U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Sudan

  Following the military coup that overthrew Sudan's democratically elected government in 1989, Lt. General Omar Hassan al-Bashir and other military leaders who staged the coup formed the National Salvation Revolution Command Council (RCC). The RCC suspended the 1985 transitional Constitution, abrogated press freedoms, and dissolved all political parties and trade unions. Chaired by Bashir, the RCC nominally ruled Sudan until it dissolved itself in October, appointing Bashir President of the Republic and transferring to him most of its powers. Even prior to the RCC's dissolution, real power rested with the Head of State, Bashir, a few other military officers, and above all the National Islamic Front (NIF), headed by Hassan al-Turabi. Though officially banned like the other parties, the (NIF) effectively controlled the Government. NIF members and supporters held most key positions in the Government, security forces, judiciary, academia, and media. With the abolition of the RCC, the NIF further tightened its grip on the state. The regime controls most of Sudan, outside of parts of the south and the Nuba mountains controlled by factions of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA): SPLA Mainstream, led by John Garang, and SPLA United, led by Riak Machar. The civil war continued throughout 1993, marked by bitter fighting between the SPLA factions that caused widespread suffering among the southern population. To supplement the Sudan People's Armed Forces (SPAF) and the militia, the Popular Defense Forces (PDF), in 1993 the regime created the Popular Police, which, like the militia, is infused with Islamic ideology. The mission of the Popular Police includes encouraging proper social behavior. Martial law and the state of emergency remained in place in 1993, permitting arbitrary actions such as indefinite detention of opponents. Civil war, corruption, economic mismanagement, high inflation, and over 3.5 million internally displaced persons have devastated Sudan's primarily agricultural economy. Starvation and malnutrition are rife. The war has left parts of Sudan depopulated and without effective government. Reforms aimed at privatizing inefficient state-run firms and stimulating private investment have failed to revive a moribund economy saddled with massive military expenditures. The human rights situation remained dismal in 1993, with no sign of improvement. The Government and the SPLA factions all committed serious human rights abuses. SPAF and PDF abuses included massacres, kidnaping and en- slavement, forced conscription, and rape. Government forces forcibly displaced many civilians from the Nuba mountains, conducted forced conscription, and kidnapped or enslaved civilians. In the areas they controlled, government forces routinely harassed, imprisoned – often incommunicado for lengthy periods – and tortured hundreds of opponents. The SPLA factions also engaged in widespread killings and other abuses. In the spring, SPLA/Mainstream forces tried to murder an international relief worker and a journalist operating in the south. The Government maintained myriad secret police forces, both official and unofficial. They routinely acted as if they were a law unto themselves, harassing, imprisoning, and torturing without restraint opponents and suspected opponents of the regime. Government and SPLA hindrance of international relief efforts remained a problem throughout the year, frequently interrupting relief flows and often causing widespread suffering. The Government continued to repress freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and political choice. Discrimination and violence against women continued. The same lack of freedoms prevailed in SPLA-controlled areas. In the context of the Government's Arabization and Islamization drive, discrimination against non-Muslims continued and included forced Islamization. In government-controlled areas of the south and the Nuba mountains, some Islamic nongovernmental organization (NGO) personnel, acting with the tacit approval of local authorities, withheld food and key services from the needy unless they converted to Islam. Fear of Arabization and Islamization, including the imposition of Shari'a (Islamic law), was a key cause of opposition to a united Sudan in the south, where most of the largely black African population are Christians or animists.


