Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 May 2016, 08:28 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Sudan

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1996
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Sudan, 30 January 1996, available at: [accessed 25 May 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.


After the 1989 coup that overthrew Sudan's democratically elected government, the military assumed power under Lt. General Omar Hassan Al-Bashir and his National Salvation Revolution Command Council (RCC). Bashir and the RCC suspended the 1985 Constitution, abrogated press freedoms, and disbanded all political parties and trade unions. In 1993 the RCC dissolved itself and appointed Lt. General Bashir President. However, since 1989 real power has rested with Hassan Al-Turabi and his National Islamic Front (NIF). NIF control over government operations was further solidified with the end of the RCC, and NIF members and supporters held most key positions in the Government, security forces, judiciary, academia, and the media. Although legislative authority theoretically rests with the government-appointed Transitional National Assembly (TNA), the new Government maintained the RCC's suspension of the 1985 Constitution and continued to restrict most civil liberties.

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, an Islamic militia, known as the Popular Defense Forces (PDF), and an Islamic police force, the Popular Police, whose mission includes enforcing proper social behavior, including restrictions on alcohol and "immodest dress." Members of the security forces committed numerous human rights abuses.

Civil war, economic mismanagement, over 3 million internally displaced persons, and a refugee influx from neighboring countries have devastated Sudan's mostly agricultural economy. Exports of gum arabic, livestock, and meat accounted for over 50 percent of Sudan's 1995 export earnings. Reforms aimed at privatizing state-run firms and stimulating private investment failed to revive a moribund economy saddled with massive military expenditures.

The civil war in Sudan continued into its 12th year, resulting in the deaths of more than a million and a half Sudanese. Neither side has the ability to win the war on the battlefield. The number of human rights violations decreased in mid-1995 following a limited 4-month cease-fire in the South brokered by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and a reduction in fighting between southern rebel factions prior to the fall of 1995. However, efforts to seek a peaceful solution to the conflict by Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Eritrea under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD), aided by a newly created Dutch-led Friends of IGADD, remained stalemated.

The dismal human rights situation showed little improvement. Both the Government and insurgents committed serious human rights abuses. Government forces carried out massacres, extrajudicial killings, kidnapings, forced labor, slavery, and forced conscription, on a broader scale than opposition forces. A myriad of official and secret government security forces routinely harassed, detained, and tortured opponents or suspected opponents of the Government with impunity. Prison conditions are harsh, and the judiciary is largely subservient to the Government. The Government continued to restrict most human rights, including the rights to free speech, press, assembly, association, religion, privacy, and movement. Citizens do not have the right or the ability peacefully to change their government. 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 southern insurgency. Discrimination and violence against women and abuse of children continued, and government restrictions on worker rights persisted.

Levels of overall cooperation with U.N.-sponsored relief operations deteriorated during the year. Both the SPAF/PDF and rebel factions periodically obstructed the flow of humanitarian assistance to affected populations, and there were problems with relief flights in the south.

The rebels continued to restrict most human rights in the areas under their control and were responsible for a massacre, extrajudicial killings, kidnapings, and forced conscription. The Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) did not take action to implement its 1994 decision to create civilian control over its military and humanitarian wings and to institute rule of law in areas it controls.

Respect for Human Rights

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Official and unofficial government forces committed an undetermined number of political killings of persons suspected of belonging to or collaborating with the insurgent SPLA. In May there were unconfirmed reports that Government forces in Juba rounded up and summarily executed approximately 40 soldiers loyal to former SPLA commander William Nyuon, after Nyuon defected back to the SPLA.

Credible and independent sources indicate that soldiers of the SPLA participated in a massacre of more than 200 Nuer villagers in the Ganyliel area of southern Sudan on July 30. In response to pressure from the international community and nongovernmental organizations (NGO's), the SPLA announced in

August that it would investigate the incident; at year's end, the SPLA had not yet begun an investigation. There were no other substantiated reports of extrajudicial or political killings, possibly due to the limited access to the war zones by outside observers.

b. Disappearance

The Government was responsible for continued arrests and subsequent disappearances of persons suspected of supporting the rebels in government-controlled areas in the south and Nuba Mountains. Awad Al-Karim Gharbawi, a retired military officer, was arrested in September trying to cross the Sudanese border, after having been refused an exit visa to join his wife in Namibia. He remains unaccounted for, along with two other military officers arrested at about the same time.

Scores of persons arrested by government forces in Juba in 1992, including two local U.S. Agency for International Development Employees, Dominic Morris and Chaplain Lako, remained unaccounted for, and most are believed dead. However, reliable reports indicated that at least a few of those arrested in Juba in 1992 were being held in a Khartoum prison; the Government has stated it has no knowledge of their whereabouts. The whereabouts of Sudanese medical personnel Samuel Garang, Mohamed Nowar Aso, and Mirghani Kafi, last seen in police custody in 1990-91, remained unknown at year's end.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The Government's official and unofficial security forces continued routinely to beat and torture suspected opponents. For example, in one case, four detainees were made to lift heavy chairs over their heads for hours on end. They were whipped if their pace slackened. Similarly, when former Prime Minister Sadiq Al-Mahdi was arrested in May, he was reportedly forced to sit in the sun in temperatures reaching 110 degrees Fahrenheit for refusing to answer questions (see Section 1.d.). There were credible reports that security officials tortured some detainees following large demonstrations in September in Khartoum (see Section 1.d.).

