Democracy and rights
Abbreviated as SD by Abbreviationfinder, Sudan is ruled by a transitional council and a temporary government, in which both military and civilian forces are represented. They took over power in the country following a military coup in spring 2019 when President Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year regime was deposed. The Bashir regime was characterized by harassment of the opposition and serious violations of human rights. Sudan is now in a transitional phase, and steps have been taken towards increased democracy.
Multiparty systems prevail. President al-Bashir’s old power party The National Congress Party (NCP) was banned and dissolved in the fall of 2019.
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During al-Bashir, the opposition had limited opportunity to act. Popular dissatisfaction and demonstrations were often fought down with violence. Freedom of assembly and association as well as freedom of movement were circumscribed.
Civilian surveillance was widespread. Human rights organizations were threatened, harassed and forced to close. Refugees and ethnic minorities were harassed and discriminated against. Despite the regime change, civil society space is still around.
The current transitional regime has said that it prioritizes peace talks with the various resistance groups in the country, but that it also works for equal rights for all citizens and for increasing respect for fundamental human rights. The transitional government should work for non-violence and democracy. In the fall of 2019, the UN and the transitional government decided to set up an office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Khartoum as well as five regional offices, including Darfur.
The transitional government says it seeks to strengthen women’s rights and opportunities. In accordance with the electoral laws, women are quoted in parliament. Almost every third member is now a woman, compared to every tenth in 2001. The government has also said it will sign the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw). However, legislation still discriminates against women on a number of points (see Social Conditions).
In 2019, Transparency International placed Sudan in the absolute bottom layer (ranked 173 out of 180 countries) in its index of corruption in the world (see the full list here). The judicial system and the state administration are permeated by corruption at all levels and it is possible to bribe most of it.
The representatives of the old regime had strong private interests in business via companies without transparency. Some were run by the National Security Service (Niss, now renamed Gis), others by individual members of the now disbanded party NCP, while a third category is Islamic “charities”. The companies without transparency dominate in the oil and construction industry and communications, but are found in all parts of the economy.
Freedom of expression and media
During al-Bashir, the media in Sudan was among the most heavily controlled by the world. In the conflict areas of Darfur, the Blue Nile and Kurdufan, the authorities prevented independent media from attending and monitoring the events. Censorship and media monitoring occurred regularly. Newspapers could have individual editions confiscated by the security service.
Military courts had powers to investigate civilians who were charged with publishing “false information”. Media workers risk being harassed by the security police if they did not follow the regime’s stance. Journalists were arbitrarily arrested by the security service.
Since the passing of the Transitional Government, media and freedom of expression has been strengthened in the country, but legislation still lacks in protecting media workers from threats and other harassment. The use of social media has increased significantly in recent years, mainly as a result of increased access to the Internet.
In 2019 – eight years after the split – Sudan was still placed near the bottom (175 out of 180 countries in the world) in Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index. A year later, the political changes had resulted in Sudan being ranked 159 out of 180, an improvement of 16 positions (see the full list here).
Judicial system and legal security
Sudan’s judiciary is today largely the same as before the regime change, although reform has begun. The judiciary should be independent of the state powers, but in reality this is not the case.
The judicial order is still mainly based on Islamic Sharia law. These prohibit alcohol and gambling as well as punish truncation as punishment for certain thefts. Sudan can punish the death penalty for crimes such as espionage, terrorism, war crimes, genocide, rape and murder but also for such things as adultery, homosexual acts and prostitution. A disputed law of general order was abolished in the fall of 2019. According to it, women could be punished for attending private parties or for wearing trousers.
The transitional government has promised to work for Sudan’s laws to comply with international standards. It has also said that the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT) should be signed. Work has also been started on curbing impunity and reforming the national security service.
