movement/Army (SSIM/A), which broke away from the SPLA, and several smaller southern factions concluded a peace agreement with the Government. These former insurgent elements then formed the United Democratic Salvation Front (UDSF). However, the SPLM, its armed wing, the SPLM/A, and most independent analysts have regarded the April 21 Agreement as a tactical government effort to enlist southerners on its side. The SPLM/A and its northern allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) carried out successful military offensives in areas along the borders with Ethiopia and Eritrea and in large parts of the south during the year. Neither side appears to have the ability to win the war militarily. There was some progress toward peace during the year. At a July meeting of the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), President Bashir accepted the 1994 IGAD Declaration of Principles as the basis for discussions and negotiations for peace. The Government had rejected that document in 1994, while the SPLM/A had accepted it. Government and SPLM/A delegations met with the IGAD in September and participated in IGAD-mediated peace talks. In addition to the regular police and the Sudan People's Armed Forces (SPAF), the Government maintains an external security organ, an internal security organ, a militia known as the Popular Defense Forces (PDF), and a number of police forces, including the public order police whose mission includes enforcing proper social behavior, including restrictions on alcohol and immodest dress. In addition to the group of regular police forces, there is the Popular Police Force, which is made up of nominees from neighborhood popular committees for surveillance and services, and acts with police powers for political and social ends. Members of the security forces committed numerous serious human rights abuses. Civil war, economic mismanagement, over 4 million internally displaced persons in a country of an estimated 27.5 million persons, and, to a lesser extent, the refugee influx from neighboring countries have devastated Sudan's mostly agricultural economy. Exports of gum arabic, livestock, and meat accounted for more than 50 percent of export earnings. Reforms aimed at privatizing state-run firms and stimulating private investment failed to revive a moribund economy saddled with massive military expenditures and a huge foreign debt of approximately $16 billion. Per capita national income is estimated at $900 per year. The human rights situation remained extremely poor, and the Government committed serious human rights abuses. Citizens do not have the ability to change their government peacefully. Government forces were responsible for extrajudicial killings and disappearances. Government security forces regularly tortured, beat, harassed, arbitrarily arrested, and detained opponents or suspected opponents of the Government with impunity. Prison conditions are harsh, and the judiciary is largely subservient to the Government. The authorities do not ensure due process, and the military forces summarily tried and punished citizens. The Government still does not fully apply the laws of war to the southern insurgency and has taken few prisoners of war. The Government continued to restrict freedom of privacy, assembly, association, religion, and movement. The Government eased restrictions on freedom of the press in May; however, all journalists continue to practice self-censorship. There are no independent human rights organizations. In the context of the Islamization and Arabization drive, pressure--including forced Islamization--on non-Muslims remained strong. Fears of Arabization and Islamization and the imposition of Shari'a (Islamic law) fueled support for the civil war throughout the country. Discrimination and violence against women and abuse of children continued. Discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities persisted, as did government restrictions on worker rights. Child labor is a problem. Slavery remains a problem. Government security forces were responsible for forced labor, slavery, and forced conscription of children. On a less negative note, the Government continued cooperation with international human rights monitors. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Sudan twice visited areas under the Government's control, although his first visit was aborted when he left the country after the Government stated that it could not ensure his security. The Government also invited the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery; it had not visited as of year's end. Cooperation with U.N.-sponsored relief operations was mixed. Government forces periodically obstructed the flow of humanitarian assistance. Problems with relief flights in the south centered on the Government's denial of aircraft clearances to both the U.N. Operation Lifeline Sudan and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The Government failed to resolve the problem of false accusations that it had made against the ICRC in November 1996 in which it alleged that the ICRC transported of arms and ammunition. As a result, the ICRC undertook only severely limited operations during the year. Insurgent groups continued to commit numerous, serious abuses. The SPLM/A continued to violate citizens' rights, despite its claim to be implementing a 1994 decision to assert civil authority in areas that it controls, and in many cases, has controlled for many years. The SPLM/A was responsible for extrajudicial killings, beatings, arbitrary detention, forced conscription, and occasional arrests of foreign relief workers without charge. The SPLM/A again failed to follow through on its promise to investigate a 1995 massacre. SPLM/A leaders were guilty of, or complicit in, theft of property of nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) and U.N. agencies operating in the south. The ICRC reported in 1996 that the SPLA had begun to observe some basic laws of war; it takes prisoners on the battlefield and permits ICRC visits to them. However, the SPLA did not allow the ICRC to visit prisoners accused by the insurgent group of treason or other crimes.