In mid-September armed security elements raided the home of Mohamed Ali Hamid Omer and beat a group of former government officials who were visiting with sticks and water hoses (see Section 1.d.). They were then taken to security offices where they were beaten again and interrogated. After being detained for 36 hours, the men were released with an apology. No reason was given for their detention. In February NIF security officials beat relatives of executed coup plotters at a demonstration (see Section 2.b.).

The number of reports and perhaps incidents of torture in "ghost houses," places where security forces detained government opponents incommunicado often for months, decreased perhaps because the tightened hold of the NIF regime meant less need to intimidate opposition groups. However, reliable sources report that most ghost house inmates have been transferred to the normal prison system, particularly Khartoum's main Kober Prison. The Government has removed the west wing of Kober Prison from the jurisdiction of the Prison Service and placed it under the supervision of the security services. Persons detained in the west wing of Kober Prison are held incommunicado. While ordinary prison wardens are theoretically accountable to courts of law for the abuses they perpetrate, security forces are not. Despite the widespread use of torture, the Government has never publicly disciplined any security official for torture.

Sudan's 1991 Criminal Act, based on Shari'a law, prescribes specific "hudud" punishments, including amputation, stoning, and lashing, for some offenses. The courts did not impose sentences involving amputation in 1995. The Government routinely meted out lashings, most often to persons convicted of brewing or consuming alcohol, following trials that did not meet internationally accepted standards of fairness (see Section l.e.). In August five Nuban young women were sentenced to death for apostasy, because they had converted to Christianity. At year's end, it was not clear if the sentences had been carried out.

Credible and recurrent reports state that police personnel sometimes raped female detainees and that both government and insurgent forces in the field raped women.

It is widely believed that the SPLA and the Southern Sudan Independence Movement (SSIM) also tortured prisoners in their custody, although the lack of access to rebel-controlled areas made it difficult to verify these allegations.

Conditions in official prisons were harsh but generally not life threatening. Almost all prisons were built before independence in 1956 and are poorly maintained. Many lack basic facilities like toilets or showers. Health care is primitive and food inadequate. Minors are often held with adults. Female prisoners are kept separately from men, and rape in prison (as opposed to police stations) does not appear to be a major problem. Prison officials arbitrarily denied visits by family members.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The 1991 Criminal Code does not include provisions concerning the length of detention of security and other detainees, and the Government routinely detained persons without charge and without reference to the judiciary. Under the 1992 National Security Act, the Government may detain a suspect for interrogation for up to 72 hours. This is renewable for up to 1 month with "justification," a term not further defined.

Also under the 1992 National Security Act, the President has the power to authorize "precautionary detention" for up to 3 months "to preserve the general security," but in practice this authority rests with subordinate officials. A person detained under this provision theoretically must be notified of the reasons for detention within these 3 months. The President may extend detention for 3 more months if a magistrate approves the extension. In practice, these legal provisions are routinely ignored, and the authorities continued to detain opponents indefinitely.

The law allows for bail, except for those accused of crimes punishable by death or life imprisonment. In theory, the Government provides legal counsel for indigents in the case of crimes punishable by death or life imprisonment. However, courts sometimes fail to inform defendants of this right. Moreover, in some cases counsel is only allowed to advise the defendant and may not address the court. Thus, despite some legal protections, detainees have few rights and are often subject to arbitrary, and in many cases, incommunicado detention.

The Government's secrecy and arbitrary detention practices made it impossible to know the exact number of political detainees and prisoners. Although the Government continued to pick up and detain suspected opponents across the country, the number of new arrests decreased compared to previous years. In May former Prime Minister Sadiq Al-Mahdi was arrested after giving a speech critical of the Government and detained incommunicado without charge for 3 months. In August the Government released Al-Mahdi along with 31 other political detainees. Other detainees may have been released throughout the year. The Government claimed that there were no remaining political detainees. Estimates of the present number of political detainees ranged from several score to a few hundred.

The authorities picked up numerous other lower ranking opposition figures and others throughout the year and held some for several months. For example, in May and June government security forces arrested over 100 members of the Sudanese opposition and a handful of underground Communist Party leaders. In mid-September, security forces beat men gathered at the house of Mohamed Ali Hamid Omer, took them to security offices, beat and interrogated them there, and detained them for 36 hours. They were released with an apology but without an explanation for their detention (see Section 1.a.). During 3 days of antigovernment demonstrations in September, which were sparked by the detention of four students who had heckled the President during a July 29 speech at Khartoum University, the Government detained and interrogated an estimated 3,000 persons, including precoup-era labor leaders; most of the detainees were released after a short time. Credible reports indicate that torture was used during the interrogations.

