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This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published
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Sudan: New HRW/Africa Report
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Sudan: New HRW/Africa Report
Date Distributed (ymd): 960605
On May 29, one month before the seven-year anniversary of the
military coup in Sudan in 1989, both Human Rights Watch/Africa
and Amnesty International released new reports on human rights
violations in that country. Excerpts from the press release
announcing the HRW/Africa report follow below (... indicates
portions omitted). The Amnesty International press release
announcing the report "Sudan: Progress or public relations?"
can be found at
Correction to posting on Liberia, distributed on May 27:
In the third paragraph of the Senatorial letter to President
Clinton, the first sentence should read "a long-term
resolution of conflict in Liberia cannot be effectively
realized without (not 'with') the strong involvement of the
international community and the United Nations."
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH / Africa
485 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK, NY 10017-6104; TEL: (212)
972-8400; FAX: (212) 972-0905; E-MAIL: email@example.com
1522 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; TEL: (202) 371-6592
FAX: (202) 371-0124; E-MAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
Jemera Rone (212) 972-8400 ext. 208
Susan Osnos (212) 972-8400 ext. 216
NO PROTECTION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN SUDAN
May 29, 1996
Violation of political and civil rights in Sudan is the norm
seven years after the military coup in 1989. In Behind the
Red Line: Political Repression in Sudan, released today,
Human Rights Watch details the denial of basic freedoms of
speech, assembly and association, combined with the threat of
arbitrary arrest, detention and torture by an ever-present
security apparatus that define Sudan today.
Locked in a civil war, the government of President (Lt. Gen.)
Omar Hassan al Bashir, dominated by the National Islamic
Front (NIF), has stated its intention to create an Islamic
state with one language, Arabic. Efforts to impose
conformity on one of the most diverse countries in the world
lead inevitably to discrimination and violations of
international protections for minorities.
Based on two lengthy missions to Sudan during 1995, the
259-page report deals with a broad range of issues, primarily
in the north, and offers a detailed series of recommendations
to the al Bashir government, the rebel forces of the Sudan
People's Liberation Movement/Army and the international
community in order to correct widespread violations of
Among the major human rights concerns:
Arbitrary Arrest and Torture: The National Security Act of
1995 provides for prolonged arbitrary detention in "security"
cases of up to six months without judicial review. In the
custody of Sudan Security, detainees are held incommunicado
in secret interrogation centers known as "ghost houses,"
where torture and ill-treatment are commonplace.
The Judicial System: Immediately after the June 1989 coup,
many judges were dismissed, and replacements more sympathetic
to the NIF were recruited. Military tribunal proceedings are
secret, and provide few procedural safeguards, often with no
counsel present and no effective appeal from a death
Freedom of Expression and the press: There are vague and
inconsistent limits on what can be published in Sudan, and
many newspapers have been banned since 1989. While some
independent press was allowed to reopen, but a few were then
permanently closed and others suspended for weeks following
articles of which the government disapproved. Newspaper
staff have been harassed or detained. During the elections
of March 1996, the limits on the press appeared to be
somewhat relaxed, but it is not clear whether this will be
permitted in future.
Freedom of Association: After the coup the military
government banned free association, including political
parties, trade unions and other non-religious institutions.
Political parties remain banned. Some trade unions and
professional associations have been permitted to form, but
their independence is severely limited.
Freedom of Assembly: Only government-sponsored or
pro-government assemblies and demonstrations freely take
place. Other demonstrators are regularly harassed and
Freedom of Movement: Freedom of movement inside Sudan has
been severely restricted, with the southern region off-limits
to many. Former security detainees find their movement
restricted even to other towns, and they and many others face
obstacles when seeking exit visas for travel abroad.
Freedom of Religion: Being a Muslim does not guarantee
freedom of religion in Sudan. Some Muslim sects critical of
the government and the National Islamic Front have been
harassed. Christian clergy and churches are often under
pressure. Serious religious rights violations occur in
conjunction with government efforts to proselytize in
prisons, the civil service and the universities through
mandatory Popular Defense Force militia training programs.
