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Sudan

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Last updated on 16.03.2018 at 15:57

Sudan Overview

Authorities in Sudan violently repress any kind of opposition and dissent. Activists frequently face intimidation, arrest, detention, torture and government surveillance.

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The CIVICUS Monitor speaks to a Sudanese activist

The CIVICUS Monitor speaks to a Sudanese activist

As covered in the most recent CIVICUS Monitor update, there is serious international concern over the lack of respect and protection of civic freedoms in Sudan. To understand the complex human rights situation in the country, the CIVICUS Monitor recently spoke to Medani Abbas Medani Mohamed, General Director of Sudanese Development Call Organisation (NIDAA), member of the Board of Directors of the National Civil Forum of Sudan, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Arab Network of Non-Governmental Organisations for Development (ANND).

As covered in the most recent CIVICUS Monitor update, there is serious international concern over the lack of respect and protection of civic freedoms in Sudan. The last update included incidents of lethal force being used against protesters, the mass detention of participants at peaceful assemblies and the persecution of women human rights defenders. 

To understand the complex human rights situation in the country, the CIVICUS Monitor recently spoke to Medani Abbas Medani Mohamed, General Director of Sudanese Development Call Organisation (NIDAA), member of the Board of Directors of the National Civil Forum of Sudan, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Arab Non-Governmental Organisation Network for Development (ANND).

CIVICUS Monitor: Could you tell us about your efforts and organisation's mission and activities?

Medani Abbas Medani Mohamed: NIDAA is a national Sudanese NGO that strives to reach its vision of a Sudan where every citizen is empowered to lead or be part of a positive change process and the freedom to pursue his/her aspired choices for life.

NIDAA adopts the right-based sustainable development and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as its approaches in the design and implementation of its programs in the Health, WaSH, Protection, Education, Economic Empowerment, Food Security & Livelihood in addition to Peace building and networking tolerance in conflict areas. Through these programs, NIDAA is working steadily and with commitment to achieve social justice & social and economic protection through the empowerment & capacity building of the Sudanese communities in order to help them become resilient and active in the pursuit of the desirable social and economic change.

NIDAA is also active in the area of enabling the environment for civil society organisations through capacity building and organisational development for, in addition to the establishment of the Development Platform to be the coordination body for development players in Sudan.

CIVICUS Monitor: There is widespread concern over the violent protests that erupted due to bread subsidies. Could you tell us more about this situation?

Medani Abbas Medani Mohamed: The demonstrations started last January as a reaction to the approval of the government budget that is considered an additional burden on the shoulders of the people of Sudan. This budget came in line with a long history of reforms and lifting of government subsidies on essential commodities since 2013. The budget of 2018 is considered extremely harsh when compared to the previous years’ budgets where, for example, the price of bread doubled over night as well as all other items prices due to the change of the formal exchange rate for customs (from 6.0 SDG to 18.0 SDG for 1 USD) which reflected on all imported items prices and inputs of local industries. The government claims that these are necessary measurements to remedy the weak economic situation in Sudan, while the protesters believe that this weak situation is a result of the government’s ill decisions, administration and management of the resources, the extravagant unnecessary government spending on non-essentials, corruption and the ongoing war in Darfur.

The protesters were aiming to raise their objection on these measurements and demanding the government to rectify its malfunctions instead of placing the burdens on the shoulders of citizens. As usual and since 2013, the government faced these peaceful protests with unnecessary violence to stop them from happening in spite that the constitution allows public gathering and organising. These demonstrations actually stopped after the vicious treatment. The National Security forces detained more than 300 protesters of which almost 100 are still detained, since mid-January 2018, deprived from family visits and legal aid and without enrolling them in the legal system by pressing charges. Some of the detained persons are elderly and some with special medical cases who are not getting the medical care that they require.

CIVICUS Monitor: Throughout 2017 there were arrests and detentions of prominent human rights defenders (HRDs) in Sudan. How would you describe the current situation for HRDs in Sudan?

Medani Abbas Medani Mohamed: HRDs still face stalking from the security service in Sudan as the government is not transparent regarding the human rights situation in the country, keeping in mind that Sudan is country in continuous political and economic instability. A number of defenders were actually detained during the latest protests in January, some of whom have been released after a month in prison and some remain in detention today.

The HRDs are always at the risk of getting detained for long months by the security service and facing serious charges that may even have death as their penalty according to the legal system in Sudan.

CIVICUS Monitor: What can the international community - including INGOs - do to support your work?

Medani Abbas Medani Mohamed: Our work can benefit greatly from providing opportunities for the national CSOs to be engaged in training, networking and knowledge & experiences sharing with the international NGOs (INGOs) especially on the subjects of development issues and SDGs.

Funding opportunities are also appreciated, especially for the programs that target social and economic justice, as well as enabling the environment for CSOs and their empowerment.

The knowledge driven development is also key to accomplish the desired change in Sudan while the area of research is lacking support. So the support in this area is highly appreciated in our work.

We will also appreciate the support for the production and dissemination of shadow reports regarding the general situation in Sudan (human rights, social and economic justice, for example), as well as providing media coverage and attracting the international attention to these reports and other situations.

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.