In another incident in September, a group of worshipers in a mosque in a Khartoum suburb were arrested by security personnel and detained because the mosque's imam had delivered a sermon critical of NIF leader Hassan Al-Turabi.

The Government also continued its practice of de facto arrest of suspected opponents by requiring them to report to security offices in the morning and wait all day for several days in a row. Those targeted for such harassment were unable to earn a livelihood. The Government also detained temporarily international relief workers (see Sections 1.g. and 2.d.).

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judiciary is not independent and is largely subservient to the Government. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, formerly elected by sitting judges, is now appointed (as the senior judge in the Sudanese judicial service, he also controls the judiciary). Since 1989 the authorities have replaced hundreds of judges considered ideologically unsuitable. Most new judges have ties to the NIF and favor strict application of Islamic (Shari'a) law; many have little or no legal training. The RCC banned the respected Sudanese Bar Association in 1989 and replaced it with a government-appointed committee. Human rights monitors have pointed out that the Government continued to harass, detain, and torture members of the legal profession it viewed as political opponents.

Sudan's judicial system includes four types of courts: regular courts, both criminal and civil; special mixed security courts; military courts; and tribal courts in rural areas to resolve disputes over land and water rights and family matters. The 1991 Criminal Act governs criminal cases, whereas the 1983 Civil Transactions Act still applies to most civil cases. Military trials, whose proceedings are secret and brief, do not meet international standards.

Trials in regular courts nominally meet international standards of legal protections. For instance, the accused normally have the right to counsel, and the courts should provide free legal counsel for indigent defendants accused of crimes punishable by death or life imprisonment. In practice, however, these legal protections are unevenly applied.

In 1989 the Special Courts Act created special three-person security courts to deal with a wide range of offenses, including violations of constitutional decrees, emergency regulations, some sections of the Penal Code, as well as drug and currency offenses. Special courts, on which both military and civilian judges sit, handle most security related cases. Attorneys may advise defendants as "friends of the court" but normally may not address the court. Lawyers complain that they are sometimes granted access to court documents too late to prepare an effective defense. Sentences are usually severe and implemented at once. Death sentences, however, are referred to the Chief Justice and the Head of State. Defendants may file appellate briefs with the Chief Justice.

The Government officially exempts the 10 southern states, whose population is mostly non-Muslim, from parts of the 1991 Criminal Act. But the Act permits the possible future application of Shari'a law in the south, if the local state assemblies (see Section 3) so decide. Moreover, in 1993 the Government transferred all non-Muslim judges from the south to the north, replacing them with Muslim judges. However, there were no reports that hudud punishments, other than lashings, were carried out by the courts in government-controlled areas of the south. Fear of the imposition of Shari'a law remained a key issue in the rebellion.

Parts of the south and the Nuba mountains fell outside of effective judicial procedures and other governmental functions. According to credible reports, government units summarily tried and punished those accused of crimes, especially of offenses against civil order. SPLA-held areas sometimes relied on traditional justice by village elders. The SPLA proclaimed a civilian structure to eliminate the secret and basically political trials by military commanders of previous years, but at year's end there was no evidence to indicate that such civilian trials had been held.

In August the authorities released 18 former officers who had been sentenced for alleged coup plotting in 1990 and 1991 and a 1994 bombing. According to international human rights NGO's, 7 persons were not included in the amnesty. There was no information available regarding possible political prisoners in the south.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The Government routinely interferes with its citizens' privacy. Security forces frequently conducted night searches without warrants. They targeted persons suspected of political crimes or, in northern Sudan, of distilling or consuming illegal alcoholic beverages.

A wide network of government informants conducted pervasive surveillance in schools, universities, markets, workplaces, and neighborhoods. The Government disbanded political parties and prevented citizens from forming new political groupings. The authorities kept key opposition figures under frequent surveillance. The Government also continued its practice of summarily dismissing military personnel and other government employees whose loyalty was suspect. Dozens lost their jobs throughout the year. In August the Government set up a committee to review the cases of persons who had been summarily dismissed since the 1989 coup. However, the review eligibility criteria were such that only 20 percent of the cases of those summarily dismissed were eligible. At year's end, little progress had been made in the review process.

Security personnel routinely opened and read mail and monitored telephones. During the first half of the year, the Government enforced a ban on unlicensed satellite dishes, but enforcement tapered off later in the year. On July 16, Ahmed Abdalla Akood, a former government official, was detained and interrogated for owning a fax machine.

Government-instituted neighborhood "popular committees"-- ostensibly a mechanism for political mobilization--served as a means for monitoring households. These committees caused many citizens to be wary of neighbors who could report them for "suspicious" activities, including "excessive" contact with foreigners. The committees also furnished or withheld documents essential for obtaining an exit visa from Sudan. In high schools, students were sometimes pressured to join pro-regime youth groups.

A Muslim man can marry a non-Muslim, but a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim, unless he converts to Islam. Only Muslims are allowed to adopt children (see Section 2.c.).

