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Sudan

Executive Summary

Sudan’s civilian-led transitional government, installed in August 2019, is led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who heads the Council of Ministers. There is also a Sovereign Council led by Abdel Fatah al-Burhan, who is one of the five military members, as well as six civilians. The Transitional Legislative Council had not been formed as of year’s end. Under the constitutional declaration signed in August 2019, general elections were scheduled for 2022, but following the signing of the Juba Peace Agreement on October 3, they were postponed to 2024.

Under the civilian-led transitional government, responsibility for internal security resides with the Ministry of Interior, which oversees police agencies as well as 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 General Intelligence Service’s mandate changed from protecting national security and during the year was limited to gathering, analyzing, and submitting information to other security services. 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. During the year the police infrastructure was largely moved under executive authority to assure it would adhere to its mandate to protect individuals and enforce the laws. Civilian authorities’ control of security forces continued to improve. Nevertheless, members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Throughout the year the civilian-led transitional government continued its legal reform process. This included repealing the public order act and amending the criminal acts to outlaw female genital mutilation, remove capital punishment for conviction of sodomy, and increase freedoms for religious minorities, including repealing apostasy laws. The civilian-led transitional government and various armed rebel groups continued peace negotiations and signed a peace agreement on October 3 that sought to end decades of internal conflict.

Significant human rights abuses included: reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings, and cases of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by reportedly rogue elements of the security apparatus, especially in conflict zones; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; serious problems with politicization of the judiciary by holdovers from the previous regime, prompting mass dismissals by the civilian-led transitional government; serious abuses in internal conflicts, including killings, abductions, torture and use of child soldiers by rebel groups; lack of investigation of and accountability for violence against women; trafficking in persons; criminalization of consensual same-sex conduct; and child labor.

The civilian-led transitional government continued its investigation into security force abuses that occurred throughout the 2019 revolution, including the violent dispersal of a peaceful sit-in in June 2019 in Khartoum, and the beating and sexual assault of others. As of year’s end, the investigative committee had not publicly submitted its findings. The Ministry of Justice also began investigations and trials for members of the deposed regime for alleged human rights abuses. The prime minister stated more than 35 committees were actively conducting investigations.

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 Sudan and South Sudan, generally stemming from local conflict over cattle and land between the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya indigenous groups. Reports were difficult to verify due to access challenges. In Darfur weak rule of law persisted, and banditry, criminality, and intercommunal violence were the main causes of insecurity.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The 2019 constitutional declaration provides that every citizen has the right of political participation and the right to participate in public affairs in accordance with the law.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: National executive and legislative elections took place in 2015, under the prior regime, and were not deemed to be free or fair. The main opposition parties at that time–National Umma Party, National Consensus Forces, Sudanese Congress Party, Sudanese Communist Party, and the Popular Congress Party–boycotted those elections leaving only the ruling National Congress and National Unity Parties to participate.

Under the former regime, general elections for president and the National Assembly were scheduled to be held every five years. Under the Political Agreement and the constitutional declaration signed in August 2019, elections were expected to be held in 2022, but the October signing of the Juba Peace Agreement and amendment to the constitutional framework postponed elections until 39 months after the October 3 signing, delaying planned elections until early 2024.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups, and they did participate. The constitutional declaration states that political parties are free to operate and that every citizen has the right of political participation and the right to participate in public affairs in accordance with the law. In addition it states that the country shall afford equal rights of women and men to the enjoyment of political rights. In the CLTG cabinet, women held four of 20 cabinet positions until July when one female minister resigned in the government reshuffle. There were two women on the Sovereign Council, one of whom was from the minority Coptic Christian community. The constitutional declaration requires at least 40 percent of the Transitional Legislative Council members be women, but the council had not been formed as of year’s end. In July the prime minister appointed women to two of 18 civilian governorships: in River Nile State and Northern State.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials; nevertheless, corruption was widespread.

Corruption: The law provides the legislative framework for addressing official corruption. The CLTG used existing law and the constitutional declaration to combat official corruption. The constitutional declaration called for setting up an Anti-Corruption Commission, but the CLTG had not formed this body as of November.

