Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1989

On June 30, 1989, in a bloodless coup d'etat, a group of
brigadiers and colonels in the Sudanese People's Armed Forces
(SPAF), led by Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir, overthrew Sudan's
3-year-old democratic government, then headed by Prime
Minister Sadiq al Mahdi . The new regime controls all the
territory controlled by the Sadiq Government, but much of the
south remains in the hands of the Sudanese People's Liberation
Army/Movement (SPLA/M) , led by John Garang. The coup leaders
arrested over 300 leading figures (most of whom were freed by
year's end), imposed a strict curfew, suspended Sudan's 1986
transitional constitution, abrogated press licenses, and
dissolved all political and trade union institutions. The
leaders then instituted a "National Salvation Revolutionary
Command Council" (RCC) of 15 members, drawn exclusively from
the military. The RCC justified the coup by condemning
Sadiq's Government for corruption and ineffectiveness,
especially in economic areas and in its failure to end the
civil war with the SPLA/M.
The SPAF numbers about 75,000 men and is largely responsible
for Sudan's internal and external security. Martial law has
been in effect in government-controlled areas of the south for
some time, and now extends to the north as well. A state of
emergency (SOE) that permits various arbitrary government
actions has been periodically renewed outside the south since
1985 and has been jointly enforced by the military, the
police, and the Ministry of Interior.
Sudan's economy is primarily agricultural. Although the
country is trying to diversify its cash crops, cotton and
cottonseed still account for more than 50 percent of export
earnings. The economy has been devastated by the expensive
civil war (which costs perhaps $1 million per day), high
inflation (100 percent in the first 6 months of 1989), high
unemployment, up to 700,000 refugees from neighboring
countries, and perhaps 3 million displaced persons among the
Many of the serious human rights violations previously noted
in Sudan continued in 1989 under both the Sadiq and Omar
Governments. The RCC abolished Sudan's largely free press,
dissolved Sudanese labor organizations, and suspended legal
due process by instituting arbitrary arrest, detention without
charge, and trial of civilians by military courts. The
continuation of Islamic law (Shari'a) throughout Sudan
remained a major cause of southern disaffection, although the
implementation of its more severe punishments has remained in
abeyance since 1985.
Government forces and government-armed militias committed many
human rights abuses, especially in the south, as did the
SPLA/M (although reports from SPLA/M-controlled areas are more
fragmentary). Military operations by both sides have left
large areas of Sudan largely unpopulated and opened
opportunities for banditry, especially along the Ugandan
border. Few of the 3 million displaced persons (including 1
million near Khartoum) were resettled. Many still lack proper
food, clothing, shelter, and medical care.
Both before and after the coup, the SPAF, its affiliated
militias, and the SPLA/M interfered with relief efforts and
attacked civilians. Various cease-fires were accepted but
then broken by one party or the other throughout the year. At
times, both sides adopted a more responsible policy toward the
passage of relief supplies, but both sides also continued to
block such supplies from time to time. In November the
Government closed Sudanese air space to all relief flights,
and the SPLA/M imposed a 72-hour advance notice requirement
for relief flights. At year's end relief donors were
apprehensive that the suffering of tens of thousands of
civilians would continue and perhaps even worsen.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
      a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
Government forces under both Sadiq and Omar were directly
implicated in some instances of extrajudicial killing. In
Meiram (Southern Kordofan) in April, soldiers beat to death a
Dinka stopped at an army roadblock. Two of his companions
were left bound for many hours and eventually had their arms
amputated as a result. No charges were filed. In July a
soldier in Omdurman shot a young boy who had apparently
annoyed him selling cigarettes.
The Sadiq Government appeared to condone human rights abuses
by the military. General Burma Nassir, reportedly the
architect in the mid-1980s of the policy of arming the
militias (which committed widespread human rights abuses), was
appointed to high positions under Sadiq. Major General Abu
Gurun similarly received career-enhancing promotions, although
his tenure as commander in the Wau area was marked by abuses
ranging from starvation to crucifixions.
Some actions by the Omar Government suggested a somewhat
different attitude. General Burma Nassir was detained and Abu
Gurun was forced to retire from government service. Soldiers
recently accused of the revenge killings of 10-15 civilians
and other atrocities in Wau were at least relieved, although
not disciplined. The abolition of Sudan's formerly vigorous
press hampered reporting of human rights abuses. Under the
Sadiq Government, reports of extrajudicial killing appeared
with some frequency in Sudanese newspapers.
      b. Disappearance
Reports of disappearances were fragmentary, but numerous
witnesses suggested that the army, security police, and
militias in the Nuba Mountains region of Southern Kordofan
were responsible for disappearances in 1989. One report
alleged that Nuba tribesmen arrested for suspected SPLA/M
affiliation were removed from holding areas and "disappeared,"
allegedly to provide space for new detainees. Tribal militias
were also accused of abductions for forced labor and of
practicing slavery, especially upon displaced Dinkas.
      c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Both government and SPLA forces were accused of ill-treatment
of civilians, (see Section l.g.).
In 1983 under President Nimeiri, the Sudanese Government
adopted a version of Shari'a (Islamic) law that prescribes
harsh corporal punishments called "Hudud," also known as theiSUPAN
"September Laws." Similar provisions were proposed to the
former constituent assembly in 1988 by Hassan al Turabi,
Secretary General of the National Islamic Front (NIF) , after
the NIF's inclusion in the Government. The assembly set aside
the proposal without rejecting it.
Hudud punishments include amputation, hanging, and beheading,
and such sentences were handed down in 1989. As in 1988,
however, no Hudud sentences were carried out under either the
Sadiq or Omar Governments. Some 400 convicted prisoners still
await execution of Hudud sentences. The Omar Government had
not clarified its position on Hudud, and the SPLA/M strongly
rejected suggestions of a national plebiscite on Shari'a.