Human rights violations in conflict-affected areas – Darfur, South Kurdufan and Blue Nile – have been widespread and very serious. Even outside the conflict areas, the situation for human rights has been difficult with systematic torture, abuse, rape and inhumane punishments by various security forces and intelligence agencies. In its advancement, the government army has destroyed schools, hospitals and health clinics as well as prevented humanitarian aid from reaching internally displaced persons and other civilians. Resistance groups have also been guilty of human rights violations.
Conditions in prisons and detention are difficult. Arbitrary detention, prolonged isolation, political interference in legal processes, a lack of legal security and the blocking of humanitarian aid to arrested and imprisoned persons occur. The impunity for human rights violations is widespread, especially for military personnel and various security forces.
In the summer of 2019, most of the political prisoners who were detained under al-Bashir and during the popular protests that led to his fall were released.
Legal proceedings against al-Bashir
As a result of the war in Darfur, in July 2010, President al-Bashir, as first head of state, was called for by the International Criminal Court in The Hague (ICC) for genocide. Already in the summer of 2008, the Chief Prosecutor at the ICC had requested that al-Bashir be arrested for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur. Al-Bashir denied all charges and refused to appear in The Hague.
In December 2014, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in The Hague closed the investigation into war crimes in Darfur. She pointed out that it was impossible to get the defendants in place before the court and blamed the defeat mainly on the passivity of the UN Security Council. Bensouda said the Security Council’s lack of action risked “encouraging perpetrators to continue their brutality”.
After the regime change in the spring of 2019, al-Bashir was sentenced in December of that year to a two-year house arrest for bribery. In February 2020, the transitional government announced that Sudan was ready to extradite al-Bashir and three of his closest men to the ICC for judicial review.
Rebel leaders are suspected of murder
The ICC Court in The Hague initiates a preliminary investigation against two rebel leaders in Darfur for the murder of ten AU soldiers in September 2007.
One-sided ceasefire in Darfur
President al-Bashir announces ceasefire in Darfur, but the largest rebel groups say they will continue to fight for political and economic influence.
Transitional government in Abyei
In accordance with the “Roadmap”, a provisional administration for the Abyei border district is set up.
Al-Bashir is accused of war crimes
President al-Bashir is accused by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur (see also Political system).
“Roadmap for Abyei”
Following pressure from the United States, the North and South sides government parties, the NCP and the SPLM, enter into a new agreement which means that the parties jointly appoint an international commission to determine Abyei’s borders. The Permanent Arbitration Court in The Hague assumes the Commission’s mission.
UN envoy resigns
At the turn of the year, the Swedish Jan Eliasson resigns as UN Special Envoy for Darfur, a mission he has held since 2006.
Struggles erupt in Abyei
Nearly 100 people are killed and 90,000 are fleeing as the north side army clashes with the south side forces in the city of Abyei. UN evacuates personnel.
JEM attack outside the capital
The JEM rebel movement from Darfur goes to attack a suburb of Khartoum. A few hundred people are killed before the attack is fought back. Many rebels are sentenced to death. The Khartoum government accuses Chad of being involved in the attack and breaks relations with the neighboring country.
Hundreds of thousands dead in Darfur
UN humanitarian chief John Holmes estimates that up to 300,000 people may have died as a result of the Darfur conflict.
A promised nationwide census is initiated under great skepticism from the south. The result will form the basis for, among other things, the upcoming referendum on possible independence for the south and the distribution of common resources.
Tensions are rising in Abyei
The SPLM government in southern Sudan establishes its own administration in the disputed, oil-rich border area of Abyei, despite a previous agreement that the district should be jointly governed by the north and south. Northern Sudan sees this as a breach of the 2005 peace treaty.
Tens of thousands of new internal refugees in Darfur
Another 50,000 people are forced to flee within Darfur, where the fighting continues despite the presence of Unamid. The peace force appeals for reinforcement.
Assistance does not reach darfuries
Aid organizations say they cannot reach out with their aid to certain parts of Darfur because the government side is bombing rebel areas.
Unamid is placed out
The peacekeeping force Unamid is starting to deploy its soldiers in Darfur, despite being understaffed and lacking essential equipment.