A special anticorruption attorney investigated and prosecuted corruption cases involving officials, their spouses, and their children. Punishments for conviction of embezzlement include imprisonment or execution for public-service workers, although these sanctions were almost never carried out. All bank employees were considered public-service workers. The CLTG established a Dismantling Commission to recover unlawfully obtained money and assets from corrupt members of the former regime. This committee issued multiple decisions against corrupt government officials and confiscated embezzled assets. The committee extended its activity to include NGOs that facilitated the transfer of government money. The committee then forwarded the confiscated assets and money to the Ministry of Finance. One example of an effected corrupt organization was the Sudanese Islamic Da’wa Organization; in April the dismantling committee dissolved the organization and canceled its registration.

While reporting on corruption was no longer a red line under the CLTG, media continued to practice self-censorship on the topic (see section 2.a.).

Financial Disclosure: The constitutional declaration includes requirements for financial disclosure and a prohibition of commercial activity for members of the Sovereign Council, the Council of Ministers, state and regional governors, and members of the future Transitional Legislative Council. There were no clear sanctions for noncompliance, although the previous Anticorruption Commission possessed discretionary powers to punish violators. The Financial Disclosure and Inspection Committee and the Unlawful and Suspicious Enrichment Administration at the Justice Ministry both monitor compliance. Despite three different bodies ostensibly charged with monitoring financial disclosure regulations, there remains no effective enforcement or prosecution of offenders. Few CLTG officials disclosed their personal assets as required by these laws.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Unlike under the Bashir regime, a number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views, although some restrictions on NGOs remained, especially in conflict zones.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: Access for UN agencies to Darfur, the Two Areas and other conflict-affected regions vastly improved under the leadership of the CLTG; however, challenges remained. In the greater Jebel Marra region of Darfur, the government sporadically denied access to UNAMID in areas where conflict continued. The CLTG also continued to restrict the number of visas issued for UN police for the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei. Sudan is a party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

In September 2019 the CLTG signed an agreement to open a UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Khartoum, with field offices in Darfur, the Two Areas, and East Sudan, and the CLTG cooperated with these offices.

In April the CLTG authorized the UN independent expert on human rights in Sudan to visit the country, but due to the COVID 19 pandemic, the visit was cancelled.

The CLTG also allowed the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan to conduct an assessment in August, including on human rights.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Human rights defenders were allowed to file complaints with the National Human Rights Commission regarding perceived human rights abuses. The commission typically referred complaints back to the accused institution.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape and sexual harassment are criminal offenses, and a rape victim may not be prosecuted for adultery. Marital rape is not recognized. Domestic violence is a crime.

There remain no reliable statistics on the prevalence of rape and domestic violence in the country. The UN independent expert on the human rights situation in Sudan and UNAMID’s Human Rights Section reported they received regular reports of incidents of rape and sexual and gender-based violence (see section 1.g.). Monitoring groups reported the incidence of rape and sexual assault increased as the economic situation worsened during the year. Intercommunal violence also increased. Human rights organizations cited substantial barriers to reporting sexual and gender-based violence, including cultural norms, police reluctance to investigate, and the widespread impunity of perpetrators.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C remained a problem, and the procedure continued to be used on women and girls throughout the country. In July the CLTG formally criminalized FGM/C. The law provides a penalty of three years’ imprisonment for anyone convicted of practicing FGM/C. In November media reported the first legal action taken against a mother and midwife in Omdurman for practicing FGM/C. Both individuals were released on bail and were awaiting trial as of mid-December.

According to UNICEF and UNFPA, the prevalence rate of FGM/C experienced by girls and women between ages 15 and 49 was 87 percent. Prevalence varied geographically and depended on the local ethnic group.

Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment and provides a penalty not to exceed three years’ imprisonment if convicted. Government officials have not enforced sexual harassment law effectively. There were no specific data available on the prevalence of sexual harassment throughout the country.