In March the home of the family of Umma Party Secretary General Omar Nur El Dayem was confiscated without prior notice; the eviction may have been due, in part, to Nur El Dayem's testimony before the U.S. Congress.

g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts

Since the civil war began in 1983, more than 1.5 million people have been killed as the result of fighting between the Islamic Government in the north and insurgents in southern Sudan. The civil war continued unabated, and all sides involved in the fighting were responsible for abuses in violation of humanitarian norms. At year's end, the Government controlled most of Sudan, except for parts of the south and the Nuba mountains. Efforts to seek a peaceful resolution to the civil war were unsuccessful. According to the report of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Sudan, on June 21, 1995, an Antanov aircraft of the Sudanese forces dropped 22 bombs on Regifi and surrounding areas in the Nuba Mountains, killing 6 civilians and injuring 12. Eyewitnesses reported that the bombardment was concentrated on a densely populated area, indicating the Government's intent to terrorize the civilian population and to force the population to flee the area.

Government forces routinely killed rebel soldiers taken prisoner in the civil war, and no rebels were reported being held as prisoners of war in government-controlled areas. The SPLA took prisoners of war. An international humanitarian organization was able to visit some of them. Government restrictions on flights into southern Sudan during the second half of the year, as well as other problems, prevented visits to some SPLA held prisoners of war.

There were also instances in which the Government arrested or detained international NGO workers. For example, in May in Pariang a government military unit detained two doctors working with the Italian NGO, Comitato Collaborazione Medica. Following several months of negotiations with the Government and local military leaders the two doctors were released into U.N. custody. At approximately the same time the SPLA released three United Nations workers it had held prisoner in Chukudum during the same period.

Both sides routinely displaced and often killed civilians, and committed numerous violations of humanitarian law, during their offensive operations, most of which were carried out by the Government this year.

The Government also commonly and deliberately targeted aerial bombing and militia raids to disperse civilians in displaced persons camps and in areas where they had congregated to receive relief supplies. In September the towns of Bideet and Ombassi were bombed resulting in 15 deaths and 11 wounded. Also in September a military barge fired indiscriminately on villages in the Yomcir area, displacing additional people; aerial bombing accompanied the barrage. In November government bombers attacked several towns in Western Equatoria in what appeared to be stepped-up efforts to terrorize the populace.

Although government rhetoric supported ending the civil war, the Government launched military offensives in the south throughout the year. In March former President Carter negotiated a 2-month cease-fire to allow guinea worm eradication activities in the south. The cease-fire was extended for an additional 2 months, but the sides would not agree to further extensions, and there were violations by both sides during the cease-fires. Other peace initiatives remained stalemated due to the intransigence of the various warring parties, whose commitment to peace was questionable. Prospects for a negotiated settlement remained slim. The 1995 dry season offensive campaign began with an initial success by Government forces on the southern border, and by an SPLA drive in the south toward Juba, the main southern city. Over all, however, the war remains unwinnable by either side.

The SPLA reportedly detained thousands of children as a reservoir of recruits (see Sections 5 and 6.c.).

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Government severely curtails freedom of speech and press. Government intimidation and surveillance, fostered in part by an informer network, continued to inhibit open, public discussion of political issues. Radio, television, and much of the print media are controlled directly by the Government and required to reflect government and NIF policies. However, lively discussions take place in the press on domestic issues, especially economic failures. All journalists, even in the privately owned Arabic dailies, practice self-censorship. Sudan television had a permanent military censor to ensure that the news reflected official views.

In mid-1993, the Government adopted a new Press Code that called for turning the existing state-owned print media into publicly held companies. The Code also allowed the formation of private newspapers. Implementation of the Code was slow. The few publications that issued shares were purchased by government ministries and state-owned corporations, thus keeping them under government control.

Of the two privately owned dailies, Akhbar Al-Youm followed a progovernment line and did not encounter any problems. The Government suspended publication of the other, Al-Rai Al-Akher, for 2 weeks in September after its September 20 edition in which two editorials questioned government policy and discussed Western Christians' support for Sudanese southerners. Earlier, Al-Rai Al-Akher had published a report on police treatment of student protesters during President Bashir's July 29 speech at Khartoum University. The report prompted the progovernment Khartoum University Student Union to publicly warn Al-Rai Al-Akher of the "consequences" of being biased. The day the Government announced of Al-Rai Al-Akher's suspension, it also announced that two previously closed newspapers would be allowed to resume publishing.

The Government often charged that the international, and particularly Western, media have an anti-Sudan and anti-Islam bias, and it routinely confiscated issues of foreign publications judged hostile to the Government. Although the Government periodically granted foreign journalists entry and access to war zones and to a variety of political leaders, security forces closely monitored their activities. All journalists, including foreigners, who wish to work in Sudan as correspondents are required by law to register with the Government. The Government rejected the applications of some journalists who had previously worked for newspapers associated with political parties, claiming that they did not have enough experience. As a result of the Government's hostile attitude, many respected journalists who worked in the local media before 1989 have quit their jobs and left Sudan.

