Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Sudan

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1995
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Sudan, 30 January 1995, available at: [accessed 28 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 banned 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. The NIF continued to consolidate its power in 1994. 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.

The civil war in Sudan continued, despite efforts by Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Sudan, under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD), to seek a peaceful solution to the conflict. Government forces launched a major offensive against the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA), gaining some ground, displacing thousands of civilians, and causing new outflows of refugees.

In the second half of the year, however, the SPLA took the offensive, overrunning Amadi, besieging Kapoeta, and attacking other government-held positions. By year's end, the Government had suffered heavy casualties, its hold on Kapoeta had become precarious, and it had been forced, because of SPLA pressure, to postpone its planned dry-season offensive. Despite SPLA successes, divisions between the SPLA (mainstream faction), led by John Garang, and the South Sudan Independence Movement (SSIM), formerly the United faction of the SPLA, led by Riak Machar, continued to hamper the insurgency's effectiveness in battling the Government.

In addition to the regular police and Sudan People's Armed Forces (SPAF), the Government maintains an Islamic militia, 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."Civil war, economic mismanagement, high inflation, over 2.5 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 1994 export earnings. Reforms aimed at privatizing state-run firms and stimulating private investment have failed to revive a moribund economy saddled with massive military expenditures.

The dismal human rights situation showed no improvement in 1994. Both the Government and insurgents committed serious human rights abuses, including massacres and extrajudicial killing, kidnaping, and forced conscription. A myriad of official and secret government security forces routinely harassed, detained, and tortured opponents or suspected opponents of the Government with impunity. Despite some improvement in overall cooperation with U.N.-sponsored relief operations, both the SPAF/PDF and SPLA/SSIM periodically obstructed the flow of humanitarian assistance to affected populations.

The Government and rebels continued to restrict most civil rights, including the rights to free speech and association. 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) have fueled support for the southern insurgency. Serious abuses against women and children continued.


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. There were also credible reports that government forces executed over 20 Chadian dissidents in western Sudan in January and killed at least 3 students while putting down an antigovernment riot in El Obeid in February.

There are credible reports that security forces beat and tortured to death detainees. For example, police beat to death Mustafa Azraq, a street vendor, who had been in police custody in Khartoum for less than 24 hours. Similarly, in September security forces tortured to death opposition activist Abdel Meneim Rahma in Wad Medani. The Government routinely denied any wrongdoing and has yet to discipline publicly any official guilty of political or extrajudicial killing since it came to power in 1989.

In an incident highlighting intra-Islamic divisions, in February gunmen linked to al Muslimin, a small extremist Islamic sect, murdered 16 worshipers and wounded over 20 more at a mosque in Omdurman because they had "betrayed" Islam. The attackers also allegedly planned to kill leading Saudi Islamist Bin Laden and NIF leader Hassan al-Turabi. Police killed two of the gunmen following a shoot-out, and captured a third, along with an accomplice who did not participate in the shootings. Their trial, conducted by a special court presided over by a government-appointed judge linked to the National Islamic Front, lasted from July to September. Credible government sources conducting the pretrial investigation complained that the Government was suppressing evidence, downplaying, in particular, the gunmen's ties to senior members of the Government and the NIF. In September the court sentenced the surviving gunman to death and his accomplice to 10 years in prison. The death sentence was carried out immediately.

There were also credible reports that both the SPLA and SSIM carried out egregious political and extrajudicial killings and massacred civilians during combat operations. In October the SSIA (the armed wing of the SSIM) was responsible for the massacre of more than 100 residents in the town of Akot, many of whom were killed in their beds at the Akot hospital. The Akot massacre was part of the endemic fighting between the rival southern insurgent movements (SPLA/Mainstream and the SSIM).

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. 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, there were reliable reports that at least a few of those arrested then were being held in a Khartoum prison; the Government has stated it has no knowledge of their whereabouts.

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. In May security personnel arrested and badly beat elderly southern politician Eliaba Surur for having contacts with the U.S. Embassy. He later required brain surgery to remove a blood clot, suffered as a result of his beating. Security forces arrested and beat scores of students after antiregime demonstrations in El Obeid and Wad Medani in February and April. Eyewitnesses in Wad Medani reported that the police had deliberately broken limbs of some of the arrested student demonstrators. During the January trial of a group accused of conspiring to commit sabotage (see Section 1.e.), the defendants stated that they had been brutally tortured. Court- appointed medical examiners confirmed that at least seven had been tortured; some had been badly burned.