Reproductive Rights: Couples were generally able to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and manage their reproductive health. They had access to the means and information to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Some communities lacked awareness of reproductive rights. In addition, women living in rural areas did not always have access to contraceptives, skilled medical attendance during childbirth, and obstetric and postpartum care.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) estimated that 10 percent of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 used a modern method of contraception during the year.

In 2017 the UNFPA estimated that the maternal mortality rate was 295 deaths per 100,000 live births and that skilled health-care personnel attended 78 percent of births.

The high maternal mortality rate stemmed in large part from a patriarchal system that limited women’s reproductive choices; early child marriages; lack of access to reproductive health and emergency obstetric care, particularly in rural areas; lack of access to family planning services; poor sanitation; lack of transportation in rural areas; and poor public health structures in the rural areas where the population experienced chronic undernourishment, malaria, hemorrhagic fevers, and anemia.

The Ministry of Health provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence in conflict areas. The ministry also provided preventative treatment for sexually transmitted infections and emergency contraceptives, depending on the public health infrastructure and availability of medications. In July the civilian-led transitional government ratified legislation that criminalized female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). Despite the law, FGM/C remained a problem and resulted in prolonged labor and hemorrhage.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Discrimination: The law, including many traditional legal practices and certain provisions of Islamic jurisprudence, continued to discriminate against women. In accordance with common Islamic judicial interpretation, a Muslim widow inherits one-eighth of her husband’s estate; of the remaining seven-eighths, two-thirds goes to the sons and one-third to the daughters. In certain probate trials, a woman’s testimony is not considered equal to a man’s; the testimony of two women is required. In other civil trials, the testimony of a woman equals that of a man.

By law a Muslim man may marry a Jewish or Christian woman. A Muslim woman may not marry a non-Muslim man and may be charged with adultery if she does so. Although the CLTG abolished the previous discriminatory Public Order Law, there were unconfirmed reports individual officers still applied it ad-hoc.

In July the government amended the personal law act to allow women to travel abroad with their children without a male family member’s permission (see section 7.d.).

Children

Birth Registration: The constitutional declaration states that persons born to a citizen mother or father have the right to citizenship. Most newborns received birth certificates, but some in remote areas did not. Registered midwives, dispensaries, clinics, and hospitals could issue certificates. Failure to present a valid birth certificate precludes enrollment in school. Access to health care was similarly dependent on possession of a valid birth certificate, but many doctors accepted a patient’s verbal assurance that he or she had one.

Education: The law provides for tuition free basic education up to grade eight, but students often had to pay school, uniform, and examination fees to attend. Primary education is neither compulsory nor universal.

Child Abuse: The government tried to enforce laws criminalizing child abuse and was more likely to prosecute cases involving child abuse and sexual exploitation of children than cases involving adults. Some police stations included “child friendly” family and child protection units and provided legal, medical, and psychosocial support for children.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage was 10 for girls and 15 or puberty for boys.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Penalties for conviction of sexual exploitation of children vary and may include imprisonment, fines, or both. The CLTG tried to enforce laws criminalizing child sexual exploitation.

There is no minimum age for consensual sex or a statutory rape law. Pornography, including child pornography, is illegal. Statutes prescribe a fine and period of imprisonment not to exceed 15 years for conviction of child pornography offenses.

Displaced Children: Internally displaced children often lacked access to government services such as health and education due to security concerns and an inability to pay related fees. UNICEF estimated 960,000 children remained internally displaced (see section 2.d.).

Institutionalized Children: Police typically sent homeless children who had committed crimes to government camps for indefinite periods. Health care, schooling, and living conditions were generally very basic.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

The known Jewish community in the country consisted of two individuals in the Khartoum area. Societal attitudes were generally not tolerant of Jewish persons, although anti-Semitic acts were rare. In 2019 the minister for religious affairs called for all Jews of Sudanese origin to return to the country and underscored that the country is a pluralistic society.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

Although the law and the constitutional declaration provide protections for persons with disabilities, social stigma and a lack of resources hindered the government’s enforcement of disability laws. The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities.