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 being members or collaborators of the insurgent SPLA. Moreover, according to reliable eyewitnesses, in February and March security forces shot to death about 30 persons on the beach at Suakin. There is no evidence that the victims received any trial; nor did the authorities give prior public notice of the executions, as required under Sudanese law. Asked about the executions, the authorities denied that they took place. Reportedly, SPLA forces in the Nuba mountains summarily executed local villagers who refused to provide them with food or clothing. SPLA factions were suspected of conducting both political killings and extrajudicial killings (in addition to outright massacres during combat operations) but conclusive proof was lacking. There are credible reports that in 1993 government security forces beat and tortured to death detainees. According to one such report, retired Brigadier Camillo Odong N. Loyuk was chained by his wrists and testicles to the bars of his cell window and beaten until he died.

b. Disappearance

Scores of persons arrested by government security forces in Juba, following SPLA attacks on the city in the summer of 1992, remain unaccounted for and are feared dead, including two employees of the USAID office in Juba, Dominic Morris and Chaplain Lake, and Michael Mutto of the U.N.'s Juba office. Thirty-four guards from Juba prison disappeared without a trace after the security forces took them away for interrogation. Disappearances of persons suspected of supporting the SPLA continued to occur routinely throughout the war zones in 1993.

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

Torture, previously uncommon in Sudan outside of the war zones, has become routine at the hands of official and unofficial security forces. Throughout 1993, beatings of suspected opponents upon their arrest was commonplace. For example, when government security forces arrested dozens of students for demonstrating against the regime in the Khartoum area in October, they were brutally beaten. According to reliable accounts, while in custody some students were forced to stand for hours, their hands manacled to the ceiling of a tiny cell. Throughout the year the security forces continued to hold opponents – including trade unionists, politicians, and students – incommunicado, often for months, in safe houses known locally as ghost houses. Many prisoners were beaten upon arrival at the ghost houses before their interrogation began. Torture and mistreatment of ghost house inmates often continued throughout their incarceration. In a letter passed to his relatives, Brigadier General Mohammad Ahmed al Rizk al Faki, held in Suakin Prison, related that he had been subjected to psychological and physical torture, including beatings, electric shock, rape, and partial castration. According to former inmates, mistreatment included whipping and clubbing; shackling and suspension by the wrists; the application of electric shocks; burning with hot irons; submersion in hot and cold water; prolonged blindfolding; denial of food, water, sleep, and access to toilet facilities; confinement in overcrowded and unsanitary quarters; deprivation of medical care; and psychological torture, such as mock executions, and, in the case of some female prisoners, sexual abuse. The Government has not prosecuted any security personnel for such abuses, although they are widely known. These abuses could not occur without the knowledge of the highest authorities. There were recurrent reports that SPAF, PDF, and SPLA forces in the field periodically committed rape. According to one credible report, in March soldiers raped displaced women in Meiram when the military train to Wau reached the town. Conditions in official prisons are harsh. Almost all the prisons were built before independence in 1956, are poorly maintained, and many lack such basic facilities as toilets and showers. Health care is rudimentary and food inadequate. Minors are regularly detained with adults. Sudan's 1991 Criminal Act, based on the Shari'a, prescribes for some offenses specific "hudood" punishments, including amputation, stoning, and lashing. The courts handed down several amputation sentences during the year, but none was known to have been carried out by year's end. The Government, however, routinely meted out lashings in the north, most often to persons convicted of consuming alcohol, following trials that did not meet internationally accepted standards of fairness. Angelican Bishop Elbersh was lashed publicly in 1993 for alleged adultery. On New Year's Eve 1993, the Government arrested and lashed several young Muslim women whom it accused of wearing immodest dress or consuming alcohol. In one instance of flogging in November, Kamal Mekki Medani was flogged despite medical evidence that he suffered from hypertension and diabetes and might not be able to withstand the punishment.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The 1991 Criminal Code does not address periods of detention and security arrest. Other laws allow the Government to detain persons without charge and without reference to the judiciary. The state of emergency introduced following the 1989 coup authorizes the Government to arrest persons without warrant and 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 a month with "justification," which is not defined. The President has the power to authorize "precautionary detention" for up to 3 months "to preserve the general security." In practice, he delegates this authority to subordinate officials. A person thus detained is supposed to be notified "in suitable time", interpreted as within these 3 months, of the reasons for detention. The President may extend the detention for 3 more months if a magistrate approves the extension. In practice, these legal provisions are often ignored as the authorities often detain opponents in ghost houses