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Sudan

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Last updated on 01.10.2019 at 12:23

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CSOs call for independent and credible investigations

CSOs call for independent and credible investigations

On 23rd September 2019, the Sudanese Prime Minister announced the establishment of a national investigation committee to investigate the attacks against pro-democracy demonstrators on 3rd June 2019. As covered previously by the CIVICUS Monitor, the demonstration caused the death and injury of hundreds of protesters.

Association and Peaceful Assembly 

On 23rd September 2019, the Sudanese Prime Minister announced the establishment of a national investigation committee to investigate the attacks against pro-democracy demonstrators on 3rd June 2019. As covered previously by the CIVICUS Monitor, the demonstration caused the death and injury of hundreds of protesters.

The committee includes representatives from the Supreme Court, the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Interior, a national figure and two independent lawyers. Although the independence of the committee was guaranteed in the decree that created the commission, Human Rights Watch expressed concern about the inclusion of a representative from the Ministry of Defence as they "were responsible for a wide range of abuses that took place just outside the ministry’s buildings on 3rd June."

In addition, 17 civil society organisations sent a joint letter to UN urging the Council to take action and implement a credible response to the situation. The statement requested an investigation into violations committed since December 2018, renewing the mandate of the Independent Expert on Sudan, and strengthening monitoring and reporting by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The report by the Independent Expert on Sudan that was discussed during the 42nd session reveals serious human rights violations including with regard to freedom of association, expression and peaceful assembly.

Regarding attacks against women human rights defenders, the report noted:

“The Independent Expert received allegations of dozens of instances of rape, gang rape and other forms of sexual violence against women and men that reportedly took place during the joint security operations led by the Rapid Support Forces in Khartoum on 3rd June and the following days."

Women human rights defenders played a fundamental role during the protests in Sudan. An analysis prepared by WHRD MENA stated that at the start of anti-regime demonstrations in December 2018, women and women human rights defenders were increasingly targeted. Testimonies included in the analysis show their exposure to various forms of violence and threats, including sexual violence and threats of rape. The Regional Coalition of Women Human Rights Defenders in the Middle East and North Africa called on the Human Rights Council to establish an international inquiry to investigate gross human rights violations and the widespread use of rape and sexual violence against Sudanese women protesters and activists.

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.