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After months of protests led to the ouster of Sudan’s longtime dictator, the military and a civilian council agreed on a transition period with the ultimate aim of full civilian rule. However, serious questions remain regarding accountability for crimes committed during the previous regime and the massacre of more than 100 civilians during the demonstrations.

Human rights situation in Sudan

Sudan has witnessed significant political developments that have the potential to bring about las­ting hu­man rights progress for its citizens, including human rights defenders (HRDs), while serious questions remain regarding accountability for crimes committed during the previous regime.

The transitional government has displayed a po­li­tical will and sent encouraging signals with regard to human rights, including at the 42nd session of the Human Rights Council (HRC42). Among other things, it has announced its intention to ratify the Convention on the Eli­mi­nation of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention Against Torture (CAT), and to look into laws that are still in force yet are in­con­sistent with human rights obligations, inc­luding national security legislation. For instance, the law granted the infamous National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) and its members immunity from prosecution, as well as, among other things, extensive arresting powers. These were a recipe for grave abuses.

Sudan has also an­nounced a “nothing to hide” and “full coope­ra­tion” policy and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok expressed his resolve to investigate the grave human rights violations committed in response to peaceful protests, including the 3 June 2019 massa­cre. The signing of an Agree­­ment with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) regarding the opening of a fully-mandated country office (with regional field offices) is of critical importance. It will allow OHCHR to monitor and report on the domestic human rights situation and to provide the government and other stakeholders with technical assistance and capacity-building services.

Freedom of Association

The tenth annual Sudan Freedom of Association and Expression report, issued in July 2017 by the Confederation of Sudanese Civil Society Organisations, detailed 15 instances where freedom of association had been obstructed. Office closures, arbitrary arrests, interrogations, and spurious prosecutions accounted for 73% of the total violations reported. Other categories included the use of laws (13%) and extra-judicial harassment (14%), including threats, surveillance, physical or sexual assaults as well as destruction of property.[1]

On 29 August 2017, HRDs Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, Hafiz Idris, Tasneem Taha Zaki, Abdel-mukhles Yousef Ali, Abdelhakim Noor, and Mubarak Adam Abdullah were issued presidential pardons. All six had been charged with criminal offensives as a result of their human rights activities.[2] Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, a prominent rights defender, along with nine other defenders, was detained for more than eight months. He was charged with two other Darfuri human rights defenders with “undermining the constitutional system” and “waging war against the state,” both of which carry either the death penalty or life imprisonment. The charges, dropped in August, are believed linked to allegations that the men helped in the production of Amnesty International’s 2016 report on the use of chemical weapons in Jebel Marra. At least two of the detained men were severely beaten, and another forced to confess under torture.[3]

Freedom of Expression

Between 17-19 June 2017, Akhar Lahza newspaper was confiscated due to an opinion article written by Abdukkah Al-Sheik that offered advice to the President. On 10 July the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) confiscated printed copies of Alzawia and Alzaim sport newspapers after warning newspapers not to publish news of the Sudan Football Association’s suspension following government interference in its internal administration. Similarly, on the morning of 13 July, the NISS prevented the distribution of printed copies of Algareeda newspaper without explanation or prior notice.[4]

On 10 July 2017, Amel Habani, a journalist with Al Tagheer online newspaper, was found guilty of threatening and insulting a public servant, and sentenced to a fine of 10,000 Sudanese Pounds ($1,500 US) or face imprisonment for four months. Habani declined to pay the fine and was released when the Sudanese Journalist Network campaigned to raise funds and paid the fine instead.[5]

On 12 July 2017, Izzeldien Dahab, a journalist with Algareeda newspaper, was summoned and interrogated by the Press and Publications Prosecutor of Khartoum in connection with an article he published 10 April regarding corruption in the Ministry of Finance in South Darfur. He was charged under Article 17 (defamation) of Sudanese Cybercrime Act (2007).[6]

Freedom of Assembly

At least five people were killed and 29 others sustained gunshot wounds when Sudanese security forces opened fire on a crowd of protestors at the Kalma camp for internally displaced persons in Nyala, South Darfur on 22 September 2017, shortly before a planned visit by Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir.[7]

[1]    Confederation of Sudanese Civil Society Organisations, “Sudan Freedom of Association and Expression,” July 2017,, Accessed 3 October 2017.

[2]    Frontline Defenders, “Presidential pardon issued for six HRDs,” 30 August 2017,, Accessed 3 October 2017.

[3]    African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, “22 NGOs call for strong, action-oriented resolution on Sudan at UN Human Rights Council,” 21 September 2017,, Accessed 19 October 2017.

[4]       African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, “Crackdown on Media Freedoms: May-July 2017,” 14 August 2017, , Accessed 20 September 2017.

[5]       African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, “Crackdown on Media Freedoms: May-July 2017,” 14 August 2017, , Accessed 20 September 2017.

[6]       African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, “Crackdown on Media Freedoms: May-July 2017,” 14 August 2017, , Accessed 20 September 2017.

[7] African Centre of Justice and Peace Studies, “Deadly force used to disperse protest against Sudanese President at Darfur IDP camp”, 28 September 2017,, accessed 19 October 2017.

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