The training creates an atmosphere of coercion for all
participants to convert to Islam, or, if they are already
Muslim, to accept the government's particular interpretation
Abuses by the Government in the War: The war against the
south is characterized by the president and other officials as
a jihad (holy war); the south, the primary battleground, is
mostly non-Muslim and non-Arabic speaking. The army has
indiscriminately bombed civilian areas in the south,
interrupting the delivery of humanitarian aid. Army and
militia have not taken prisoners -- with one exception -- in
the thirteen-year war. They have conducted scorched earth
campaigns against southern villages and civilians, looting
and kidnaping women and children for use as slave or forced
domestic labor, a form of war booty. The government denies
that there is an intention to take slaves, and says there is
no proof that slavery actually exists, despite scores of
accounts from escaped slaves to the contrary.
Abuses by the Rebels in the Civil War: Rebel forces also have
a history of human rights and humanitarian law abuses,
including the holding of fellow rebels prisoner in prolonged
arbitrary detention, confiscating food from civilians, looting
and summary executions. Rebel actions have led to numerous
civilian casualties and enormous displacement of the
Human Rights Watch offers a detailed set of recommendations to
the Khartoum government, the rebel forces and the
international community in order to improve human rights in
Sudan. Among them:
Recommendations to the government of Sudan:
The right to life and to physical integrity
Institute a high level program to halt torture ...
Introduce safeguards against torture ...
Discontinue pardons or amnesties for military or security
agents convicted of abuses of civilians or captured
The right to a fair trial and not to be
Abolish detention solely for the exercise of freedom of
expression, association and assembly as protected in
international human rights law.
Halt prolonged detention without charge in preventive
detention and other forms of administrative detention; ...
Freedom of expression, opinion and
Lift the prohibition on political parties and permit their
members to engage in free speech, free association and free
assembly without harassment.
Lift restrictions on the independence of trade unions,
professional associations, ethnic, religious and other
Permit independent human rights monitors and organizations to
function without interference.
Lift arbitrary restrictions on the press and revoke the 1993
Press and Printed Materials Law; ...
Freedom of religion
Permit adherents of all religions to worship freely and to
build, purchase or rent houses of worship without obstruction.
Freedom of movement
Lift foreign travel bans established on political grounds,
including those imposed through the requirement of exit visas
to leave the country, and permit the movement of Sudanese to
any part of their country.
Facilitate access to all parts of the country, particularly
the Nuba Mountains and the south, for human rights monitors,
human rights educators, and relief workers.
Human rights and
the internally displaced
Halt the destruction of homes of the internally displaced and
squatters in Khartoum and other urban areas until the right to
judicial review and appeal is restored; ...
Halt the forced relocation of internally displaced and
squatters from the Khartoum area to areas far distant from
urban centers and work opportunities.
Popular Defense Forces
Establish urgently a program to put an end to the capture and
exploitation of children and other civilians during army and
militia raids and their confinement in slavery-like
conditions, to include public reporting of the measures
Introduce legislation to provide increased safeguards against
slavery, including measures outlawing the unpaid
employment of non-family members of whatever age, and
ratifying the International Labor Organization (ILO) Minimum
Age Convention of 1973 (No. 138). ...
Human rights protection and the war in the south
Respect international humanitarian law and human rights law,
prohibiting the targeting of civilian and civilian objects in
military operations, indiscriminate attacks, looting and
unnecessary destruction of civilian property. ...
Affirm the right of non-combatants in war-affected areas to
receive food, medicine, and other relief, and cease actions
that might prejudice their receipt of such relief. The U.N.
Operation Lifeline Sudan, the ICRC and other relief programs
should be allowed to proceed in accordance with humanitarian
need, without hindrance. ...
Recommendations to the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army
and other armed rebel groups:
Respect international humanitarian and human rights law,
particularly the prohibitions on targeting civilians,
indiscriminate attacks on civilians, and destruction or
looting of civilian property.
Refrain from involuntarily recruiting anyone.
Refrain from using children under the age of eighteen as
combatants and prevent them from participating in hostilities.
Cease taking hostages.
Provide safe land, river and air access for the provision of
Refrain from taking food or non-food items, directly or
indirectly, from civilians, particularly those at or below the
subsistence level; any supplies taken by military personnel
should be paid for.
Abolish arbitrary detention, torture, ill-treatment and the
death penalty in any form.
