Sudan: New HRW/Africa Report, 6/5/'96

Sudan: New HRW/Africa Report, 6/5/'96

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."

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Jemera Rone (212) 972-8400 ext. 208
Susan Osnos (212) 972-8400 ext. 216


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 international law.

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 sentence.

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 detained.

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 of religion.

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 population.

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 combatants.

The right to a fair trial and not to be arbitrarily detained

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 association

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 associations.

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 taken.


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 humanitarian aid.

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 deliver them.

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 monitors.

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 slavery-like practices.

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 problem.

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 People's Rights

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 October 1996.

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 at gopher://]

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.

Message-Id: <> Date: Wed, 5 Jun 1996 12:51:03 -0500 Subject: Sudan: New HRW/Africa Report