General Omar declared that the September Laws, which the
SPLA/M strongly opposed and are a major barrier to peace, are
negotiable, but the Government also reportedly recalled two
architects of the September Laws to draft a new Islamic
By contrast, sentences of flogging were routinely passed and
carried out before the coup. Reports indicated that the
standard sentence for drinking alcohol was 40 lashes. Such
punishments are often inflicted summarily. In August Khartoum
police allegedly arrested two factory workers and a baker for
curfew violations and immediately gave each 20 lashes.
Other reports since the coup suggest brutality by some
soldiers, police, and security and prison officials. Boys
selling items in the Khartoum markets were rounded up and
beaten. Official sources acknowledged the floggings and
roundups and promised closer supervision of the police.
Although reported police brutality declined after this
commitment was made, unnecessary harassment by security forces
continued in 1989. There were also persistent reports of
beatings and other forms of torture inflicted on detainees and
others in government penal institutions.
      d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Sudan's Criminal Code continued substantially unchanged in
1989. Arrests must be followed by a statement of charges
within a prescribed time, and the accused is to be brought
before a court within 48 hours of arrest, informed of the
charges, and allowed legal counsel. Bail is permitted except
in some capital cases. But the state of emergency and martial
law after the coup permit the Government wide powers of arrest
and preventive detention for an indefinite period. Although
most prisoners were allowed visitors, there were a few reports
of prisoners held incommunicado, mostly trade unionists and
Communists considered by the authorities to be troublemakers.
Military authorities in southern and western areas may detain
people without charge on suspicion of cooperation or sympathy
with the rebellion. As the incident at Meiram indicates
(Section l.a.), this power is sometimes abused.
Under the Sadiq Government, there were few political prisoners
in northern Sudan. Fifteen persons were arrested, however, in
December 1988 following an alleged coup attempt. They
included a number of top politicians and former military
officers who allegedly supported former President Nimeri.
They were subsequently released after the June 30 coup.
The situation with regard to political detainees/prisoners
changed dramatically with the coup on June 30. The Omar
Government suspended legal due process and declared a
nationwide state of emergency (SOE) that gave the Government
wide-ranging arbitrary powers. The Government initially
detained without warrants more than 300 people, including many
of Sudan's prominent political and academic figures. They
were later joined by academics who had petitioned against the
regime's actions and by about 60 judges. Many detainees,
including Sadiq al Mahdi, remained confined without charge in
Kobar and other prisons at the end of 1989. At least 35 trade
unionists were transferred to Shala Prison in El Fasher,
approximately 400 miles from Khartoum. In September several
Communists were detained, allegedly for instigating a protest
against the Government by students at Khartoum University.
When eight labor union leaders petitioned in August against
the Omar Government's decree abolishing unions, they were also
detained. Government officials later claimed that the unions
had been a major source of Sudan's problems, and that the RCC
would tolerate no challenge to its authority. These actions
were condemned by other labor organizations, including the
Organization of African Trade Union Unity and the American
Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.
When the doctors' union staged a nationwide strike in late
November-early December, the Government detained about 30
physicians, at least one of whom was severely beaten. Several
physicians were later tried, and two convicted, for
"instigating discord and war against the State."
Conditions of imprisonment for the detainees in Kobar prison
are relatively mild, and many were freed over the months
following the coup. Sarra al-Fadil al-Mahdi, wife of Sadiq,
was detained in September and confined under more rigorous
conditions in Omdurman Women's Prison. Sadiq's other wife,
Hafia Hussein Sherif, was also briefly detained but released.
During this period the Government began to file charges,
usually related to wrongful expenditure of public funds,
against former officials of the Sadiq Government. Although
summary arrest and detention procedures continued to be used,
the Omar Government began to reconstruct a functioning if more
politicized system of justice, and detentions on political
grounds in northern Sudan became infrequent.
There were approximately 150 political detainees held without
charge in Sudan at year's end.
There were no known cases of involuntary exile in 1989. With
regard to forced or compulsory labor, see Section 6.c.
      e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Under the Sadiq Government, the Sudanese legal system was
controlled by tlie transitional constitution of 1985 and
Sudanese legal codes, including the penal code adopted in
September 1983 (the September Laws). In addition, the SOE law
of December 1987 gave authorities extensive emergency powers.
The legal system involved a variety of courts, including the
Supreme Court, civil, criminal, and Shari'a (Islamic) courts.
Abolition in 1986 of the executive power to form special state
security courts ensured that the regular criminal courts would
try all prisoners. Such proceedings involved extensive
guarantees of due process, including arrest pursuant to a
warrant, public trials before a three-judge panel, the right
of defendants to speak and present evidence on their own
behalf and to obtain counsel, and appeals through a series ofcourts to the high court of appeals. Christian law graduates
were and are required to pass a proficiency examination in
Islamic law to practice law in Sudan. Tribal law continues to
be important in rural areas, where disputes largely involve
land, water, and family concerns. Courts also exist to
monitor the activities of merchants and can impose prison
sentences for fraud and operating without a business license.
Both the judicial system and the judiciary have changed since
the coup. One of the RCC's first decrees on June 30 abolished
the 1986 transitional constitution and transferred all power
over Sudan's constitution and laws to the RCC. The same
decree also provided that existing laws remained valid and
that nonpolitical constitutional institutions continued,
although they would be required to enforce any changes in the
laws approved by the RCC. The RCC removed and detained some
60 judges, about one-tenth of the Sudanese bench. The
judiciary was transferred to the Ministry of Justice, and the
Chief Justice, formerly elected by sitting judges, was
appointed by General Omar.