Recommendations to the United Nations Security Council:
Institute an arms embargo on the parties to the conflict in
Sudan, with special attention to bombs and aircraft used to
Recommendations to U.N. Commission on Human Rights and High
Commissioner for Human Rights:
Assure that the proposals of the special rapporteur on human
rights in Sudan for establishing three U.N. human rights
monitors to be based in Eritrea, Kenya and Uganda are
accepted by all necessary parties and appropriately funded,
and that their duties include observation, investigation,
bringing to the attention of the responsible authorities, and
making public violations of humanitarian and human rights
laws by all parties. The monitors should have access to all
parts of Sudan.
Establish a civilian-directed and staffed program of human
rights education for all regions of Sudan. This program should
be a supplement to, not a substitute for, the human rights
Recommend to the government that it permit the extension of
OLS emergency relief operations to all areas where
war-affected civilians live in the Nuba Mountains and other
disputed areas of the country.
Recommendations to UNICEF, ILO, U.N. Committee on the Rights
of the Child, the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of
Slavery, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, and other
concerned U.N. bodies, mechanisms and agencies:
Conduct voluntary family reunification; where small groups of
minors are separated from their larger tribe, efforts should
be made to reunite them in the safest location, even if that
means reuniting them outside of Sudan or from one country of
refuge to another. This task should receive the cooperation
of all U.N. and NGO agencies.
UNICEF and the ILO should establish and fund programs to
effectively promote the adoption of national legislation and
implementing programs to ban child labor, slavery, and
UNICEF, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, the
Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, the U.N.
Commission on Human Rights' special rapporteur on Sudan, and
the ILO monitor the application of the slavery and forced
labor conventions to Sudan, and that all send fact-finding
missions to investigate the reported abuses and the
mechanisms the government is employing to confront the
UNICEF, the ILO, and the Working Group on Contemporary Forms
of Slavery should work with the government of Sudan to
establish government mechanisms to effectively assist families
in the search for kidnaped or missing family members.
Recommendations to the African Commission on Human and
Conduct, as soon as possible, a fact-finding mission to Sudan
with regard to its emergency situation and serious violations
of human and people's rights, and make a public written
report to the session of the African Commission to be held in
Recommendations to the "Friends of IGAAD" (the United States,
United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, Norway), the
European Union, and other concerned governments and bodies
Support an arms embargo on all parties to the conflict,
including by urging major exporters China, Russia, Iran, North
Korea, South Africa, and others, to stop arms sales or
transfers to Sudan. Similarly urge countries or others
supplying arms to the SPLA and other armed rebel groups to
cease their arms sales or transfers. Members of the European
Union should enforce the E.U. arms embargo of Sudan
established as the common position of the European Union by
council decision of March 16, 1994.
Support the creation of a full-time U.N. human rights
monitoring team, and provide financing for it.
Support the creation of a civilian directed and staffed
program of human rights education for all regions of Sudan.
Maintain pressure on the Sudan government and the SPLA and
other rebel factions to permit access to relief operations.
Use their votes in international financial institutions to
freeze Sudanese requests for loans or disbursements, including
from the African Development Bank, until patterns of gross
human rights abuses are eliminated.
Amnesty International is also releasing a report on Sudan on
May 29, 1996.
Behind the Red Line is available from the Publications
Department, Human Rights Watch, 485 Fifth Avenue, New York,
NY 10017 for $24.00 (domestic) and $30 (international).
[The full text of the summary and recommendations of this
report, as well as of earlier reports on Sudan, is available
Human Rights Watch/Africa Human Rights Watch is a
nongovernmental organization established in 1978 to monitor
and promote the observance of internationally recognized human
rights in Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and
among the signatories of the Helsinki accords. ... Robert L.
Bernstein is the chair of the board and Adrian W. DeWind is
vice chair. Its Africa division was established in 1988 to
monitor and promote the observance of internationally
recognized human rights in sub-Saharan Africa. Peter
Takirambudde is the executive director; Janet Fleischman is
the Washington director; Suliman Ali Baldo is the senior
researcher; Bronwen Manby and Alex Vines are research
associates; Kimberly Mazyck and Lenee Simon are associates;
Alison DesForges, Binaifer Nowrojee and Michele Wagner are
consultants. William Carmichael is the chair of the advisory
committee and Alice Brown is the vice chair.
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the
Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary
objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States
around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by
concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant
information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and
individuals. APIC is affiliated with the Washington Office on
Africa (WOA), a not-for-profit church, trade union and civil
rights group supported organization that works with Congress
on Africa-related legislation.