indefinitely. On occasions when extensions are formally requested, they are rarely, if ever, denied. Sudanese law allows for bail except in the case of accused murderers and political opponents of the regime. In theory, indigent defendants receive legal counsel from the Government in the case of crimes punishable by death or life imprisonment. However, courts do not always 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 theoretical protections, Sudanese arrested by the Government, especially by the security authorities, are likely to suffer arbitrary treatment, including, in many cases, incommunicado detention. Because of the regime's secrecy and arbitrary detention practices, it was impossible to know the exact number of political detainees and prisoners held at the end of 1993. Throughout the year, the Government picked up hundreds of suspected opponents throughout the country. Some were leading figures, such as Democratic Unionist Party leader Sid'Ahmed Al Hussein, whose arrest was widely noted. Others were less prominent persons whose arrests were known only to their family and friends. While many of those arrested were held for a few days or weeks, others were kept for months. Reasonable estimates of the number of political detainees and prisoners in Sudan by year's end ranged between several score and several hundred. Moreover, the authorities often required suspected opponents to report in the morning to the security offices, made them wait until the evening, then forced them to return the next day. This de facto arrest lasted for days, weeks, or in some cases months, during which time the victims could not earn a livelihood.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Government has made the judiciary largely subservient to it. In a 1989 decree, the RCC assumed all power over Sudan's Constitution and laws and gave control of the judiciary to the Ministry of Justice. The October 1993 decree dissolving the RCC gave the power to issue constitutional decrees to the appointed, NIF-controlled transitional National Assembly. The Chief Justice, formerly elected by sitting judges, is now appointed. Since 1989 the authorities have replaced hundreds of judges considered ideologically unacceptable. Many of the new judges have ties to the NIF. They favor strict application of the Shari'a; many have little or no legal training. Sudan's judicial system includes the regular courts, both criminal and civil, the special security courts, military courts meant mainly for military personnel, and tribal courts which are important in rural areas, where disputes often involve land and water rights and family matters. The 1991 Criminal Act governs criminal cases. Civil cases are still handled largely according to the 1983 Civil Transactions Act. In keeping with Shari'a law, a woman's testimony in court is worth one-half that of a man's. Military trials do not meet international standards; proceedings are secret and brief. The 1991 trial of 53 officers accused of coup plotting lasted only a few minutes. None of the officers had legal representation. The 1989 Special Courts Act created three-person special 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, which have a mix of military and civilian judges, handle most security-related cases. Attorneys may advise defendants as "friends of the court" but normally may not address the court. 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. These courts handle most security-related cases. The Government officially exempts the three southern states, whose population is mostly non-Muslim, from parts of the 1991 Criminal Act. However, the Act permits the possible future application of Shari'a in the south, if the local legislative assemblies, envisioned in the regime's projected political system, so decide. Moreover, in 1993 the Government transferred most non-Muslim judges from the south to the north, replacing them with Muslim judges. There were no reports, however, of hudood punishments, other than lashings, 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 fell outside effective judicial procedures and other governmental functions. According to credible reports, SPAF and PDF units summarily tried and punished those accused of crimes, especially so-called offenses against civil order. In SPLA areas, there was some reliance on traditional justice by village elders, but 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 1993 searches without warrants, often at night, continued, particularly against persons suspected of political crimes. The Government maintained a wide network of informants who conducted pervasive surveillance, constrained only by resource and manpower limitations. Informers were common in schools, universities, and workplaces. Former Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, former Communist Party Head Mohammed Ibrahim Nugud, and other key opposition figures were under nearly constant surveillance. In addition, the Government continued its practice of dismissing government employees suspected of antiregime views – particularly members of the military, over a hundred of whom were dismissed during the year. Security personnel often opened and read mail, including mail delivered by courier service. They also examined registered mail before it was sent. Telephones were often tapped. Government-instituted neighborhood "popular committees," ostensibly a mechanism for political mobilization, served as a mechanism for monitoring households. These committees caused many Sudanese to be wary of their neighbors who, for whatever reason, could report them for "suspicious" activities. Security officers, for instance, investigated Sudanese for "excessive" contact with foreigners. The committees also furnished or withheld documents essential for obtaining exit visas from Sudan. In high schools, students were sometimes pressured to join proregime youth groups. Some who refused were badly beaten.