In place of the former system, a dual court structure based on
three sources of law developed in 1989. Civilian courts
continued to exist, albeit short of staff and less independent
of the executive. Such courts continued to handle the large
backlog of cases dating from before June 30. They applied the
1983 Criminal Code (the September Laws) to try ordinary
criminal offenses, including theft and even some capital
crimes; civil cases continued to be handled largely according
to previous laws, generally derived from British colonial
models. Other courts were established to monitor conformity
with government-established prices for certain goods.
The RCC also established numerous special military tribunals,
typically comprised of three field-grade officers. These
courts were used extensively to try officials from the Sadiq
Government. In each case, the defendants were charged with
crimes against the 1983 Criminal Code, usually corruption.
The defendants were allowed counsel of their choice. In the
first such case, however, involving former Supreme Council
member Idris al Banna, the defendant's attorney was not
allowed to present a defense. Defendants subsequently were
formally granted the right to counsel, and it was announced
that Idris al Banna would be allowed to appeal the denial of
effective counsel in his case. The trials were televised and
open to the public.
The military courts also tried nonpolitical civilian
defendants accused of offenses specified in the SOE. Such
crimes included possession of hashish and currency-exchange
violations. The military courts also try offenses against the
decrees of the RCC, which, along with the 1983 Penal Code and
the SOE law, comprise the current Sudanese criminal code.
Sentences given convicted defendants, both political and
nonpolitical, have been severe by Sudanese standards,
including long prison terms and confiscation of property.
An RCC decree on June 30 allowed the seizure of land, money,
or commodities for the public welfare without reimbursement
and for the seizure of the property of businesses under
suspicion of resisting the Omar Government (pending legal
determination of the case) . These decrees were used to
enforce price controls.
Late in 1989 the military courts, which tried a limited number
of cases, were discontinued in favor of state security courts,
each staffed by three civilian judges. Like the military
tribunals, these courts constitute a separate group of
security courts parallel to the regular criminal and civil
system. They are intended to try persons accused of
violations of constitutional decrees, emergency regulations,
and some sections of the penal code, but defendants in these
courts receive greater benefit from due process provisions
than did those in the former military courts, including the
assistance of counsel empowered to address the court and
access to a court of appeals.
In November the Government created another new set of security
courts. According to the Special Courts Act of November 29,
the military governors of the regions and the commissioner of
the national capital can form special courts with jurisdiction
parallel to that of the state security courts. The special
security courts can be formed of three military officers or
any three competent persons, and those created had both
military and civilian judges. Attorneys can sit with
defendants as "friends of the court" and advise them, but
cannot themselves address the court. Sentences given by the
special security courts are to be implemented immediately,
except that death sentences must be approved by the Chief
Justice and the Head of State. Defendants can file appeal
briefs with the Chief Justice. The Government referred most
security cases to these courts, leaving the civilian state
security courts largely without a docket.
The special security courts quickly became noted for their
severe sentences. In December two defendants convicted of
illegal possession of foreign currency and a third defendant
convicted of currency smuggling were sentenced to death, as
was a physician convicted of involvement in an illegal strike
by doctors. Another physician involved in the strike was
sentenced to 15 years in prison; two other physicians were
acquitted. Despite international protests, on December 17 one
of those convicted of currency violations was hanged, along
with a drug traffcker convicted earlier.
In practice, the military courts and the succeeding special
revolutionary courts applied a mix of precoup laws and
postcoup decrees. The Attorney General's Office allegedly
monitors the trials of political prisoners, but its influence
is unclear.
The military courts convicted less than 100, perhaps even
fewer than 50 defendants during their 3-month existence.
Large areas of the south are controlled by the SPLA/M.
Reports indicated that a rudimentary system of justice based
on village leaders was being used in some of these areas, and
a similar system of justice was authorized by the Government
late in 1989 for the war-torn province of South Kordofan.
Under this system, a trusted village elder is appointed to
adjudicate disputes, as well as to collect taxes and recruit
soldiers and labor for the SPLA/M. SPLA offenders can be
tried and have reportedly been severely punished. Other
portions of these areas are outside effective judicial
procedures, and those accused are often not provided
recognizable due process. Some reports suggest that army
units summarily try and punish those accused of crimes,
especially offenses against civil order.
      f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
Government surveillance in Sudan, outside the combat zones,
was rare before the coup. After June 30, security agencies
considerably expanded both the scope and intensity of their
activities throughout Sudan. Reports were received of petty
harassment of civilians and surveillance of church services by
security officers. After their release from detention in
December, leading political figures Mohamed Osman al Mirghani
and Hassan al Turabi were confined to house arrest, their
families were kept under surveillance, and all visitors other
than family were required to obtain government permission.
Complaints about searches of homes without warrants also
increased. In one case, armed police or soldiers without
warrants reportedly entered homes in the Khartoum area
occupied by displaced persons from southern Sudan. They
allegedly confiscated equipment used for home brewing (a
traditional if illegal moneymaking sideline for southern
Sudanese women), marked the homes with red paint, and forbade
the families to reenter them.
      g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts
Both government forces and government-affiliated militias as
well as the SPLA/M used excessive force and acted contrary to
humanitarian law. Allegations of chemical weapons use by the
SPAF, however, appeared unfounded.
In January witnesses reported that in Allubi (Southern
Kordofan) in December 1988 some 150 SPAF soldiers and 5
officers engaged in a spree of looting, rape, and torture of
civilians. Other reports suggested similar activities by the
SPAF in the area of Tira El Akhdar that resulted in the
burning of seven villages and the killing of eight villagers.
