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Sudan

Live rating: Repressed

Last updated on 03.12.2021 at 14:10

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Crackdown on protests after military coup

Crackdown on protests after military coup

Since the 25th October military coup, multiple demonstrations took place in the country demanding the military government step back and allow a peaceful transition to civilian rule.

Security forces have repeatedly used teargas, rubber bullets and live ammunition to disperse protesters. According to the Sudanese Doctors’ Committee, at least 40 people have been killed during demonstrations in the capital Khartoum since the protests started.

On 25th October 2021, commander-in-chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan overthrew the transitional government and security agents detained at least 30 civilian political leaders and six cabinet members, including the civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was later placed under house arrest. He later announced the imposition of a nationwide state of emergency and the dissolution of the cabinet and Sovereign Council.

After a turbulent month, including crackdown on protests and censorship of media, a political agreement was signed on 21st November 2021, with Abdalla Hamdok reinstated as prime minister and the transition to civilian rule restored, including the release of political prisoners.

Peaceful Assembly 

Since the 25th October military coup, multiple demonstrations took place in the country demanding the military government step back and allow a peaceful transition to civilian rule. Security forces have repeatedly used teargas, rubber bullets and live ammunition to disperse protesters. According to the Sudanese Doctors’ Committee, at least 40 people have been killed during demonstrations in the capital Khartoum since the protests started.

Protests continued after the political agreement was signed. Thousands gathered in central Khartoum and marched to the presidential palace, but security forces fired tear gas to disperse them. 

Expression

Internet services were shut down on 25th October 2021, restricting people’s access to vital information during this time. A Sudanese Court on 9th November 2021 issued an order directing three telecommunication operators to restore full internet services, however, that order was not implemented. For example, it was reported that on 17th November 2021 Sudanese authorities cut off phone and mobile communications in addition to the internet shutdown.

In addition, several journalists have been arrested, including Al Jazeera’s Khartoum bureau chief, El Musalmi El Kabbashi who was arrested by the military after they raided his home on 14th November. He was later released. 

Association in Sudan

While the national interim constitution provides guarantees for the right to freedom of association, legislation governing the formation and operation of organisations – including the Voluntary and Humanitarian Work Act – curtails the free exercise of the right in several ways.

While the national interim constitution provides guarantees for the right to freedom of association, legislation governing the formation and operation of organisations – including the Voluntary and Humanitarian Work Act – curtails the free exercise of the right in several ways. The Act employs an extremely narrow definition of civil society organisations and restricts them to humanitarian activities. Registration is mandatory and must be renewed annually. The authorities enjoy wide discretionary powers, allowing them to reject requests to establish organisations as well as to dissolve them. In addition, any proposed activity must obtain special approval from the National Intelligence and Security Service. Organisations are also required to obtain government permission to solicit and receive funds. In practice, only pro-government organisations are allowed to work freely whereas independent organisations are subject to numerous restrictions and face harassment and intimidation. In 2015 for example, the government revoked the license of the Civic Forum, the Sudanese Writers Union, and the Mahmoud Mohammed Taha Centre on the basis that they violated their registration licences. In February 2016, the National Intelligence and Security Services raided the office of Training and Human Development, where they confiscated documents and other materials. Later on, eight activists from the organisation were detained and charged with crimes against the state.

Peaceful Assembly in Sudan

The national interim constitution provides guarantees for the freedom of peaceful assembly but in practice the right is not respected in Sudan.

The national interim constitution provides guarantees for the freedom of peaceful assembly but in practice the right is not respected in Sudan. Legislation imposes severe penalties for any act that ‘is likely to breach the peace or public tranquillity’. Such vague wording deters people in the country from participating in protests and demonstrations. Long and exhaustive procedures are required to organise public gatherings and permission must be granted by the Minister of the Interior. When a protest does take place, Sudanese security services often respond by using excessive force. In February 2016, 15 female protestors were beaten by security forces and arrested. Moreover, two people were killed and dozens detained for months without charge, subjected to various forms of ill-treatment and put at risk of torture following a series of student protests in April 2016. The government accused the students of using violence and a 25-year old student, Asim Omer, was charged with murder after he participated in the protest.

Expression in Sudan

Article 39 of the national interim constitution safeguards the freedom of expression, but the legal environment remains restricted. The Press and Publications Law (2009) provides the state with power through the Press Council to monitor and censor press content.

Article 39 of the national interim constitution safeguards the freedom of expression, but the legal environment remains restricted. The Press and Publications Law (2009) provides the state with power through the Press Council to monitor and censor press content. This may result in the closure of newspapers and heavy fines on all those who infringe upon regulations and instructions. For example, the government temporarily suspended Al-Jarida in January after it reported on alleged corruption within the government. Journalists are subject to continual attacks, harassment, arbitrary arrests and interrogations. The state vigorously monitors printed and online media content, while print publications are scrutinised before being distributed and all electronic content is checked before being broadcast. The National Telecommunications Corporation has blocked websites that violate norms of public morality.Defamation is a criminal offense under the penal code. A new Freedom of Access to Information Law was passed in January 2015 with provisions that detail 12 types of information that are restricted from being accessed by citizens, which effectively makes the legislation a secrecy bill that legalises government restrictions on information.