After the coup, the Government harassed and dismissed many academics considered antiregime, and its practice of repressing opposition has had a chilling effect on academic debate. Government security forces continued to arrest and detain academics linked with opposition parties. The Government continued to use political and ideological criteria whenever possible in appointing new faculty. In the language of a government press release, there is an educational revolution occurring aimed at "authenticating" knowledge and Arabizising all educational institutions. To link educational objectives to Islamic values, all educational institutions were directed to oblige female students to wear Islamic dress.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The authorities severely restricted these freedoms, permitting only government-sponsored gatherings. The declaration of the state of emergency and of martial law on June 30, 1989, effectively eliminated the right to assembly. During 3 days of largely nonviolent, antigovernment demonstrations in Khartoum in September at least five persons were killed by the security forces who indiscriminately opened fire. The Government arrested approximately 3,000 people, mostly students, including demonstration leaders or potential leaders (see Section l.d.). Plainclothes security forces beat students, male and female, although many of them had taken no part in the demonstration. The Government let it be known that it would disperse any future demonstrations by force. The Government backed up its threats by stationing plainclothes members of the NIF security apparatus with AK-47's in pickup trucks on the main streets of downtown Khartoum. These security forces prevented groups of three or more persons from traveling to the downtown area. Although the Government released most of the detained demonstrators after a short time, the Minister of Justice announced on September 18 that "more than 15 persons" suspected of sabotage operations carried out during the demonstrations would be criminally prosecuted.

In February NIF security officials broke up a small demonstration in Khartoum by the Martyr's Association, a group of relatives of 28 officers executed for coup plotting in 1990. Security forces beat, threatened, and verbally abused the leaders of the group; those taken into custody were later released.

Northern Muslim opposition groups, which have taken no part in the fighting, and southern opposition groups formed an umbrella structure in 1995, the National Defense Alliance, to coordinate and improve their efforts to confront the NIF regime. One major southern faction, the SSIM, did not participate.

Apart from a few indigenous NGO's involved in relief work and sports and social clubs, all private associations were controlled by the Government or the NIF.

c. Freedom of Religion

Although the Government has stated that all religions should be respected and that freedom of worship is guaranteed, in practice the Government treats Islam as the de facto state religion and has declared that Islam must inspire the country's laws, institutions, and policies. Various restrictions under the Missionary Societies Act of 1962 limited the ability of non-Muslims to practice their religion freely, and the 1991 Criminal Act made apostasy by Muslims punishable by death. In August five Nuban young women were sentenced to death for apostasy (see Section l.c.). At the end of September, the police in Port Sudan arrested 10 persons, including 2 women, for converting to Christianity. These persons were still in detention at year's end. On November 30, a Catholic priest was detained while conducting a pastoral visit. At least eight uniformed and plainclothes security officers took him to four police stations for questioning about his activities before he was released. He was not told why he was detained nor were charges brought against him.

Authorities continued to restrict the activities of non-Muslims, and there continued to be reports of harassment and arrest for religious beliefs and activities. The law forbids proselytizing of Muslims, but Muslims are allowed to proselytize freely. The Government required missionary groups to apply for special licenses and continued to deny or delay work permits for foreign missionaries. In April longtime resident and Catholic missionary Father Ottorino Sina was denied a reentry visa to return to Sudan; three other religious leaders were threatened with expulsion.

The Government continued to deny permission to build churches, and in the north no new churches have been built since the early 1970's. Reliable reports stated that in some war zones, government forces closed or burned churches and mosques and restricted movements of Christian clergy. At the local level, NIF officials restricted normal activities of the Sudan Catholic Bishops' Conference, the Sudan Council of Churches, and the Coptic Church. In October 1994, the Government replaced the controversial Missionary Act with the Societies Registration Act. Although this act allows churches to engage in a wider range of activities than the Missionary Act, churches are subject to the restrictions placed on nonreligious corporations.

Non-Muslims continued to criticize privately the Government's favoritism of Islam over other religions. Only Muslims are allowed to adopt children (see Section 1.f.). As the basis of Sudan's Arab culture, all citizens are exposed to Islamic ideas set forth in the Koran. All Popular Defense Force trainees, including non-Muslims, are indoctrinated in the Islamic faith. In prisons, government supported Islamic NGO's offer inducements to, and exert pressure on, non-Muslim inmates to convert. Reliable reports stated that, in some war zones, Islamic NGO's withheld food and other key services from the needy unless they converted to Islam.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur in his 1995 Interim Report to the U.N. General Assembly reported that in rebel-controlled areas, Christians, Muslims, and followers of traditional African faiths were generally allowed to worship freely.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Government restricted freedom of movement by denying exit visas to some categories of persons (such as policemen and doctors). The Government also kept lists of political figures and others not permitted to travel abroad. Because of tensions with Egypt, the authorities denied many requests for travel to that country.