Other reports of such activities, including in the west, were
received following the coup. In several cases, army units
reacted to perceived SPLA/M attacks by ferociously attacking
the Dinka sections of nearby towns, killing substantial
numbers of villagers. In one case, the unit commander
reportedly was transferred, but no reports were received of
disciplinary action against the soldiers who committed the
atrocities. Government forces in Malakal forbade civilians to
leave the town with enough rations to return to their villages
and plant crops, effectively making the civilians prisoners in
the town. East of Wau, the SPAF reportedly established a
"free-fire zone" to discourage settlement. Army officers have
also admitted rape and theft of relief supplies by soldiers in
southern garrisons.
A particularly notable violation of humanitarian law occurred
in the eastern Equatoria town of Torit, a center for relief
activities. On June 1 an SPAF bomber appeared over the
airport at Torit, which had recently been occupied by the
SPLA/M. The plane made two runs on the airport, dropping
several large bombs that narrowly missed a German Air Force
transport, loaned to a relief agency and appropriately
marked. Representatives of several donor nations protested
the attack, which also caused a temporary suspension of German
airborne relief in the area. A similar bombing was reported
at about the same time on a village near Torit, resulting in
several wounded civilians. After the fall of Kurmuk to the
SPLA/M in October, SPAF planes bombed the SPLA-held towns of
Yirol and Waat. The attack on Yirol killed 4 civilians and
wounded 10, and bombs narrowly missed a clearly marked ICRC
hospital. The Government subsequently denied responsibility
for these two incidents.
Information on SPLA/M violations of humanitarianm law has been
more difficult to obtain. SPLA/M forces, however, reportedly
raped displaced persons fleeing besieged towns and were
accused of planting land mines indiscriminately in the war
zone. There are reports that during the siege of Juba the
SPLA fired rockets into the town on several occasions. These
attacks reportedly killed more than 20 people, most of them
women and children. In the Juba area, the SPLA also stole
relief food from the inhabitants. When the SPLA/M took the
town of Torit in February, SPLA fighters reportedly pillaged,
raped, and killed civilians there. In late December, a relief
plane of the French organization Medicins Sans Frontieres was
shot down while taking off from the government-held town of
Aweil. The Government stated that the SPLA/M was responsible,
but there was no independent confirmation of that claim.
Government forces and government-armed militias were accused
of attacking groups fleeing the widening area of the conflict,
preventing civilians from growing their own food through
indiscriminate planting of land mines, and confiscating relief
supplies intended for civilians for sale on the black market.
The government-armed tribal militias (especially members of
the Misseriyyah, Fertit, Taposa, and Ruzeigat tribes) made
many attacks on their longstanding tribal opponents,
particularly the Dinka, the most important source of support
for the SPLA/M. In late December, Arab militia of the Sabha
tribe killed over 200 Shilluk tribesmen in El Jebelein in
reprisal for the murder of an Arab landowner. The Government
announced several arrests and an investigation of the
incident. Militia activity was especially vicious in the Nuba
Mountains region of Southern Kordofan. The Sadiq Government
routinely ignored abuses of human rights by the militias. In
July the Omar Government brokered a settlement in El Fasher
that reduced strife between the Fur tribe and government-armed
groups that had been attacking the Fur.
However, the Omar Government was not able to disarm the
militias, which also received weapons through neighboring
states, including Chad. In November a government decree
establishing "Popular Defense Forces" substantially
implemented a controversial proposal, initially made under the
Sadiq government by the National Islamic Front and parts of
the Umma party, to legitimate the militias. Government
control over the militias remained limited in 1989, although
the decree suggested means for closer government supervision.
A portion of one militia group, the Anyanya II, turned against
the Government and now supports the SPLA/M; another faction
remained loyal to the Government. In one case, the portion of
the Anyanya II militia loyal to the Government reportedly
visited villages near Abyei and engaged repeatedly in pillage,
torture, killing, and rape of civilians who they alleged were
SPLA/M supporters. Instances of enslavement of displaced
persons and refugees were also reported (see Section 5). One
observer found these areas ruled by "the law of the gun."
Despite these limitations of control, the Government's
historic policy of providing weapons to the militias and
failing to investigate or punish atrocities committed by them
associates the Government with the militias' actions. The
SPLA/M also reportedly armed tribal militias in the Nuba area,
although on a smaller scale.SUPAN
Both sides in the civil war took prisoners, although the SPAF
reportedly held only SPLA/M officers. The ICRC was able to
visit 8 SPLA/M prisoners held by the Government and 150
government prisoners held by the SPLA/M. The total number of
prisoners visited is only a small number of the prisoners held
by both sides.
Both sides interfered with relief operations in 1989. Before
the coup. Prime Minister Sadiq al Mahdi acknowledged the
unauthorized distribution of relief supplies by a local
official from stocks at Aweil. The SPLA/M reportedly attacked
some relief convoys moving through SPLA/M-controlled
territory. Other convoys were held up by negotiations between
the Government and the SPLA/M over the proportion of supplies
to be left in SPLA/M hands. Heavy mining on some southern
roads greatly obstructed movement of relief convoys by land.
Civilians suffered from mistreatment by some local
townspeople, attacks by armed militias, occasional military
harassment of relief workers, and lack of humanitarian
assistance from the army and SPLA/M themselves. Movement of
food supplies by land to Juba, the largest town in the south,
was blocked by the SPLA/M, forcing the 300,000 residents to
rely on the uncertainties of airlift.