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

The civil war was marked by bitter fighting between the rival SPLA factions and a major government summer and fall offensive aimed at sealing off Sudan's border with Uganda. Government forces, pro-government tribal militias, the PDF, and the SPLA factions commonly used excessive force and constantly violated humanitarian norms by attacking civilian targets. Neither side tried to investigate or punish those responsible. Sudan's Air Force bombed indiscriminately, often using the crude tactic of dumping bombs from transport planes on targets, including civilian villages, in SPLA areas. In late December, the Air Force bombed villages in the vicinity of Mundri in Western Equatoria and Chukundum in Eastern Equatoria. In addition, there were reliable reports that SPLA forces in the Nuba mountains frequently killed local villagers who would not give them food and other assistance. All sides in the conflict were guilty of massacring civilians. SPAF and PDF troops accompanying the February-March military train from Babanusa to Wau fanned out in front of the train, killing or capturing civilians they found in their path, stealing cattle, and burning houses, fields, and granaries. Hundreds were killed. More starved to death after losing their crops, food supplies, and cattle.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Government severely curtailed freedom of speech following the 1989 coup. In 1993 a climate of intimidation and surveillance, fostered in part by the Government's informer network, continued to inhibit open, public discussion of political issues. Radio, television, all of the print media, and the Sudanese News Agency (SUNA) remained under the Government's control and reflected its policies. The media rarely mentioned, and always negatively, opposition figures. All the print media were government-owned and controlled. The press – the Arabic-language dailies Modern Sudan, Victory, and National Salvation; the English-language daily New Horizon; and various weeklies and monthlies – strongly advocated government policies. They almost never criticized the Government, and on the few occasions they did, the criticism was benign. The Government appointed the chief editors of the print media, alleviating the need for formal daily censorship. Sudan television news had a permanent military censor to ensure that the news reflected government views. For most of 1993, the Minister of Information was an army brigadier. In early 1993, the Government closed the local offices of the daily As-Asharq al-Awsat and detained its chief correspondent, Mohammed Abdel Sayyid, in a ghost house. The Government accused him of espionage, treason, and illegal possession of government documents. In the face of a mounting campaign of international pressure, the Government released him after a month and a half. It never brought his case to trial. The Government adopted in mid-1993 a new Press Code that called for privatizing existing state-owned print media and allowing the creation of new, private newspapers. By the end of the year, however, no existing newspapers had been privatized, and no new private newspapers were created. Many local journalists were skeptical about the new Code and complained that it did not take their views into consideration. They further noted that it restricted coverage of many issues, from military affairs to subjects that could raise religious or racial tensions or exacerbate social differences. The regime complained of an anti-Sudan bias among the international, especially Western, media. In the second half of 1993, the Government permitted a number of foreign journalists to enter Sudan and allowed them a degree of freedom, letting them meet with a wide spectrum of leaders, including some from the opposition, and allowing them to visit war zones. The Government, however, monitored the journalists' movements closely and on at least one occasion confiscated part of a television crew's film. The Government routinely confiscated issues of foreign publications entering Sudan that had material it judged hostile to the regime. Many respected journalists who worked in the local media before 1989 have quit the profession, and many have left Sudan. Academic freedom does not exist in Sudan. The climate of intolerance fostered by the regime – fed, for instance, by the dismissal after the coup of many academics considered antiregime – and its practice of brutally repressing suspected opponents had a chilling effect on academic debate. The Government used political and ideological criteria in appointing new faculty.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