Women may not travel abroad without the permission of their husbands or male guardians. Some former political detainees were forbidden to travel outside of Khartoum. Movement was generally free for other citizens outside of the war zones, but those who failed to produce an identity card at checkpoints risked arrest. Foreigners needed permits, which were hard to obtain and often refused, for domestic travel outside of Khartoum. Diplomats, however, could travel freely to many locations. Foreigners had to register with the police on entering the country, seek permission to move from one location to another, and reregister at each new location within 3 days of arrival. Foreign NGO staff sometimes had problems obtaining entry visas to Sudan or work or travel permits once they were in the country. The SPLA and SSIM also required NGO personnel to obtain permission before traveling to areas they control, although such permission was granted regularly. Rebel factions also abused and mistreated NGO personnel.

Tens of thousands of persons, largely southerners and westerners displaced by famine and civil war, continued to live in squatter slums in the Khartoum area. Throughout 1995 the Government razed thousands of squatter dwellings in this area: inhabitants knew that their homes were slated for destruction but not when it would occur. Bulldozers would typically arrive unannounced in a neighborhood and carry out the razings the same day. Although the Government promised to sell the inhabitants a plot of land for approximately $145 (100,000 Sudanese pounds), tens of thousands were made homeless temporarily. Usually, the inhabitants established temporary shelters on the site of their razed dwellings until they could gain title to a plot of land. Muslims who did not have sufficient money to purchase the land and construct a dwelling could obtain assistance from Islamic charities. Others could not.

Sudan accorded refugees relatively good treatment. At year's end, the population of officially registered refugees (largely composed of Ethiopians and Eritreans) was about 353,765, with an estimated 240,000 additional unregistered refugees not in camps. In November, however, the Government detained up to 300 Ethiopian and Eritrean refugees in camps in eastern Sudan for alleged crimes committed in the camps. Those detained included three employees of a U.S.-based NGO which provides medical services. The arrests prompted the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to postpone a long-awaited camp census. About half the refugee population receives assistance from the UNHCR. There were no reports of forcible repatriation of refugees, regardless of their status. Refugees could not become resident aliens or citizens, regardless of their length of stay. However, the Government tolerated a large number of refugees and allowed them to work, although typically in menial occupations in the cities. An estimated 330,000 Sudanese refugees remained in Uganda, as a result of the fighting between the Government and the insurgents and rebel factional infighting. Refugees flowed from Sudan to Ethiopia and Kenya as well.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Citizens had neither the right nor the ability to change their government peacefully. Political power remained solely in the hands of a small group of unelected military officers and the NIF leadership. The NIF continued to increase its control at the provincial and state levels and removed or retired half of the armed forces officers.

In 1989 the RCC abolished all political parties and detained temporarily the major party leaders, and in 1990 rejected both multiparty and one-party systems. In 1992 the RCC instituted the Transitional National Assembly (TNA) based on a Libyan-style political structure with ascending levels of nonpartisan assemblies. The membership, largely progovernment, is entirely government appointed. Although individual members occasionally criticized government policies, the TNA remained a rubberstamp body, whose main function was to ratify legislation proposed by the executive.

In August the Government instituted a federal system of government, which it claimed would involve local people in decisionmaking. In reality there is little popular participation in government. A General Elections Commission selects all candidates permitted to run in general elections. In the March elections for state assemblies, each state's popular committees elected 45 percent of the members, and the Government appointed 10 percent. The remaining 45 percent were chosen in elections in which, by the Government's own admission, less than 10 percent of the electorate voted. However, in August the Government announced "open, free, and fair" presidential and parliamentary elections would be held in 1996.

Few women were in the highest ranks of government. However, these women and women in lesser positions played a significant role in government operations. A deputy Minister for Social Planning, one of the governors of Sudan's 26 states, and 10 percent of the TNA members are women.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

The Government tried to stamp out any domestic criticism on human rights issues by frequently and vehemently denying any responsibility for human rights abuses. Since the 1989 coup, the Government has banned local, independent human rights organizations. However, the Christian church organizations, Sudan Catholic Bishops' Conference, and the Sudan Council of Churches, continued to seek to monitor and publicize human rights abuses, especially religious discrimination.

In 1991 the Government created the Sudan Human Rights Organization (SHRO)--not to be confused with the previous SHRO, which it dissolved after the 1989 coup--to defend its human rights record. This organization has yet to criticize the Government. This year, the Popular Arab and Islamic Conference (PAIC), led by Hassan Turabi, established the International Islamic Human Rights Organization (IIHRO). The IIHRO is designed to be the Islamic answer to Western human rights organizations, which the PAIC deems prejudiced against Islam. The IIHRO issued a statement praising the Government's August release of political detainees but has yet to criticize the Government.

In an attempt to demonstrate the regime's concern for human rights, the TNA adopted in 1993 the "Sudan Document of Human Rights" and created a Human Rights Committee. After the latter began quietly investigating cases of disappearances, however, the Government dismissed its members in July and appointed new members. The new members have shown no inclination to criticize or investigate the Government's human rights record.