While civilian deaths in the civil war and tribal fighting
were again high in 1989, interference or failure of both sides
in the civil war to cooperate with food relief efforts and the
subsequent closure of airspace to relief flights, government
corruption and inefficiency, and lack of medical treatment
continued to be the major causes of death in the areas
affected by the civil war in 1989. Overall in 1989 there were
fewer deaths than in 1988, due in part to massive humanitarian
efforts and intermittent cooperation. This improvement was
threatened in November by the Government's closure of Sudanese
air space to relief flights following the fall of Kurmuk, to
which the SPLA/M responded by imposing a 72-hour notification
rule for flights over SPLA/M-held territory.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
      a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Under the Sadiq Government, Sudanese citizens had substantial
freedom of speech and press, at least outside the war-torn
southern areas. Parliamentary debate was free and criticism
of the Government intense. Print media were lively and
expressed a wide variety of Sudanese opinion. Political
parties published their own newspapers, and independent
journals presented a full range of opinions. Human rights
abuses were often, if not always reliably, reported on,
especially by English-language newspapers. Radio, television,
and the Sudanese News Agency (SUNA) were under government
control and tended to reflect government policies. Academic
freedom was generally respected, and student groups held free
elections for their leaders.
Despite this substantial freedom of the press, there were
limitations. In early 1989 the Sadiq Government fired the
SUNA management, reportedly for not being sufficiently Islamic
in their reporting. At the same time, the Cabinet began
reconsideration of a new press law that would have imposed
substantial limits on reporting, including banning attacks on
religions and on Sudan's foreign policy. In March the Sadiq
Government used the SOE law to arrest the editor of a biweekly
newspaper, producing a protest from the Sudanese Journalists
The coup on June 30 radically changed this situation. Public
expression of opposition viewpoints was banned; the broadcast
media were tightly controlled; and licenses for all
nongovernment publications were cancelled. For some time the
only internal news sources were the SPAF organ Armed Forces,
SUNA, and radio and television--all government controlled. In
August the Omar Government authorized a second daily
newspaper. Modern Sudan. In September a third journal.
National Salvation, appeared. Modern Sudan and National
Salvation became the general daily papers, and Armed Forces
returned to its previous situation as an irregularly published
organ for the armed forces. All three journals reflect
government views and are in Arabic only. Also in September
Sudanow, an English-language government magazine, reappeared
in a limited press run.
Although a new press law under discussion could permit
independent publications in the future, early return to the
previous conditions of press freedom is unlikely.
Academic freedom in Sudan has generally been respected, but
many university professors felt less secure after the coup. A
few professors and other leading intellectuals were detained
or taken in for questioning, although most were soon
released. An early decree of the RCC forbade universities to
shut down in protest.
      b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Despite the banning of demonstrations under the SOE law by the
Sadiq Government, protests and marches periodically occurred.
The National Islamic Front (NIF) held numerous demonstrations
against the Sadiq Government in April, some of which became
violent. The SOE and banning of political activity decreed on
June 30 effectively eliminated the right to protest, and a
large student demonstration at the University of Khartoum
December 6 was firmly controlled by police forces, killing two
Before the coup, Sudan had many political organizations and
parties. Professional and business associations met
regularly. They were routinely given the required permits and
licenses, and, outside the war zones in the south and west,
the Government usually did not become involved in their
On June 30, the RCC decreed that the registrations of all
nonreligious groups were canceled, and the groups were
effectively disbanded. In September the Government put
forward a program for reregistration of voluntary
organizations. As long as political activity remains banned,
it is unlikely that such organizations, even if reregistered,
would play the active role in politics that some did before
the coup.
For a discussion of freedom of association as it applies to
labor unions, see Section 6. a.
      c. Freedom of Religion
Sudan is a multireligious country in both fact and law. Islam
and Christianity have both been formally recognized as
religions of Sudan, but adherents of other beliefs are not
legally restricted. Muslims are a majority in the five
northern regions and the capital, although the presence in
these areas of over 3 million displaced persons from the south
(an area predominantly Christian and animist) is affecting
this balance. Foreign clergy may enter Sudan with certain
restrictions. They are most likely to be admitted if they
have certain technical skills, such as publishing, that are
difficult to obtain in Sudan; clergy without special skills
are less likely to be admitted. In general, clergy are
admitted to serve their own religious communities.
Proselytizing by Muslims is allowed, as is proselytizing by
Christians of non-Muslims; but proselytizing of Muslims is
discouraged and can provoke reactions. Religious believers
are free to engage in religious education and to participate
in religiously related charitable activities.
Despite these provisions, Islam has traditionally been favored
by the Government. Under the Foreign Missionary Society Act
of 1962, public Christian religious activity is subject to
close government supervision. Among other provisions, the Act
forbids the construction of churches without government
permits, which have not been issued for more than 10 years.
The Sudan Catholic Bishops' Conference and the Sudan Council
of Churches both protested in 1989 against the Act, whose
broad provisions were often capriciously interpreted by local
Several incidents exacerbated sectarian tensions in 1989.
Before the coup, government officials in the south reportedly
seized property belonging to Christian churches, refused to
return it, and threatened those who protested the seizure. In
April the NIF, then in opposition, called for a "holy war"
against the Government and its supporters. Local groups
inspired by this appeal apparently interpreted it as an
incitement to attack Christian establishments. In the last 2
weeks of April, attacks were made against Christian churches,
centers, and schools in En Nahud (Northern Kordofan Province),
Port Sudan (Red Sea), El Kamlin (El Gezira), and two
establishments in Omdurman. In one of the Omdurman incidents,
a charity center operated by the Sisters of Mother Teresa of
Calcutta was attacked by a mob incited by the imam of a nearby
mosque. One of the nuns was severely beaten and the center
was stoned. The imam was arrested and sentenced to 2 months
in jail for disturbing the peace. In En Nahud, a Catholic
Church compound was invaded by a mob of NIF supporters, who
looted and ransacked the nuns' quarters and the parish
offices. No one was reported arrested for this attack. The
Sadiq Government discouraged participation in the NIF-led
demonstrations but did not use its emergency powers to ban
In another incident, a Catholic catechist was reportedly
jailed and robbed by security forces in El Daein in Southern
Darfur. Personal papers he was carrying were also allegedly
destroyed, and one of the officers reportedly demanded that he
say Muslim prayers in order to be freed, which he refused to
do. After holding him for 11 days in custody without charge,
they released him at Umm Ruwaba in Northern Kordofan. No
reports were received of disciplinary actions against the
security officials involved.