These freedoms were severely restricted. The declaration of the state of emergency and martial law on June 30, 1989, effectively eliminated the right to protest. Only government- sponsored gatherings were permitted. The security forces broke up demonstrations sponsored by nongovernment organizations. In October and November, police used tear gas and baton charges to disperse students and others who were protesting in the Khartoum area. When riots broke out in Gedaref in February and El Obeid and Er Rahad in October, security forces fired on the crowds, killing several persons in each locality. Apart from a few indigenous NGO's involved in relief work and the Sudan Industries Association, all other private associations were either government- or NIF-controlled.

c. Freedom of Religion

Under Sudanese law, Muslims may proselytize freely, but non-Muslims may not proselytize Muslims. The 1991 Criminal Act makes apostasy by Muslims punishable by death, although there are no known cases in which this sentence has been applied. Some Muslim converts to Christianity were, however, harassed in 1993 by local authorities. Two villagers from a small community of Arab Christians at Abdullahi, near Umm Rawaba, were arrested in August, imprisoned for several days, and threatened with death if they did not convert back to Islam. The Foreign Missionary Societies Act of 1962 subjects public Christian religious activity to close government supervision. It forbids the construction of churches without government permits; none has been issued for over 10 years. Missionary groups need licenses to proselytize; the licenses specify where they may operate and restrict their activities outside these areas. Foreign missionaries need special permission, which is difficult to obtain and easy to lose, to work in Sudan The Sudan Catholic Bishops' Conference (SCBC), the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC), an umbrella group that includes all of Sudan's Christian churches, and the Copts all faced restrictions stemming from the Act, which local officials often interpreted capriciously. Christians have generally experienced few problems building churches in government-controlled areas of southern Sudan. In the predominately Muslim areas of northern Sudan, however, Christians have not received a government permit to build a church, and no new churches have been built, since the early 1970's. Non-Muslims complained throughout 1993 of pervasive, multifaceted pressure in favor of Islam and against other religions. The authorities regard Islam not just as a faith, but also as the basis of Sudan's Arab culture. Thus, almost every subject matter in the schools is infused with Islam and the Koran, to which Muslims and non-Muslims alike are exposed. In the popular defense forces, all trainees, including non-Muslims, received indoctrination in the Islamic faith. There were reliable reports in some war zones, particularly the Nuba mountains, that government forces closed churches and restricted the movements of Christian clergy. In government-held parts of the south and the Nuba Mountains, some Islamic NGO personnel withheld food and key services from the needy unless they converted to Islam. The local authorities appeared to condone, at least tacitly, these practices.

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

Government restrictions hampered freedom of movement. All Sudanese needed to obtain exit visas before leaving the country. Numerous individual Sudanese and some categories of persons (such as policemen and other security personnel) were often denied exit visas. The authorities kept lists of political figures and other Sudanese not permitted to travel abroad. In one case, the authorities refused leading southern Sudanese opposition politician Eliaba Surur permission to attend the U.S. Institute for Peace Conference on Sudan because of his dissident activities in Khartoum. Security officials sometimes made arbitrary decisions on the issuance or cancellation of exit visas. In addition, as tensions with Egypt rose in the first half of 1993, Sudanese authorities denied most requests for travel to Egypt. An evening curfew, imposed when the new regime seized power in 1989, was lifted in November. Some former political detainees were forbidden to travel outside of Khartoum. Other Sudanese were able to move about the country, but those who failed to produce an identity card at one of the numerous checkpoints risked being arrested and even beaten. This was especially true of southerners in the north. Nondiplomatic foreigners needed permits, which were hard to obtain and often refused, well in advance for all in-country travel outside of Khartoum. (Diplomats 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 register again at each new location within 3 days of arrival. Foreign NGO staff sometimes faced difficulties in obtaining entry visas or work or travel permits once they were in country. 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. In a reprise, on a smaller scale, of the massive destructions of squatter settlements in 1992, in 1993 the Government razed hundreds of these squatter dwellings. Thousands were made homeless; some were forced to relocate to primitive resettlement sites outside the city, where conditions were harsh and distances from employment opportunities great. Many of these people had been in Khartoum for years; some even had title to the land. The Government promised to give those who had titles new plots of land elsewhere. NGO's attempting to provide food or health care in the resettlement camps often had problems securing access from the Government. Sudan was generally hospitable to refugees. At the end of the year, the refugee population (largely composed of Ethiopians and Eritreans) was about 630,000, about half of whom received assistance from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). There were no reports of forcible repatriation of refugees in 1993. UNHCR resettlement of refugees to third countries proceeded smoothly. Refugees could not become resident aliens or citizens of Sudan, regardless of their length of stay. However, a large number of refugees were tolerated and found employment, although typically in menial occupations, in the cities, especially in the capital area.