Throughout the year the security forces detained government opponents incommunicado, often for months, in unofficial prisons known as "ghost houses." Some inmates released in 1994 commented that conditions had improved compared to previous years. However, inmates in ghost houses were still subject to torture, including whipping and clubbing; suspension by the wrists; application of electric shocks; burning with hot irons; submersion in hot and cold water; deprivation of food, water, sleep, and access to toilet facilities; confinement in overcrowded and unsanitary quarters; deprivation of medical care; and psychological torture.

There were, however, fewer reports of torture in ghost houses in 1994 than in previous years. The Government has never publicly disciplined any security official for torture, although its use is widely known.

There were credible and recurrent reports that both government and insurgent forces in the field periodically raped women and that police personnel sometimes raped female detainees. There were also credible reports that SPLA and SSIM forces tortured some of their prisoners.

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.

Sudan's 1991 Criminal Act, based on the Shari'a, mandates specific "hudud" punishments, including amputation, stoning, and lashing, for some offenses. The courts handed down several sentences involving amputations in 1994, of which at least one was carried out. 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 1.e.). In July the authorities lashed Abdoullahi Yusif and his brother Mohanna Mohammed of Wad Medani for alleged apostasy; Mohanna had to be hospitalized as a result.

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. The state of emergency introduced following the 1989 coup authorizes the Government to arrest people without using warrants and to detain them indefinitely without charge or trial. Under the 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," which is not 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, and the President may extend detention for 3 more months if a magistrate approves the extension. In practice, these legal provisions are routinely ignored as the authorities often detain opponents in ghost houses 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.

After brief detentions in April 1993 and April 1994 in which he was questioned about his opposition activities, Sadiq al Mahdi was again arrested and held for 12 days. The Government alleged that al Mahdi and his two supporters, Hamad Bagadi and Abdul Rahman Farah, were involved in a conspiracy to overthrow the Government that included assassinations and bombings. Although both al Mahdi and Bagadi made statements upon their release admitting that Bagadi had passed information to a foreign intelligence service, the Government never pressed formal charges against any of the three. It released Bagadi and Farah in early July. The authorities detained Sid'Ahmed Hussein without charge on two occasions in 1994. In November 1993, they arrested Hussein and held him in a ghost house until February 1994. In mid-April, they rearrested him and released him in late May.

The authorities picked up numerous other lower ranking opposition figures and others throughout the year and held some for several months. Reasonable estimates of the number of political detainees ranged between several score and a few hundred. 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.

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 law (the Shari'a); 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 views 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 the 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, and 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 appeal briefs with the Chief Justice.

In a case with political undertones, the trial of 2 suspects charged with killing 16 persons at Omdurman's Thawara Mosque began in July. The majority of the victims were members of the pro-Saudi branch of the Ansar el Sunna sect which is opposed to the NIF. Opposition figures charge that the Government or NIF organized the massacre, and their assertions were fueled by the appointment of a judge closely linked to the NIF to preside over the case. In September the court sentenced the surviving gunman to death and his accomplice to 10 years in prison. The death sentence was carried out immediately.

In April, despite the court's acknowledgment that confessions were elicited through the use of torture, the court found guilty 21 of 29 defendants accused of plotting bombings and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from 2 to 10 years. The court found the confessions admissible evidence because the defendants could not prove they were actually being tortured at the time they confessed (see Section 1.c.). The court also claimed that Islamic law allows torture, despite the bulk of Islamic jurisprudence to dispute this assertion. In late 1994, the authorities released half a dozen former officers who had been sentenced for alleged coup plotting in 1990 and 1991.

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 in the south, if the local state assemblies, envisioned in Sudan's new political system, 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 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 offenses against civil order. In SPLA-held areas, there was some reliance on traditional justice by village elders. However, the SPLA ultimately ruled by summary methods, including beatings, torture, and arbitrary execution.

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

The Government routinely interferes with its citizens' privacy. Throughout 1994 security forces frequently conducted night searches without warrants. They targeted persons suspected of political crimes or also, in northern Sudan, of distilling or consuming illegal alcoholic beverages. For example, in March security forces broke up a family ceremony in a private home in memory of 28 officers executed in 1991 for coup plotting. They arrested and beat 30 participants at the memorial service.

A wide network of government informants conducted pervasive surveillance in schools, universities, markets, workplaces, and neighborhoods. 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 it suspected. Dozens lost their jobs throughout the year. Security personnel routinely opened and read mail and tapped telephones.

Government-instituted neighborhood "popular committees," ostensibly a mechanism for political mobilization, served as a means for monitoring households. These committees caused many Sudanese 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 proregime youth groups.

