Country Scores

Political Rights: 7
Civil Liberties: 7
Status: Not Free
Population: 39,400,000
Capital: Khartoum

2008 Key Developments: Violence escalated on multiple fronts in 2008, with fresh fighting between government and Southern Sudanese forces over the oil-rich Abyei region, renewed government attacks on rebel strongholds in Darfur, and a dramatic but unsuccessful May assault on the capital by Darfuri rebels. The latter attack prompted authorities to arrest hundreds of suspected rebel supporters. In July, International Criminal Court prosecutors requested an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, but the court's judges had yet to rule on the request at year's end. Tensions remained heightened throughout the year between the government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), despite a power-sharing arrangement between the two sides as part of a 2005 North-South peace agreement. The friction stemmed from disagreements over the oil-rich South Kordofan state. In December, the government sent troops to the disputed state, alleging that Darfuri rebel groups were operating in the area.

Political Rights: Sudan is not an electoral democracy. The last national elections in 2000 were boycotted by major opposition parties, and President al-Bashir and his National Congress Party (NCP) won easily. Following the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the SPLM leader became the first vice president, and nine of Sudan's 30 cabinet ministers are members of the SPLM. Although the current members of parliament were appointed, members of both chambers would serve five-year terms after the next elections, scheduled for 2009. Sudan is one of the world's most corrupt states.

Civil Liberties: The news media face a number of restrictions. The government tightly controls the broadcast media and imposed prepublication censorship for private media in February. Several journalists were detained during the year, and security officials raided the offices of a number of private papers. Journalists launched a hunger strike in November to protest the rise in censorship. Internet penetration is among the highest in sub-Saharan Africa, but the government monitors e-mail messages and blocks some sites. Religious freedom is constitutionally guaranteed, although religious groups must register in order to legally assemble, and registration is reportedly difficult to obtain. The Christian minority in the north faces discrimination and harassment. Conditions for nongovernmental organizations have deteriorated considerably in recent years due to government hostility toward groups that criticize its policies in Darfur, as well as violence that threatens humanitarian activities in both Darfur and the South. The judiciary is not independent. Lower courts provide some due process safeguards, but higher courts are subject to political control. Police and security forces practice arbitrary arrest and torture with impunity. It is widely accepted that the government has directed and assisted through support of militia groups the systematic killing of tens or even hundreds of thousands of people in Darfur since 2003. Human rights groups have gathered extensive evidence on the widespread use of rape in the conflict. Islamic law denies northern women equal rights in marriage, inheritance, and divorce. Female genital mutilation is widely practiced in both the North and the South.

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