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

The people of Sudan had neither the right nor the ability to change their government peacefully. In 1992 the RCC instituted an appointed "Transitional National Assembly" (TNA). The main activity of this rubber-stamp body, however, was to ratify legislation proposed by the executive. The RCC dissolved itself in October, making its chairman President of the Republic and transferring to him most of its powers. The courts had no authority to review acts of the RCC or the Head of State. Claiming that sectarian bickering was harmful to Sudan, in 1989 the regime abolished all political parties. In 1990 the RCC, rejecting both multiparty and one-party systems, adopted a Libyan-style political structure based on ascending levels of nonpartisan assemblies, some of whose members are elected in nonpartisan elections, and the others government-appointed. The Government is currently implementing the system, which the NIF is thoroughly manipulating and controlling, at the provincial and state levels. The lack of basic freedoms of assembly, speech, and press, the absence of political parties, the rigging of the participatory process, and the significant proportion of appointed members make the system essentially undemocratic. Government rhetoric gave high priority to ending the civil war. Yet, by the end of the year, despite Nigerian mediation and peace talks with both SPLA factions in Abuja, Nigeria, and with SPLA/United in Nairobi, Kenya, there had been no progress toward peace. For much of the spring the Government and the SPLA observed a cease-fire, which collapsed in the summer as the Government launched a major offensive. The rival SPLA factions continued to fight intermittently throughout the year. At year's end several efforts at mediation between the SPLA factions and the SPLA and the Government were under way, conducted by neighboring states, church groups, and former U.S. President Carter. However, the commitment of the various warring parties to peace was unclear, and prospects for successful negotiations seemed dim.

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, frequently and vehemently denying any human rights abuses. Almost all of the relatively few local, independent human rights monitors have been arrested and detained at one point or another since the 1989 coup. In 1991 the Government created the Sudan Human Rights Organization (SHRO) – not to be confused with the previous SHRO, which the regime 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. The latter, however, has been no more critical of government human rights abuses than has the SHRO. The Sudan Catholic Bishops Conference (SCBC) and the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) continued to seek to monitor and publicize human rights abuses, especially those involving religious discrimination. The Government was highly defensive about foreign criticism of its human rights record. It vehemently attacked Amnesty International for criticizing Sudan's human rights record. In September the Government allowed Gaspar Biro, the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Sudan, to visit the country. Although Biro was able to travel to some sensitive areas, including the Nuba mountains, the Government tried to restrict his access to dissidents. It arrested several persons for meeting or trying to meet with him – including several spouses of political prisoners. The police clubbed and arrested the women as they assembled peacefully in front of the U.N. offices in Khartoum where Biro was working. The Government subsequently accused Biro and the U.N. Human Rights Commission of being biased against Sudan.