When the SPLA/M captured Torit in February, its fighters
reportedly ransacked the home of Archbishop Paride Taban,
taking religious articles, vestments, books, and other
property. They also took the Archbishop and three Catholic
priests into custody and held them incommunicado for 2
months. After international protests to the SPLA/M, they were
released in mid-May.
The coup on June 30 did not substantially affect religious
activities in Sudan. Religious organizations continued to
function essentially as before, and the decree revoking the
registration of other voluntary organizations exempted
religious bodies.
      d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Freedom of movement in Sudan is hampered by the civil war, a
very limited transportation infrastructure, and government
restrictions. Exit visas are required to leave Sudan, a
requirement th' t has been used to restrict travel abroad. A
married Sudanese woman must have the permission of her husband
or another male relative to travel abroad, and regulations
specify that unmarried Sudanese women must travel with a
family member or other sponsor. The travel restrictions for
women vjere generally ignored before the coup, but after June
30 they were increasingly strictly enforced. Reports were
received of several women refused permission to board at
Khartoum airport because security officials did not believe
they had the required perm.ission or escort. Foreigners must
register with the police on entering the country, obtain
permission to move from one location to another, and register
again at the new location within 3 days of arrival.
After the coup, the Omar Government imposed additional travel
restrictions. A curfew was instituted in much of Sudan, and
suspected curfew violators are subject to detention or summary
floggings. Initially the Omar Government heavily restricted
travel abroad by Sudanese, and immediately after the coup
closed the Khartoum airport except for travel to Mecca in
Saudi Arabia by Muslim pilgrims. A government spokesman
stated in August that travel abroad (other than to Egypt) for
medical treatment was forbidden, explaining these measures as
necessary for improving production in Sudan. In practice,
Sudanese have experienced little difficulty in leaving the
country since the coup. Although Sudanese could move about
the country freely both before and after the coup, the Omar
Government tightened travel restrictions on foreigners
(especially diplomats), principally by requiring travel
permits that are sometimes difficult to obtain. These
restrictions sometimes hampered relief efforts.
The situation of displaced persons and refugees improved in
1989 by comparison with 1988. Natural catastrophes were less
severe, and under the umbrella of Operation Lifeline Sudan
relief supplies moved more easily than in 1988. Although mass
resettlement plans for the summer of 1989 were not carried
out, some forced resettlement reportedly occurred in the
Khartoum area in November and December, as well as in areas
affected by the civil war. The SPAF reportedly forced farmers
south of Kadugli to move from their villages, causing a major
influx of families into the town of Kadugli. Reports of
widespread starvation declined, but refugees and displaced
persons continued to lack medicines and other necessities.
Overall, Sudan's inability to resolve the civil war left the
number of displaced persons at about the 1988 level of some 3
million. Many of these people were concentrated in
shantytowns and squatter huts in and around Khartoum.
Sudan's foreign refugee population (largely composed of
Ethiopians, Ugandans, and Chadians) was about 700,000. Sudan
has not forced the repatriation of refugees and has generally
accorded good treatment to refugees, although years of influx
have nearly exhausted the meager available resources for
refugees. Administrative problems halted almost all
resettlement of refugees to third countries from May 1988 to
April 1989, but the Omar Government seemed to have corrected
these problems by the end of 1989.
Large numbers of refugees have settled in the cities,
especially the capital area. Refugees are restricted in their
freedom to travel and own property, as are most non-Sudanese.
They also are not permitted to become resident aliens or
citizens of Sudan, regardless of the length of their stay.
An exception to the generally good treatment of refugees in
Sudan was the situation of Falashas (Ethiopian Jews) in
Umrakoba Camp. This group of 54 has been sequestered since
1984, has often been denied access to United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) protection officers, and
receives minimal support from the Sudanese Government, which
runs the camp. They are denied permission to travel and
isolated from the general population of the camp, and they
reportedly do not receive adequate health care.
Urban refugees face considerable problems. Reports of
harassment and petty thievery by police against refugees,
beatings for minor infractions of the law, administrative
obstruction and delays, and the need for small bribes to
obtain everything from work permits to food-ration cards are
common in urban areas. Refugees seldom have recourse to the
legal system when attacked by policemen. The UNHCR Protection
Officer reported that one group of refugees was imprisoned
without charge when found at the scene of a murder. Although
the murderer was promptly identified as Sudanese, the refugees
remained in prison for 8 weeks.
The Omar Government did not change the policy of the Sadiq
Government, instituted in 1987, of accepting genuine political
refugees but refusing refugees from famine.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
At the end of 1989, a military regime ruled, and the people of
Sudan had neither the right nor the ability peacefully to
change their government. A government spokesmen declared that
this situation will not change soon. In September the RCC
issued its "Third Constitutional Decree" establishing a new
governmental system for Sudan. It featured a head of state
(General Omar) with sovereign powers. The all-military RCC
continued as the legislative authority. A cabinet was
established consisting of a prime minister and other
ministers, all appointed by the RCC. The Cabinet was given
essentially administrative authority subject to the Head of
State and the RCC. The courts were brought under the Head of
State's supervision, and courts were specifically forbidden to
review acts of the RCC or the Head of State.