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

Since the civil war began in 1983, at least 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 in 1994, 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. All efforts undertaken by Sudan's neighbors (Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Eritrea) to seek a peaceful resolution to the civil war under the auspices of IGADD were unsuccessful (see Section 3).

Government forces launched a major offensive against the SPLA, gaining some ground, displacing thousands of civilians, and causing new outflows of refugees. However, Government forces suffered heavy casualties and were put on the defensive late in the year when the SPLA took the offensive. SPAF units bombed civilian targets indiscriminately, forcing thousands of southern Sudanese to flee to neighboring Uganda and Kenya. Government forces were also responsible for the massacre of civilians, and throughout the year PDF forces regularly looted and burned villages and killed civilians in "pacification" and other military operations, particularly around Aweil, Warrap, Thiet, and Tonj.

By year's end the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to war-wounded had improved, but the evacuation of wounded from certain localities in the south continued to be subject to authorization which was not systematically granted. The former Chief of Security in Kordofan Province, Khalid Abd El Karim Salih, told the Arabic-language London-based periodical Al-Majallah in March that government forces systematically targeted civilian populations in the Nuba Mountains, killing thousands.

The SPLA and SSIM were also responsible for egregious abuses and attacks on civilians, exemplified by the massacre of more than 100 residents of the southern town of Akot by SSIA forces in October (see Section 1.a.). Approximately 300 members of the armed wing of the SSIM entered Akot on October 24 and killed and wounded town residents, including several patients at the Akot hospital who were killed in their beds. Several thousand families fled Akot following the incident.

In October police killed at least five people and wounded dozens of others at the Khuddeir Squatters Settlement in Omdurman when the Government forcibly resettled its residents and demolished the slum (see Section 2.d.).

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 the informer network, continued to inhibit open, public discussion of political issues. Radio, television, and the bulk of the print media are controlled entirely by the Government and required to reflect government and NIF policies. Sudan television had a permanent military censor to ensure that the news reflected government 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 new, private newspapers. Implementation of the Code has been slow. The few publications that issued shares were purchased by government ministries and state-owned corporations, thus keeping them under government control.

In 1994 two privately owned dailies began publishing in accordance with the new Code. After several months of harassment, in April the Government shut down permanently the Sudan al-Duwali, published by NIF supporter Mahjoub Irwa. Articles in the Sudan al-Duwali had been critical of government actions, including corruption, prompting the Government to accuse the paper of circulating false information and serving "foreign circles and countries." Police also arrested and briefly detained Majoub Irwa and two key journalists, Ahmad Al Bagadi and Mutawakel Abd El Daafich, but did not charge the three men with any crime. The other newly opened, privately owned daily, Al Ahbar Al Yaum, has followed a progovernment line and has not encountered any problems.

The Government often charged that the international, and particularly Western, media have an anti-Sudan bias, and it routinely confiscated issues of foreign publications that were judged hostile to the Government. Although the Government periodically granted foreign journalists entry and access to war zones and a variety of political leaders, security forces closely monitored their activities. In one instance in 1994, police briefly detained a journalist and confiscated his film. In June the Government closed the Khartoum office of Egyptian-published opposition newspaper Al-Khartoum and detained in a ghost house its local correspondent, Abdul Saeed for 3 months. 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 in appointing new faculty.

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. Security forces repeatedly used excessive force in breaking up nongovernment- sponsored demonstrations (see Section 1.a.).

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 freedom of worship 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.

There were credible reports that security forces harassed, intimidated, and, in at least one confirmed instance, physically abused Christian converts in 1994. In July authorities lashed and threatened with death Christian clan leader Sheikh Abdoullahi Yusuf and Mohanna Mohammed for apostasy. In April the police arrested and detained without charge three Catholic Church volunteers from Egypt and a Catholic clergyman for alleged threats to the security of the State. In May the authorities released the Sudanese clergyman and expelled the three Egyptians from the country at the same time.

Authorities continued to restrict the activities of Christians in 1994. The law forbids proselytizing of Muslims, but Muslims are allowed to proselytize freely. The Government required missionary groups to apply for special licenses, and work permits for foreign missionaries remained difficult to obtain. The Government continued to deny permission to build churches, and in the north, no new churches have been built since the early 1970's. There were also reliable reports that in some war zones, government forces closed churches and restricted movements of Christian clergy. The Sudan Catholic Bishops' Conference (SCCB), the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC), and the Coptic Church all faced restrictions on their activities, which local officials often interpreted capriciously. Among these restrictions were the repeated difficulties experienced by Christian clergymen in obtaining travel permits to attend Christian Church conferences abroad. In October the Government announced that the Missionary Act had been abrogated and replaced by a new law. However, the details of the new law had not been made public by year's end.

