Authorities in Sudan violently repress any kind of opposition and dissent. Activists frequently face intimidation, arrest, detention, torture and government surveillance.read more
The Sudanese government stepped up its violent crackdown to suppress peaceful anti-government protests that have been ongoing in Khartoum and Sudan’s provinces almost every day for the past three months, since December 2018. Security forces continued to use excessive force and at times lethal force to disperse and prevent peaceful protests – using live ammunition, rubber bullets, tear gas, and attacking hospitals treating injured protesters. At least 45 people have been confirmed killed and 180 injured in the ongoing protests, according to Amnesty International, but the figure is supposedly higher.
Additionally, security forces raided a number of universities using tear gas to disperse students holding peaceful protests, resulting in injuries, and arrests of students. On 7th March 2019, security forces used tear gas to disperse a protest of hundreds of students at the National University campus in Khartoum.
Security forces have launched a violent campaign targeting protesters, including doctors, teachers, journalists, women activists and opposition political leaders. Hundreds have been arbitrary arrested and detained, with reports of torture and severe beating, including sexual abuse mostly against women, intimidation and abuse. More than 2,600 people have been arrested and detained during the protests according to government figures.
A state of emergency, imposed by President Omar al-Bashir in February 2019, has been used as a justification to violent suppress citizens exercising their legitimate rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, hereby committing serious human rights violations.
Since December 2018, people in Sudan have taken to the streets to protest the rapid deterioration of economic & social conditions. 70+ women human rights defenders were arrested over the span of a month, in retaliation for their leadership. pic.twitter.com/LD0PTcGPC4— WHRD- MENA (@whrdmena) January 21, 2019
In response to the nationwide persistent protests, on 22nd February 2019, President Bashir declared a year-long state of emergency that has given sweeping powers to the armed forces. President Bashir also dissolved the federal and local governments and appointed a former Defence Minister Awad Ibnouf as a vice president, and replaced all state governors with military officials. The state of emergency was approved by the Parliament but reduced to six months on 11th March 2019. Legal experts assert that the state of emergency violates the Constitution.
Women protesters on the front line bear the brunt of violent state repression
Women have played a prominent role at the protests, calling for freedom, change and claiming space to assert their rights defying serious threats, violence. They are resisting an increasingly hostile patriarchal environment, institutionalised gender discrimination and harassment by authorities that women human rights defenders have been increasingly subjected under the current regime.
In response, security forces – have targeted women human rights defenders (WHRD) using different repressive tactics including arbitrary arrests, detention without access to family and lawyers, intimidation and physical abuse, or the use of family members to pressure the activists to reveal information. Activists released from detention have testified to the abuse, various forms of torture and inhumane and degrading treatment, including threats of rape and sexual harassment, as well as being beaten in detention by a "special female unit" that seemed specially designated to abuse detained women activists, including subjecting women to body cavity search that can amount to sexual violence.
The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) found that 30 women activists were held in Omdurman women’s prison in inhumane conditions, stating:
“The detainees were targeted for their participation or suspected involvement in the ongoing protests calling for the resignation of president Omar al-Bashir. ACJPS and FIDH have gathered disturbing information about the detention conditions of these women, all of whom have been subjected to invasive strip searches, amounting to acts of sexual violence.”
Since the start of the demonstrations, at least 100 WHRDs, including journalists, have been subjected to arbitrary detention, according to the Regional Coalition for Women Human Rights Defenders in the Middle East and North Africa (WHRD-MENA).
CIVICUS and its regional partner the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) joined 32 other civil society groups in a solidarity statement issued by the WHRD-MENA calling on the Sudanese authorities to end all of forms of persecution against women human rights defenders; to take effective measures to end the legitimization of violence against WHRD’s; and establish mechanisms to protect WHRDs in Sudan.
Despite President Bashir's order to release all women detained in the protests to mark International Women's Day on 8th March, arbitrary arrests and detention of women continued.
WHRDs are particularly vulnerable due to the absence of complaints mechanisms for women and the impact of legal restrictions on WHRD’s capacity to access legal, psychological and medical assistance. WHRDs have been previously subjected to repression by authorities under the Public Order Law provisions that criminalise “indecent” clothing, such as wearing trousers, with punishments including flogging.
Sudanese authorities also suppressed peaceful women protests:
Security forces - uniformed forces cooperating with armed masked agents - have arbitrary arrested and abducted protesters, including activists and human rights defenders, from the streets and their homes and released victims consistently showed signs of torture. In some instances, the torture has resulting in death in custody. Many remain in incommunicado detention without access to lawyers and family.
A recent forensic investigation conducted by BBC, based on dozens videos and witness reports, revealed a targeted campaign of abduction, enforced disappearance and torture of dissidents carried out by "secret hit squads" which consist of groups of masked armed men - some in military uniforms and others in plainclothes. Video footage released by BBC shows these "hit squads" operating in groups, driving in vehicles without number plates to disguise identity chasing protesters on the streets, beating them, and taking them to secret detention centres in Khartoum where victims reported extreme acts of torture including beating, breaking of limbs and exposure to extreme cold.
Following an order by the Director of National Intelligence and Security Service to release all detained protesters on 29th January 2019, only 186 were released and security agencies continued to arrest protesters and activists.
The Democratic Alliance of Lawyers reported that Sudanese authorities have tried over 870 people in emergency courts in Khartoum, Omdurman, and Khartoum North, on charges of participating in demonstrations in summary trials according to Human Rights Watch .
During the crackdown of peaceful protests, in addition to journalists and civil activists, authorities also targeted opposition political groups and members of professional groups actively involved in the protests or providing services such as lawyers and doctors .
Journalists in Sudan arrested over coverage of protests suffer harassment, beatings & intimidation, says Sudanese Professionals Association spokesman Mohamed Al-Asbat. 79 journalists arrested since demonstrations began in December, says RSF: https://t.co/uEQpaTrxdD #SudanUprising pic.twitter.com/pKI1Kuigug— Daniel Finnan (@Daniel_Finnan) February 14, 2019
Authorities have used measures to systematically silence media outlets, journalists and civil society as the authorities launched a campaign against “agitators”, that include journalists covering the uprising. In the first month of the protests, more than 100 press freedom violations were registered by media watchdogs (as of 22 January 2019). The security forces arrested at least 79 journalists and there have been 63 bans and seizures of newspapers by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), as reported by Reporters without Borders. Journalists have also been sentenced under the state's emergency measures.
Despite President Bashir's pledge to release detained journalists in early February, security forces continued to arrest journalists, including subjecting them to incommunicado detention:
Activists used different ways to resist restrictions and claim space to voice the grievances of the protests, such as using art. A young female artist has been posting drawings on social media depicting the role of women in the protests, stating the purpose is "to remember that in recent protests women’s voices have been loud and powerful".
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.
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.
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.