The Government remained hostile toward investigation of its human rights record and was highly defensive about foreign criticism. It bitterly denounced the 1994 report on Sudan by the U.N. Special Rapporteur, Gaspar Biro, and again denied permission for Biro to visit Sudan. Biro wrote his 1995 Report, which the Government also condemned, and his 1995 Interim Report to the U.N. General Assembly based on sources outside Sudan. In February the Government revoked the permission it had granted to Amnesty International to send observers to Sudan. However, the Government allowed two other international human rights NGO's, Human Rights Watch and the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights to visit.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status


Violence against women appears to be common, especially wife beating, although accurate statistics do not exist. The Government did not address the issue of violence against women; nor was it discussed publicly. The police do not normally intervene in domestic disputes, and no court cases involved violence against women. Many women are reluctant to file formal complaints against such abuse. Displaced women from the south were particularly vulnerable to harassment, rape and sexual abuse. Among some southern ethnic groups rape is common. No blame is attached to the practice, although the man involved must pay the woman's family if she becomes pregnant.

Some aspects of Sudanese law and many traditional practices discriminate against women. Gender segregation is commonplace. In keeping with Islamic law, Muslim women are not accorded the same property, inheritance, and family rights as Muslim men. Women typically inherit half as much of the estate as a man with the same degree of kinship, and it is much easier for men to initiate legal divorce proceedings. Women are also discriminated against in their ability to marry. Although a Muslim man can marry a non-Muslim, a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim unless he converts to Islam. These rules apply only to Muslims and not to those of other faiths, for whom religious or tribal law applies. Among some ethnic groups, wives are taken on a trial basis lasting up to 4 years. The husband may dissolve the marriage during this period by returning the wife to her family, although he must pay a price for each child born during this time. In most cases, the husband gets custody of the children. The wife reportedly may contract further marriages.

Government directives required women in government offices and female students and teachers to conform to what it deemed an Islamic dress code, which, at the least, entailed wearing a head covering. For example, the Passport Office would not issue passports to women, Muslim or Christian, who did not have their heads covered in their passport pictures, and government employees often would not wait on women who did not have their heads covered. However, enforcement of the dress code regulations was uneven.


The Government demonstrated no significant concern for the rights and welfare of children. A considerable number of children suffered serious abuse, including enslavement and forced conscription in the war zones.

There continued to be credible but unconfirmed reports of the existence of special camps in the south in which people from the north or from abroad came to purchase women and children to work as domestics (see Section 6.c.). Recurrent reports stated that the SPLA held thousands of children in camps against their will and used them as a reservoir of recruits for its military forces (see Sections 1.g. and 6.c.).

The Government runs several camps for vagrant children. Police periodically sweep the streets of Khartoum and other major cities, taking children whom police personnel deem homeless to the camps, where they are detained for indefinite periods. These children may not leave the camps and are subjected to strict discipline and physical and military training. Health care and schooling at the camps are generally poor; basic living conditions are also often primitive. All the children, including non-Muslims, must study the Koran, and there is pressure on non-Muslims to convert to Islam. Children in the camps are often incorporated into the PDF.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is widely condemned by international health experts as damaging to both physical and psychological health. Although illegal, FGM is widespread, especially in northern Sudan. As many as 90 percent or more of females in the north have been mutilated by FGM, with consequences that sometimes have included severe urinary problems, infections, and even death. Pharaonic mutilation (infibulation), the severest of the three types, is the most common and is usually performed on girls between ages 4 and 7. Because few physicians will perform the operation, it is most often done by paramedical personnel in improvised, unsanitary conditions, causing severe pain and trauma to the child. Women displaced from the south to the north reportedly are increasingly imposing FGM upon their daughters, even if they themselves have not been subjected to it.

People with Disabilities

The Government does not discriminate against handicapped persons but has not enacted any special legislation or taken other steps, such as mandating accessibility to public buildings and transportation for the disabled.

Religious Minorities

Although the law recognizes Sudan as a multireligious country, in practice, the Government treats Islam, the religion of the majority, as the state religion. Muslims are the majority and predominate in the north, but are in the minority in the south where most of the people practice Christianity or traditional African religions. One to two million displaced southerners, who practice Christianity or traditional African religions, and about 500,000 Coptic Christians live in the north.

In government-controlled areas of the south, there continued to be credible evidence of a policy of Islamization. For example, NIF supporters often replaced non-Muslim civil servants, and all non-Muslim judges have been transferred to the north where they are relegated to low-level tasks such as adjudicating traffic disputes. In the north, some non-Muslims lost their jobs in the civil service, the judiciary, and other professions. Few non-Muslim university graduates found government jobs at all. Frequent dismissals in the army and police purged professionals to make room for NIF supporters. Some non-Muslim businessmen complained of petty harassment and discrimination in the awarding of government contracts and trade licenses. There were also credible reports that Muslims receive preferential treatment for the limited services provided by the Government, including access to medical care.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Sudan's population of 27.5 million is a multiethnic mix of over 500 Arab and African tribes with scores of languages and dialects. The Arab, Muslim culture in the north and central areas and the non-Muslim, African culture in the south are the two dominant cultures. Northern Muslims, who form a majority of about 16 million, have traditionally dominated the Government. The southern ethnic groups fighting the civil war (largely followers of traditional African religions or Christians) want some form of regional self-determination or even independence from the North.