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


Sudanese laws and traditions favor men over women, and women traditionally have been relegated to segregated roles. Islamic laws of inheritance award additional property to men, while assigning them the duty of caring for their extended families. Under traditional Shari'a law, a woman inherits half as much of the estate as a man with the same degree of kinship. Discrimination against women in professional positions continued to increase in 1993. Though there are no women in the highest ranks of government, women in lesser positions play a modest role in day-to-day government operations. The TNA included some women members. The NIF did not, however, encourage women's involvement in politics, viewing this as contradicting their traditional role. Education was open to both sexes, and many women obtained university training. Women, however, traditionally receive less education and have fewer opportunities than men. Small numbers of women were found in the professions, the police, and the military. They also formed sexually segregated units within the PDF. Since 1991, government directives require that women working in government offices and female students and teachers conform to Islamic dress codes. This is defined as nondecorative, "modest" clothing covering the entire body except for the face, hands, and feet. The Government enforces the new regulations, particularly in the schools and other public institutions. On New Year's Eve several Muslim women were arrested and lashed for wearing clothing that did not conform with the Government's version of modest dress. Violence against women appears to be common although accurate statistics do not exist. Wife beating reportedly is common. The Government did not address the issue of domestic 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 1993. For a variety of cultural reasons, many women are reluctant to file formal complaints against such abuse. Women refugees were particularly vulnerable to harassment and sexual abuse. Among some southern tribes, rape is common. No blame 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 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 are able to contract further marriages and are not stigmatized by having been returned.


The Government 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. Female genital mutilation (circumcision) remains common in Sudan. Reports indicated that the practice, though illegal, is widespread, especially in the north. Some reports suggest that over 90 percent of northern Sudanese females have been so mutilated, with consequences that sometimes has included severe urinary problems, infections, and even death. The so-called Pharaonic mutilation (infibulation), the severest of the three types, is the most common and is usually performed on girls between the ages of 4 and 7 years. Because few physicians will perform the operation, it is most often done by paramedical personnel in improvised, unsanitary conditions, with severe pain and trauma to the child. Southern women displaced to the north reportedly are increasingly imposing circumcision upon their daughters, even if they themselves have not been subjected to it. The Government's Administration for the Rehabilitation of Street Children runs several camps near Khartoum and other cities for children who are found living in the streets. The management of several of these camps is entrusted to an Islamic NGO. Children in the camps may not leave without permission, and undergo a militarized regimen that includes strict discipline and physical and military exercises. Health care and schooling in the camps is reportedly poor. All the inmates must study the Koran, although there is reason to believe that a number of them are not Muslims.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Sudan's population of 24.9 million (1993 census) is a multiethnic mix of over 500 Arab and African tribes, with scores of languages and dialects. There are primarily two cultures in Sudan: the Arab, Muslim culture in the north and central areas and the non-Muslim, black African culture in the south. 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. Most southern ethnic groups want independence, or, at a minimum, the right to self-determination. The NIF-dominated regime pursued religious, ethnic, and ideological discrimination in almost every aspect of society. The Muslim Arab majority in the north practiced widespread discrimination against the several million displaced non-Arabs from the south. 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 discriminates against non-Arabs. To compete for study at a university, students completing high school must pass examinations in four subjects: English, mathematics, Arabic, and religious studies. The examinations for all the subjects except English are given in Arabic, disadvantaging those whose native tongue is not Arabic. As the entire university curriculum is now in Arabic, this disadvantage continues throughout higher education. Widespread popular attitudes in northern areas stereotype darker-skinned non-Arabs as inferior and lazy.

Religious Minorities

In government-controlled areas of the south, there was evidence of a policy of Islamization, as non-Muslim civil servants were often replaced by NIF supporters. In the north, some non-Muslims lost their jobs in the civil service, the judiciary, and other professions. Copts noted that whereas a decade or two ago they were well-represented in key professions like banking, in recent years the Government has hired no Copts for such jobs. In 1993 few non-Muslim university graduates found government jobs at all. Frequent dismissals in the police and army purged professionals to make room for NIF supporters. Businesses owned and operated by non-Muslims experienced overt discrimination, such as denial of trading licenses, or petty harassment. The Khartoum State government decreed in 1993 that women could not enter official buildings unless their dress met Islamic standards of modesty. All Sudanese public school girls, regardless of faith, must wear Islamic-style uniforms and scarves. In 1993 the State of Khartoum also put pressure on local private Christian schools in an attempt to make their female students wear scarves. Although Sudanese law recognizes Sudan as a multireligious country, official tolerance of non-Muslims remained low in 1993. Muslims are in the majority in Sudan and predominate in the north, but they are in the minority in the mostly Christian or animist south. There are also 1 to 2 million or more displaced southerners, mostly Christians or animists, and about half a million Christian Copts in the north. The Government holds that Islam, the dominant faith, must inspire the state's laws, institutions, and policies. The Government, however, states that other religions should be respected and freedom of worship guaranteed. Seeking to demonstrate a commitment to freedom of religion, the Government invited the Pope to visit Sudan, which he did for a day in February. Yet, despite official statements about tolerance, many non-Muslims faced various restrictions on their freedom to practice their religion.