Under the Sadiq Government, Sudan had a multiparty
parliamentary system that guaranteed the right of citizens to
change their government. The system did not extend to large
parts of the south, where the civil war prevented the holding
of elections in 1986 in about half the electoral districts in
southern Sudan, leaving empty 41 of the 301 seats in the
constituent assembly. The democratic Government could not end
the civil war as it was repeatedly deadlocked on the
political/religious issue of the constitutional basis of
government. A strict Islamic-based criminal code including
Hudud punishments was proposed in 1988 but never passed,
although the Shari ' a-based provisions of the September Laws
were never repealed and constituted a major issue in the civil
war. The Sadiq Government was never able to meet its goal of
holding a national constitutional conference.
When they assumed power on June 30, the military leaders
justified their action largely by citing the ineffectiveness
of the democratic government. Claiming sectarian bickering as
harmful to Sudan, they abolished all political parties, seized
(and later distributed) the parties' assets, and detained
(albeit in relatively mild conditions) the leaders of many
precoup parties. RCC decrees banned all political activity
and political parties. Under both the Sadiq and Omar
Governments, local and provincial officials were appointed by
the authorities in the capital. Most local officials
appointed after the coup were military officers.
The military Government publicly assigned a high priority to
ending the civil war. However, by the end of 1989 there had
been very little movement. John Garang, the leader of the
SPLA, has called for a "restructured, unified Sudan, a
multinationality country."
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
The Government has traditionally been acutely sensitive to
local or foreign criticism of its human rights performance.
Several international human rights groups work actively in
Sudan. General Omar also invited a group of Western
ambassadors to examine the conditions of detention for
political detainees in Kobar prison, and the visit took place
on August 12. In September the Dinka intellectual, Francis
Deng, who is based in Washington, was also permitted to see
many political detainees in Kobar, including Sadiq al Mahdi,
Mohamed Osman Mirghani, and Hassan al Turabi.
Local human rights activists in Sudan have complained of being
regarded as subversive, and many reportedly were called in for
questioning by security officials both before and after the
coup. Neither the Sadiq nor the Omar Government instituted
any public investigations of alleged human rights abuses in
1989. In late November, however, the Government received a
delegation from Am.nesty International to discuss detention
without trial and other human rights concerns.
Until June 30, Sudan had several active organizations
monitoring human rights in the country, including the Sudan
Human Rights Association (SHRA) , the Sudan Bar Association
(SBA), and the Sudan Catholic Bishops' Conference. Neither of
the first two produced in 1989 detailed studies of human
rights abuses in Sudan, and their status since the coup is
uncertain. The Bishops' Conference still exists and actively
monitors human rights concerns; its bimonthly newsletter
publicizes violations of human rights, especially those
involving religious discrimination. In late 1989, both the
Bishops' Conference and the Sudan Council of Churches drafted
public letters protesting religious discrimination.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Language, or Social Status
Sudan's population of 24.5 million (1989) is a multiethnic mix
of over 500 Arab and African tribes, with scores of languages
and dialects. In general, Sudan is composed primarily of two
cultures--Arab in the north and central areas and black
African in the south. Sudanese governments have historically
been dominated by northern Muslims (about 16 million). Some
southern tribal groups, especially non-Arabs and non-Muslims,
have demanded greater economic and political power and greater
recognition of Sudan's cultural diversity.
Discrimination in the north by the Muslim Arab majority
against displaced persons from the south is common, and many
reports were received in the past of attacks by Arab tribes in
the south against non-Arab southerners, especially members of
the Dinka tribe. Residents of Arabic-speaking areas who do
not themselves speak Arabic are discriminated against in
education, jobs, and other opportunities. University of
Khartoum entrance examinations also favor Arabic speakers.
Widespread popular attitudes in these areas also stereotype
dark-skinned non-Arab southerners as inferior and lazy,
leading to much informal discrimination against them.
Sudanese laws continue to favor men, and men and women
traditionally have segregated roles. Islamic laws of
inheritance award additional property to men, while
concurrently assigning them the duty of caring for their
extended families. Although education is freely open to both
sexes and many women obtain university education, women
traditionally receive less education and have fewer
opportunities than do men. Some women, however, have been
active in the professions, the media, education, and politics,
and at least one female presides over a court. Although not
numerous, women are found in both the police and the
military. Labor laws allegedly do not adequately protect the
self-employed, the bulk of the female work force. However,
one of the relatively few women's rights activists in Sudan
noted at an international conference in 1989 that Sudanese
women often did not avail themselves of the rights and
opportunities available to them, including access to the court
Female genital mutilation (circumcision) is prevalent in
Sudan. Reports indicate that this practice, although
officially illegal, is very widespread, especially in the
north. Some reports suggest that over 90 percent of northern
women have been circumcised, with consequences that include
severe urinary problems, infections, and even death. The
so-called Pharaonic circumcision, the most severe of the three
forms of circumcision, is the most common and is usually
performed between the ages of 4 and 7 years. Few physicians
will perform the operation, which is most often done by
paramedical personnel in improvised, often unsanitary
conditions. The operation reportedly is expensive--
approximately $111 at the legal exchange rate—for a 10-minute
procedure. Southern women displaced to the north are
increasingly visiting circumcision on their daughters, even if
they themselves are not circumcised.
Women refugees are particularly vulnerable to harassment and
sexual abuse. Sexual favors are reportedly demanded of them
by some Sudanese officials in exchange for performance of
official duties. Stories of rape of women refugees by
policemen are common, and women refugees without a male
provider are sometimes forced into prostitution to earn a
Among certain southern tribes, forcible sexual intercourse is
common. No blame attaches to the practice, although the man
involved must pay a price (often in livestock) to the woman's
family if she becomes pregnant. In the same area, wives are
often received on a trial basis lasting up to 4 years. The
husband may dissolve the marriage during this time by
returning the wife to her family, although he must pay a price
for each child born during this time. Returned wives are
reportedly often able to contract further marriages and are
not stigmatized by having been returned.