The Muslim majority and the NIF-dominated Government continued to discriminate against ethnic minorities in almost every aspect of society. Residents in Arabic-speaking areas who do not themselves speak Arabic were discriminated against in education, jobs, and other opportunities.

The Arabization of instruction in higher education discriminated against non-Arabs. To compete for a university slot, students completing high school had to pass examinations in four subjects--English, mathematics, Arabic, and religious studies. Even at the university level, exams for all subjects except English were in Arabic, placing nonnative Arabic speakers at a disadvantage.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

Although Sudan had a strong labor union movement during the Government of Sadiq Al-Mahdi, the RCC abolished the precoup labor unions, closed union offices, froze union assets, forbade strikes, and prescribed stiff punishments, including the death penalty, for violations of RCC labor decrees. The Government dismissed many labor leaders from their jobs or detained them, although most of those arrested were later freed.

During the 3 days of antigovernment demonstrations in September, the Government preemptively detained precoup labor union officials. Most were released when the demonstrations ended (see Section 1.d.).

The Sudan Workers Trade Unions Federation (SWTUF) is the leading blue-collar labor organization with about 800,000 members. In 1992 local union elections were held, after a delay to permit the government-controlled steering committees to arrange the outcomes. The elections resulted in government-approved slates of candidates voted into office by prearranged acclamation.

The U.S. Government in 1991 suspended Sudan's eligibility for trade benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences because of its violations of worker rights.

Unions remained free to form federations and affiliate with international bodies, such as the African Workers' Union and the Arab Workers' Union.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

An RCC constitutional decree of June 30, 1989, temporarily suspended the right to organize and bargain collectively. Although these rights were restored to organizing committees in September of the same year, government control of the steering committees meant in practice that the Government dominates the process of setting wages and working conditions. The continued absence of labor legislation allowing for union meetings, filing of grievances, and other union activity, greatly reduced the value of these formal rights. Although local union officials raised some grievances with employers, few carried them to the Government. Wages are set by a tripartite committee comprising representatives of the Government, labor unions, and business. Specialized labor courts adjudicate standard labor disputes.

In 1993 the Government created two export processing zones (EPZ's); it later established a third at Khartoum International Airport. At year's end, only the EPZ at Khartoum International Airport was open. Sudanese labor laws do not apply in these EPZ's.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Although the law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, slavery persists. According to the report by the U.N. Special Rapporteur, reports and information from a variety of sources after February 1994 indicate that the number of cases of slavery, servitude, slave trade, and forced labor have increased alarmingly. The taking of slaves, particularly in war zones, and their export to parts of central and northern Sudan continued. There also continued to be credible, but unconfirmed reports that women and children were sold and sent abroad to work as domestics, agricultural laborers, or sometimes concubines. In some instances, local authorities took action to stop instances of slavery, in other cases the authorities did nothing to stop the practice.

Both the Government and rebel factions continued to forcibly conscript young men and boys into the military or rebel militias. For example, in February a group of national service trainees were unexpectedly taken to Khartoum and flown to Juba, where they were expected to serve in combat. Young men and boys faced significant hardship and abuse once conscripted for military service. The SPLA reportedly held thousands of children in camps against their will as a reservoir of recruits (see Sections 1.g. and 5). The rebel factions continued to force southern men to work as laborers or porters or forcibly conscripted them into their fighting forces.

The Special Rapporteur received testimony on regular abductions which took place in Gogrial during joint incursions by the army, the PDF, and the armed militias. In addition, during April and May of 1995 it is reported that a train proceeding from Babanusa to Wau was used to transport civilians abducted during raids in the area carried out by government forces. According to testimony, PDF troops took thousands of cattle and abducted some 500 women and 150 children.

All the reports and information received indicate the direct and general involvement of the SPAF, the PDF, armed militias, and mujahidin groups backed by the Government in the abduction and deportation of civilians from the conflict zones to the north. All these practices have a pronounced racial aspect, as the victims are exclusively Southerners and people belonging to the indigenous tribes of the Nuba Mountains.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The legal minimum age for workers is 16 years, but the law is loosely enforced by inspectors from the Ministry of Labor in the official or wage economy. Children as young as 11 or 12 years worked in a number of factories, particularly outside the capital, including the edible oil factories at Um Ruwaba. In addition, gross poverty in Sudan has produced widespread child labor in the informal, unregulated economy. In rural areas, children traditionally assist their families with agricultural work from a very young age.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The legislated minimum wage is enforced by the Ministry of Labor, which maintains field offices in most major cities. Employers generally respect the minimum wage. Workers who are denied the minimum wage may file a grievance with the local Ministry of Labor field office, which is then supposed to investigate and take appropriate action if there has been a violation of the law. At year's end, the minimum wage was approximately $10 (7,000 Sudanese pounds) per month. This wage is insufficient to support an average worker and family.

The workweek is limited by law to six 8-hour days, with a day of rest on Friday. Although the laws prescribe health and safety standards, working conditions were generally poor, and enforcement by the Ministry of Labor minimal. The law does not address the right of workers to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without loss of employment.


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