People with Disabilities

The Government has not enacted any special legislation or taken other steps to mandate accessibility to public buildings 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 and forbade strikes. Stiff punishments, including the death penalty, were prescribed for violations of labor decrees. Government officials condemned – usually falsely – union activists as "Communists." Many labor leaders were dismissed from their jobs or detained, although most of those arrested were later freed. In 1993, however, the Government detained scores of union activists suspected of antiregime activities. In May the International Labor Organization (ILO) Committee on Freedom of Association deplored the Government's detention of four trade unionists and its lack of response to allegations of torture against three of them. In September 1989, the regime established preliminary, government-controlled steering committees to manage union affairs, pending the drafting of new laws on union organization. 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, but under tight government steering committee control. Besides SWTUF, there was a Professional and Employees' Trade Union Federation. The Government established further steering committees in 1990. A new labor law went into effect in 1992, and union elections at the local level took place that year, 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. The Government continued to forbid strikes, and there were none in 1993. Unions remained free to form federations and affiliate with international bodies, such as the African Workers' Union and the Arab Workers' Union. 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.

b. The Right To Organize and Bargain Collectively

An RCC constitutional decree of June 30, 1989, suspended the right to organize and bargain collectively. These rights were restored to organizing committees in September of the same year. However, government control of the steering committees and the continued absence of labor legislation allowing union meetings, filing of grievances, and other union activity greatly reduced the value of these rights. Although local union officials raised some grievances with employers, few carried them to the Government. No collective bargaining takes place in practice. Wages are set by a government-appointed and -controlled wage council which includes representatives from the Ministries of Labor and Finance, the private sector, and the trade unions. The Government announced in 1993 the creation of two export processing zones on the Red Sea coast. At year's end, however, it was unclear whether or not Sudanese labor laws would apply fully in these zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Sudanese law prohibits forced or compulsory labor. Nonetheless, slavery has persisted in Sudan. The taking of slaves, particularly in war zones, and their export to parts of central and northern Sudan were recurrent practices in 1993. The captives were forced to do agricultural and domestic work, and some women were made to serve as concubines. Although in some cases local authorities took action to stop instances of slavery, in others the authorities chose to look the other way. There were a number of unverified reports that some captives were being exported to Libya. The International Labor Organization (ILO), in its 1993 World Labor Report, noted that traditional slavery survived in modern-day Sudan and "even seemed to be on the increase" in the context of the ongoing civil war. Also in 1993, the ILO's Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations expressed regret that the Government of Sudan had failed to provide its report responding to allegations of slavery. The annual ILO conference in June therefore cited Sudan for the third time in a "special paragraph," its severest form of criticism. The SPLA often continued to force southern men to work as laborers or porters or forcibly conscripted them into SPLA ranks. In disputed territories, this practice was implemented through raids, while in areas firmly under SPLA control it was done through the SPLA-appointed village leaders.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The legal minimum age for workers is 16, but the law is loosely enforced by inspectors from the Ministry of Labor in the official or wage economy. 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 urban centers. 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 late 1993, the Government increased the minimum wage to approximately $15 (4,900 Sudanese pounds) per month. Given Sudan's soaring inflation, however, living standards for the average Sudanese worker continued to deteriorate. Conservative estimates by nongovernmental institutions estimate that in a major urban center, a Sudanese family of 4 required by the end of 1993 at least $36 (12,000 pounds) per month to meet its most basic needs. 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.

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