Sudan’s civilian-led transitional government, installed in August 2019, was led until October 25 by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who headed the Council of Ministers. The collective head of state known as the Sovereign Council was chaired by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, one of five military members. On February 4, three members representing Juba Peace Agreement signatories were added to the Sovereign Council. On November 11, five of six civilian members were unilaterally and unconstitutionally replaced, following a military takeover. The Transitional Legislative Council has not been formed. Under the constitutional declaration signed in August 2019, general elections were scheduled for 2022; following the signing of the Juba Peace Agreement, the elections were rescheduled for late 2023 or early 2024.
Until October 25, responsibility for internal security resided with the Ministry of Interior, which oversees police agencies, the Ministry of Defense, and the General Intelligence Service. Ministry of Interior police agencies include the security police, special forces police, traffic police, and the combat-trained Central Reserve Police. There is a police presence throughout the country. The Ministry of Defense has a mandate to oversee all elements of the Sudanese Armed Forces, including the Rapid Support Forces, Border Guards, and defense and military intelligence units; these forces are also charged with protecting sensitive government buildings and sites. Several times during the year, authorities began standing up a Joint Security Force, with a mandate to protect civilians. During the first 10 months of the year, police infrastructure remained largely under civilian authority. After the military takeover on October 25, there were credible reports members of the security forces committed numerous serious abuses.
On October 25, Sovereign Council chair and head of the Sudanese Armed Forces General Burhan dissolved the cabinet, declared a state of emergency, suspended key articles of the constitutional declaration, and detained the Prime Minister Hamdok, along with other senior government officials. Civilian protesters began demonstrating against the military seizure of power immediately thereafter, demanding full civilian rule. Security forces responded to these demonstrations with violence, leaving hundreds injured and dozens dead by year’s end. Following four weeks under house arrest, on November 21, the prime minister signed a 14-point political agreement with General Burhan, which reinstated Hamdok as prime minister. Political parties and civil society organizations rejected the agreement as legitimizing the military takeover. On December 24, the Sovereign Council reportedly issued under General Burhan’s signature a temporary decree under the state of emergency that gave expanded arrest authority to the General Intelligence Services, Sudanese Armed Forces, Rapid Support Forces, and police forces and authorized security forces to search and seize, freeze financial assets, and restrict the movement of individuals. Additionally, the decree granted immunity to security forces from prosecution for the duration of the state of emergency or as determined by the Sovereign Council. As of year’s end, the country remained under a state of emergency. Government authority was split between the unconstitutional Sovereign Council dominated by the military, which frequently overstepped its constitutional mandates, and the prime minister, who had not yet formed a cabinet. Most civilian officials were appointed either by an unconstitutional Sovereign Council or by the prime minster.
Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings; cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment by the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners or detainees; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious abuses in a conflict, including killings, abductions, and physical abuses or punishment; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence or threats of violence against journalists, censorship, and the existence of criminal libel and slander laws; serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with the freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding or operations of nongovernmental organizations and civil society organizations; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence, including but not limited to domestic and intimate partner violence, sexual violence, child, early and forced marriage, female genital mutilation and other harmful practices; existence or use of laws targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; and the worst forms of child labor.
The civilian-led transitional government took steps to identify, investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed human rights abuses, as well as those engaged in corruption. It continued its investigation into security force abuses that occurred throughout the 2019 revolution, including the June 2019 violent dispersal of a peaceful sit-in in Khartoum. As of year’s end, the investigative committee had not publicly submitted its findings. The Ministry of Justice also continued investigations and trials for members of the deposed regime for alleged human rights abuses. Following the military takeover on October 25, the Sovereign Council continued to speak of accountability but took no public action and made no public arrests. General Burhan also disbanded the committee aimed at identifying and returning corrupt former regime assets. After his reinstatement, Prime Minister Hamdok and General Burhan jointly dismissed the heads of the Sudanese National Police, General Intelligence Service, and Military Intelligence, for their reported failure to control violence against protesters.
In Darfur and the Two Areas, paramilitary forces and rebel groups continued sporadically to commit killings, rape, and torture of civilians. Local militias maintained substantial influence due to widespread impunity. There were reports militias looted, raped, and killed civilians. Intercommunal violence originating from land-tenure disputes and resource scarcity continued to result in civilian deaths, particularly in East, South, and North Darfur. There were also human rights abuses reported in Abyei, a region claimed by both the country and South Sudan, generally stemming from local conflict regarding cattle and land between the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya indigenous groups. Reports were difficult to verify due to access challenges. Weak rule of law persisted in Darfur, and banditry, criminality, and intercommunal violence were the main causes of insecurity.