Non-Muslims continued to criticize the Government's favoritism of Islam over other religions. As the basis of Sudan's Arab culture, all citizens are exposed to Islamic ideas set forth in the Koran. In the Popular Defense Forces, all 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. There were also reliable reports that, in some war zones, Islamic NGO's withheld food and other key services from the needy unless they converted to Islam.

In SPLA/SSIM-controlled areas, Christians and Muslims 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 outside of Sudan 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 Sudanese 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 country.

The SPLA/M and SSIM require NGO personnel to obtain permission before they travel to areas they control. Such permission is granted regularly. However, the SPLA/SSIM would not give such permission to most Islamic NGO's (many of which have ties to the Government or the NIF). There were reports of SPLA/SSIM abuse and mistreatment of 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 1994 the Government razed thousands of squatter dwellings in this area. As in the case of the destruction of the Khuddeir squatters settlement in October (see below), inhabitants of these dwellings knew that their homes were slated for destruction, but they were not told precisely when it would occur. Bulldozers would typically arrive unannounced in a neighborhood and carry out the razings the same day. Tens of thousands were made homeless and often forcibly moved to resettlement sites outside the city, where conditions were harsh and distances from employment opportunities great.

In October the Khartoum state government used excessive force in meeting a protest demonstration by squatters from the Khuddeir settlement of Omdurman, killing at least five persons and wounding dozens (see Section 1.g.). The protest demonstration took place after the Khartoum state government had reneged on its promise to resettle them in nearby areas and had determined to move them to a distant camp. The Khuddeir residents had filed a legal case against the state government, but the latter set its bulldozers in action before the courts had a chance to rule on the case.

Sudan accorded refugees relatively good treatment. At the end of the year, the population of officially registered refugees (largely composed of Ethiopians and Eritreans) was about 600,000, about half of whom received assistance from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and UNHCR resettlement of refugees to third countries proceeded smoothly. There were no reports of forcible repatriation of refugees, regardless of their status, in 1994. Refugees could not become resident aliens or citizens of Sudan, 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. Thousands of Sudanese refugees fled to Uganda in 1994, as a result of the fighting between the Government and the insurgency and SPLA/SSIM infighting. There were also refugee flows 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 power at the provincial and state level.

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 Government appointed its members, largely progovernment deputies. Although individual members occasionally criticized government policies, the TNA remained a rubber-stamp body, whose main function was to ratify legislation proposed by the Executive.

In April the General Elections Act, promulgated by provisional decree by the President and pending ratification by the TNA, specified that an undefined government-appointed body, the General Elections Corporation, will select all candidates who will be permitted to run in the general elections. The Government plans to hold elections in March 1995 for state assemblies. It will appoint 10 percent of the assembly members, each state's popular committees will elect 45 percent of the members, and the people will elect the remaining 45 percent. The Government plans to have the elections for the Transitional National Assembly shortly after the state assembly elections.

Although government rhetoric supported ending the civil war, the Government launched major military offensives in the south throughout the year. Rival rebel factions continued to fight intermittently among themselves. In a bid to mediate the conflict, the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD), a regional body that comprises Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Sudan, sponsored several negotiating rounds between the Government and the rebels. By year's end, the negotiations were stalemated due to the intransigence of the various warring parties, whose commitment to peace was questionable. Prospects for a negotiated settlement remained slim.

Although there were no women in the highest ranks of government, women in lesser positions played a modest role in day-to-day government operations. One of the governors of Sudan's 26 states was a woman, and there were a few female TNA members. The NIF did not, however, encourage female involvement in politics.

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, SCCB and the SCC, 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. 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 was highly defensive about foreign criticism of its human rights record. It bitterly denounced the February report on Sudan by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Sudan, Gaspar Biro, and bitterly attacked him personally. Much of the Government's response to the detailed and documented report consisted of denunciations of the rapporteur's age, qualifications, and integrity, and of accusations that he was hostile to Islam. The Government declared that because of the rapporteur's alleged bias against Islam, he was no longer welcome to visit Sudan.

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


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 of a man with the same degree of kinship, and only men may initiate legal divorce proceedings. These rules apply only to Sudanese Muslims and not to those of other faiths. Women are discriminated against in employment, and only a small number of women worked in the professions, the police, and the military.

Government directives require women in government offices and female students and teachers to conform to Islamic dress codes. Enforcement of the dress code regulations was uneven, but at times severe. On New Year's Eve of 1993, security forces raided many of Khartoum's private clubs and arrested several Muslim women for allegedly wearing clothes that did not conform with the Government's version of modest dress. The authorities punished several of these women by lashing.