The extent to which wife beating occurs is unknown; it is not
discussed as a public issue, and police do not normally
intervene in domestic disputes. There were no known reports
of wife beating in 1989, and no court cases involving either
circumcision or violence against women. However, for a
variety of reasons, many women would be reluctant to file a
formal complaint of such abuse.
Section 6 Worker Rights
      a. The Right of Association
Sudan had a strong labor union movement during the period of
the Sadiq government. Prominent labor organizations included
the Sudanese Workers Trade Union Federation (SWTUF) , which
represented blue-collar workers, the white-collar Sudanese
Employees and Clerks Federation (SFETU), the Sudanese Teachers
Federation, and a number of professional associations.
Sudanese unions lobbied actively and participated in
international, African, and Arab labor organizations. Except
for some government employees, strikes were legally
permissible after exhausting other measures to resolve
disputes. Technically illegal strikes were common and usually
The RCC's constitutional decree number 1 of June 30 abolished
all labor unions and forbade strikes. Labor union offices
were closed, and union assets were frozen. Many (probably
over 100) union officials, especially those active in
political parties, were detained or placed under house arrest
between July and September, some for protesting the
Government's action. Many were quickly released, but at least
35 union officials remained imprisoned in Shala Prison in late
1989, and others. were detained elsewhere. In September
General Omar announced the legalization of preliminary
committees to manage union affairs, pending the drafting of
new laws on union organization. Under this rubric, the SWTUF
was restored, with its leadership unchanged, and its assets
returned. Two other labor groups were also reinstated, and
efforts were under way to legalize the remaining unions at the
end of the year. Union officials were promised substantial
participation in the process of developing new labor
Although the Government pledged to respect all labor rights
required by the International Labor Organization (ILO), it
continued to forbid strikes, as well as all labor activity by
unreinstated unions. The doctors' union, which had not been
reinstated, staged a nationwide strike in late November and
early December to protest the firing of government-employed
physicians and to demand removal of the Omar Government and
restoration of democracy. In December a special security
court convicted two doctors of leading the strike. One was
sentenced to death, the other to 15 years in prison. Reports
also indicated that several members of the engineers union
were detained in December to prevent a suspected strike.
      b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Under the 1985 transitional constitution, suspended on June
30, workers had the right to organize and to bargain
collectively, and unions did so actively. There were no
official constraints on union membership, and labor laws were
applied uniformly throughout the country (although with little
effect in the war areas) . Job creation and union membership
were limited primarily by Sudan's shattered economy.
On June 30 the RCC suspended the right to organize and bargain
collectively. These rights were restored to legalized unions
in September. Labor laws and practices are uniform throughout
the territory controlled by the Government.
      c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Sudanese law strictly prohibits forced or compulsory labor.
Allegations of slavery, however, persisted in Sudan in 1989,
and the issue remained controversial. Although the Government
frequently denies the existence of slavery. Prime Minister
Sadiq al Mahdi acknowledged that Dinka children were enslaved
by Arab tribes and claimed that Arab children were taken by
Dinka tribes. He described the practice as a longstanding
one, involving mutual raiding and taking of captives, but
condemned it as "illegal" and "immoral." Slavery reportedly
exists primarily in remote parts of Sudan, especially those
where government control is weak and where displaced persons
fleeing the war zones come into contact with armed groups.
Informed sources suggest there could be many slaves in Sudan,
largely women and children doing agricultural and domestic
work and serving as concubines.
The revival of slavery is often blamed on economic pressures
and the civil war, especially the practice of arming tribal
militias. Most of the slaves allegedly are Dinkas abducted by
Arab militias, especially the Rizeigat and Misseriyah. One
report by a former army officer indicated that his entire
family had been killed or taken into slavery after a Rizeigat
attack on their village in 1987. Reports have also been
received in the past of Dinka children sold into slavery by
their parents to prevent their possible starvation.
Reports suggested that the SPLA/M often forced 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 SPLA/M-controlled areas it
was done through the SPLA/M-appointed village leader.
      d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
The legal minimum age for workers is 16. This law is enforced
in the official or wage economy, but poverty in Sudan produces
widespread child labor in the informal economy. In rural
areas, children from a very young age assist their families
with agricultural work.
      e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
Although Sudanese laws prescribe health and safety standards,
working conditions are generally poor and enforcement of
environmental standards is minimal. Unemployment and
underemployment are major problems in Sudan, especially among
young people. Even graduates of prestigious schools have
difficulty finding employment after graduation.
Sudan limits the legal opportunities for employment for
refugees to menial or marginally skilled jobs. Fortunate
refugees find employment with an international organization,
but most are forced to take jobs far below their training or
abilities. Rural refugees often find work as field laborers,
earning the eguivalent of a few pennies a day. Urban refugees
find employment as day laborers or domestic help. The lack of
legal opportunities to earn a living wage forces many into
illegal activities such as smuggling, black-marketeering,
moonshining, and prostitution.
The workweek is currently limited to 6 days and 48 hours, with
1 day of rest on Friday. After the coup, the Omar Government
announced it was considering adopting a 5-day workweek.
Laborers receive an extra month's pay for each year's labor.
Most workers are given allowances for transportation, and some
receive housing allowances. Labor standards are enforced in
the public and private official economies but not in rural
areas or in the informal economy. The minimum wage remains at
the 1988 level of $67 per month at the official exchange
rate. This salary is far from sufficient for subsistence in
urban areas, and workers often must rely on farming, second
jobs, or help from the extended family. Salaries in private
industry are generally higher than those in the public sector