Population: 44,632,400
Capital: Khartoum

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

Trend Arrow: ↓ Sudan received a downward trend arrow due to a surge in arrests of opposition political activists and leaders, the banning of a leading political party, the violent response to public demonstrations in Khartoum and other cities, and a crackdown on the activities of journalists.

Ten-Year Ratings Timeline for Year under Review
(Political Rights, Civil Liberties, Status)
Year Under Review2002200320042005200620072008200920102011

2011 Key Developments: Sudan experienced political, economic, and social upheaval in 2011, including the loss of one-third of its territory when South Sudan became independent in July. Faced with the threat of political spillover from popular uprisings in other Arab countries and an economic crisis triggered by the secession of the oil-rich South, the embattled regime launched a harsh crackdown on any sign of dissent. New conflicts erupted in the border states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, prompting a heavy-handed response by government forces, which were accused of committing war crimes. Meanwhile, the conflict in Darfur continued despite the signing of a peace agreement with one of the rebel groups.

Political Rights: Sudan is not an electoral democracy. Although the first multiparty elections in 24 years were held in 2010, they were plagued by irregularities and failed to meet international standards. The leading opposition parties boycotted the presidential election, and several also withdrew from the legislative polls. The country is governed according to the 2005 interim constitution, but this document is being redrafted following the independence of South Sudan. Members of the opposition and civil society have so far been excluded from consultations over the constitution-writing process and claim that proposed revisions would lead to a more repressive system of governance. Sudan is considered one of the world's most corrupt states. Members of the ruling National Congress Party tightly control the national economy and use the wealth they have amassed in banking and business to buy political support.

Civil Liberties: The news media continue to face significant obstacles. The 2009 Press and Publication Act allows a government-appointed Press Council to prevent publication or broadcast of material it deems unsuitable, temporarily shut down newspapers, and impose heavy fines on those who break the rules. These powers were widely used in 2011. In May, ten journalists were charged with defamation for reporting on the alleged gang rape of a female student by intelligence agents. At least three of the reporters were found guilty, and two spent a month in prison rather than pay a fine. Religious freedom, though guaranteed by the 2005 interim constitution, is not upheld in practice, and the government uses religious laws as a means to persecute political opponents. In July 2011, 150 people from Darfur were rounded up by police in Khartoum. Of those arrested, 129 were charged with apostasy, which carries a maximum sentence of death. They were released in September after agreeing to follow the government's interpretation of Islam. Freedom of assembly is restricted. The government responded violently to student protests and other demonstrations during 2011. In Darfur, government-backed forces and the main rebel groups place restrictions on the movements of aid workers and peacekeepers. The judiciary is not independent. Lower courts provide some due process safeguards, but the higher courts are subject to political control, and special security and military courts do not apply accepted legal standards. Sudanese criminal law is based on Sharia and allows punishments such as flogging. Torture is reportedly common. 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 women equitable rights in marriage, inheritance, and divorce. Female genital mutilation is widely practiced.

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