Violence against women appears to be common, especially wife beating, although accurate statistics do not exist. The Government has not addressed the issue of violence against women; nor was it discussed publicly. The police do not normally intervene in domestic disputes, and there were no reports of court cases involving violence against women in 1994. For cultural reasons, many women are reluctant to file formal complaints against such abuse. Women refugees from the south were particularly vulnerable to harassment and sexual abuse. Among some southern tribes, rape is common. No blame is attached to the practice, although the man involved must pay the woman's family if she becomes pregnant. 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. Such wives reportedly may contract further marriages and are not stigmatized by having been returned.


Government practice, as opposed to government rhetoric, demonstrated no significant concern for the rights and welfare of children. A considerable number of children suffered serious abuses, including occasional enslavement, in the war zones. There were recurrent reports that the SPLA held thousands of children in camps against their will and used them as a reservoir of recruits for its military forces.

There continued to be credible but unconfirmed reports of the existence of special camps where people from the north or from abroad come to purchase women and children. In his report to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, the U.N. Special Rapporteur noted eyewitness accounts which revealed consistent reports of the locations of camps. Young girls and women are reportedly purchased for housekeepers and in some cases wives. The boys are reportedly kept as servants (see Section 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), although illegal, is widespread, especially in northern Sudan. As many as 90 percent or more of females in the north have been so mutilated, 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 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.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Sudan's population of 24.9 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, black African culture in the south are the two dominate cultures. The west has a smaller population of Muslim black Africans. Northern Muslims, who form a majority of about 16 million, have traditionally dominated the Government. In response, the southern ethnic groups fighting the civil war want independence, or, at a minimum, the right to self-determination.

The Muslim Arab 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 are 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, disadvantaging nonnative Arabic speakers.

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 mostly Christian or animist south. There are also 1 to 2 million Christian or animist displaced southerners, and about 500,000 Copts, in the north.

In government-controlled areas of the south, there was credible evidence of a policy of Islamization, as NIF supporters often replaced non-Muslim civil servants. 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.

People with Disabilities

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

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. In 1994, however, the Government detained without charge a number of union activists suspected of antiregime activities. In March the International Labor Organization (ILO) Committee on Freedom of Association deplored the detention of two trade unionists and expressed consternation at the death sentence pronounced against a third (even though he was later pardoned) for calling a strike.

Prior to the new Labor Law instituted in 1992, the Government had established preliminary, government-controlled steering committees in 1989 and 1990 to manage union affairs. Under tight control of these committees, the Sudan Workers Trade Unions Federation (SWTUF), the leading blue-collar labor organization with about 800,000 members, was restored with its leadership unchanged and its assets returned. In 1992 local union elections were held, after a delay to permit the steering committees to arrange the outcomes. The elections resulted in government-approved slates of candidates voted into office by prearranged acclamation. Although the Government continued to forbid strikes, some 70 employees of the state-owned telephone company struck in August. In September the company fired the 70, and the authorities detained 18 of them for periods as long as 2 weeks.

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, the labor unions, and business. Specialized labor courts adjudicate standard labor disputes.

In 1993 the Government created two export processing zones. By the end of 1994, however, they existed only on paper, and the Government had not yet made clear whether or not Sudanese labor laws would apply fully in these zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Although the law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, slavery persists. The taking of slaves, particularly in war zones, and their export to parts of central and northern Sudan continued in 1994. Captives were forced to do agricultural and domestic work, and some women were forced to serve as concubines. Although in some instances local authorities took action to stop instances of slavery, in other cases the authorities did nothing. There were also several unconfirmed reports that some captives were exported to Libya. In its 1993 World Labor Report, the ILO noted that traditional slavery survived and is increasing in modern-day Sudan in the context of the ongoing civil war (see Section 5).

The SPLA and SSIM continued to force southern men to work as laborers or porters or forcibly conscripted them into their fighting forces.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The legal minimum age for workers was 16, but the law was loosely enforced by inspectors from the Ministry of Labor in the official or wage economy. Children as young as 11 or 12 worked in a number of factories, particularly outside of the capital, including the oil mills 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 Sudanese 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. In July the Government increased the minimum wage to $23 (approximately 9,000 Sudanese pounds) per month. Given Sudan's soaring inflation, however, this wage is insufficient to support the average Sudanese worker and his family.

The workweek is limited by law to 6 days and 48 hours, with a day of rest on Friday. Although Sudanese 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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