Police use excessive force on protesters

In advance of the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council in September 2020, DefendDefenders released a statement calling on the Council to continue supporting human rights reforms in the country. The 25 signatories of the statement confirmed that challenges remain and declared that:

"Significant steps are yet to be taken to address systemic human rights issues and achieve meaningful, sustainable progress, including justice and accountability for the egregious violations and abuses committed under the 30-year Al-Bashir dictatorship". 

Peaceful Assembly

Since the most recent Monitor update of October 2019, Sudan has experienced frequent protests, with thousands gathering to demand change, especially in regards to socio-economic conditions and the lack of political reforms in the country. 

Some of protests include the following incidents in which police used excessive force in 2020: 

  • In May and June 2020, thousand gathered in Khartoum to commemorate one year since 100 protesters were killed at a sit-in in the city. During these commemorative demonstrations, police used excessive force on protesters, beating, detaining, and using tear gas.
  • A protest camp in Darfur was attacked on 13th July and more than a dozen people killed. This camp, among others, had been established to call for improved conditions in the region and demand an end to attacks by armed groups. 
  • On 17th August, security forces fired tear gas at hundreds of protesters in Khartoum. They had gathered to protest the lack of progress in implementing changes in the country based on a power-sharing agreement signed one year ago. The police reportedly arrested dozens of protesters. 
  • On 27th August, four protesters were killed and six injured in eastern Sudan. The protest was over the appointment of a newly elected state governor. The protesters were reportedly shot by the new governor's supporters. 

Expression

Sudan ranks 159th out of 180 countries in terms of press freedom, according to Reporters Without Borders' (RSF) most recent 2020 report. The country's longstanding abysmal press freedom record is largely a cumulation of 30 years of dictatorial rule under Omar al-Bashir. 2020 brought an improvement in the country's press freedom ranking, but while the pressure on independent journalists and media has eased after al-Bashir's removal, the government has not taken significant steps to improve the environment for freedom of expression and media pluralism, according to the press freedom watchdog (RSF). 

In a June 2020 statement, the International Press Institute (IPI) expressed concern over the press freedom situation in the country, citing cases of arrests, intimidation, and harassment of journalists. IPI called on the government to end its harassment of journalists and in particular to revoke a provision within the Dismantling of the Regime of 30th June 1989 Act, which penalises with up to ten year imprisonment for criticising the country's Empowerment Removal Committee (ERC), which has been tasked with dismantling institutions from al-Bashir's rule. The ERC has arrested a number of journalists for criticising its decisions and actions, according to IPI. 

Media outlets closed

On 8th January 2020, the authorities closed four media outlets for alleged financial issues; however, all four outlets had connections to the former al-Bashir government and may have been closed due to their affiliation with the previous regime. Press freedom watchdogs called on the authorities to preserve media pluralism and to assist the media sector in meeting the legal requirements to operate in the country. 

The right to free expression remains severely limited in Sudan, as detailed below, and COVID-related restrictions have only further limited the space for free speech and expression. The Sudanese Journalists' Network has repeatedly called for greater protection for journalists. The following incidents below detail some of the challenges journalists face in Sudan, including physical attacks and arbitrary detentions as well as accusations of crimes for exercising their fundamental right to free expression. 

  • On 23rd July 2020, newspaper photographer Mohamed El Amin Osheik was beaten by police then detained for photographing long queue at petrol stations.  
  • On 2nd September, police detained journalist Osman Hashim in Port Sudan on charges of ‘"information crimes" connected to his Facebook posts alleging corruption in the former governor’s office. He was later released on bail.

On World Press Freedom Day - 3rd May 2020 - Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok spoke about the need to improve freedom of expression and the media in Sudan. Sudan’s Minister of Information, Culture, and Tourism, Feisal Mohamed Saleh, announced in September 2020 that the Ministry will conduct a full review and analysis of media-related legislation in the country.