Population: 42,272,000
Capital: Khartoum

Political Rights: 7
Civil Liberties: 7
Status: Not Free

Ten-Year Ratings Timeline for Year under Review
(Political Rights, Civil Liberties, Status)
Year Under Review2000200120022003200420052006200720082009

2009 Key Developments: The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir in March 2009, citing evidence of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur, but the government rejected the move. Fighting in Darfur continued at a lower level, but violence surged in Southern Sudan, where at least 2,500 people were killed in ethnic clashes. North-South tensions continued to undermine the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between al-Bashir's National Congress Party (NCP) and the main Southern political force, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM). National elections scheduled for mid-2009 were consequently postponed until April 2010. The two sides also haggled over how the 2011 referendum on Southern secession would be organized and who would get to vote. Meanwhile, an international arbitration panel determined the boundaries of the oil-rich territory of Abyei, placing its main oil field in the North.

Political Rights: Sudan is not an electoral democracy. The last national elections, held in 2000, were boycotted by major opposition parties. President Omar al-Bashir and his NCP won easily and remained dominant until the peace agreement with the SPLM was implemented in 2005. Eight of Sudan's 30 cabinet ministries are now headed by members of the SPLM. Although the current members of parliament were appointed, members of both chambers will serve five-year terms after the next elections, currently scheduled for April 2010. Sudan is considered one of the world's most corrupt states.

Civil Liberties: The news media continue to face significant obstacles. A new Press and Publication Act, passed in 2009, drew angry protests from journalists. The measure formalizes the powers of the government-appointed Press Council, which can prevent publication or broadcast of material it deems unsuitable. Throughout 2009, journalists faced arrest for writing articles that offended the NCP. Internet penetration is among the highest in sub-Saharan Africa, but the government monitors e-mail messages. Religious freedom, though guaranteed by the 2005 interim constitution, is not upheld in many parts of the country. The Christian minority in the North continues to face discrimination and harassment. The operating environment for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) deteriorated in 2009. The government responded to the ICC's decision to approve an arrest warrant for al-Bashir by expelling international humanitarian aid organizations from the country. This had an immediate impact in Darfur, where 1.1 million people depended on food supplies distributed by the expelled organizations. The judiciary is not independent. The police and security forces practice arbitrary arrest, holding people at secret locations without access to lawyers or their relatives. Torture is prevalent. It is widely accepted that the government has directed and assisted the systematic killing of tens or even hundreds of thousands of people in Darfur since 2003, including through its support for militia groups that have terrorized civilians. Human rights groups have documented the widespread use of rape, the organized burning of villages, and the forced displacement of entire communities. Islamic law denies Northern women equitable rights in marriage, inheritance, and divorce. Female genital mutilation is practiced throughout the country. The restrictions faced by women in Sudan were brought to international attention in 2009 by the case of journalist Lubna Hussein, who was arrested along with several other women for wearing trousers in public. They faced up to 40 lashes under the penal code for dressing indecently.

This 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.