Social stigma and lack of resources often prevented government and private entities from accommodating persons with disabilities in education and employment. Appropriate support remained especially rare in rural areas.

Members of National/Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups

The population includes more than 500 ethnic groups speaking numerous languages and dialects. Some of these ethnic groups self-identify as Arab, referring to their language and other cultural attributes.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law does not specifically prohibit homosexuality but criminalizes sodomy, which is punishable if convicted by five years in jail for an initial offense. The CLTG abolished corporal and capital punishment for conviction of sodomy. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons are not considered a protected class under antidiscrimination laws. Anti–LGBTI sentiment remained pervasive in society. LGBTI organizations alleged being pressured to alter their activities due to threat of harm.

There were no reports of official action to investigate or punish those complicit in LGBTI-related discrimination or abuses.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There was societal discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Clashes often resulted from conflicts over land rights, mineral ownership, and use of gold-mining areas, particularly in the Jebel Amer area in North Darfur. Observers believed those clashes resulted in deaths and displacement in past years. Largely unregulated artisanal gold-mining activities continued in all of the Darfur states, although it was a lesser source of tension among communities than in previous years. Claims to land rights continued to be mostly ethnic and tribal in nature. Other clashes took place in Red Sea State, Kassala State and South Kordofan.

Promotion of Acts of Discrimination

There were multiple reports of hate speech and discriminatory language during the year. Reports increased following the appointment of civilian governors in areas where ethnic groups opposed an appointed governor because he or she belonged to a different group.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides that employees of companies with more than 100 workers may form and join independent unions. Other employees may join preexisting unions. The law establishes a single national trade union federation and excludes police, military personnel, prison employees, Ministry of Justice legal advisers, and judges from membership. In some cases membership in international unions was not officially recognized.

In 2019 the CLTG dissolved all trade unions and associations as part of its effort to dismantle the remnants of the Bashir regime. The CLTG allowed the formation of trade unions.

The Sudan Worker’s Trade Union Federation, a federation operating under the Bashir regime, filed a complaint with the International Labor Organization (ILO) on freedom of association concerns and alleged seizure of property. Workers who engage in labor outside the provisions of the labor code, which dates back to the Bashir regime, may legally be penalized with prison and compulsory labor.

Bureaucratic steps mandated by law to resolve disputes between labor and management within companies were lengthy.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law criminalizes all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties are not commensurate with those for comparable crimes.

The most common labor violations occurred in the farming and pastoral sectors. There were reports some children were engaged in forced labor, especially in the informal mining sector. Some domestic workers were reported to be working without pay. Female refugees were especially prone to labor violations.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits child labor. The constitutional declaration requires the state to protect the rights of children as provided in international and regional conventions ratified by the country. The law defines children as persons younger than 18 and prohibits children younger than 14 from working, except in agricultural work that is not dangerous or harmful to their health. The Ministry of Labor and Social Development is responsible for enforcing child labor laws but implementation has been weak and ineffective.

The Child Act defines working children as persons between ages 14 and 18. The law also prohibits the employment of such persons between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m.

The law allows minors to work for seven hours a day broken by a paid hour of rest. It is illegal to compel minors to work more than four consecutive hours, work overtime, or work during weekly periods of rest or on official holidays. The law prohibits employers from waiving, postponing, or reducing annual leave entitlements for minors. The CLTG did not effectively enforce such laws. Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations and not commensurate with those for comparable crimes.

Despite regulations, child labor persists in agriculture, mining, and informal sectors. Child labor was most common in the agricultural sector and also in other elements of the informal sector, including shoe shining, car washing, collecting medical and other resalable waste, street vending, begging, construction, and other menial labor. Children working in the informal sector were vulnerable to chronic illnesses and car accidents.

The ILO monitored forced child labor in gold mining. UNICEF received unverified reports revealing the dangerous conditions under which children were working in gold mining, including requirements to carry heavy loads and to work at night and within confined spaces and exposure to mercury and high temperatures. There were reports that children as young as age 10 were used in artisanal gold mining throughout the country. According to multiple reputable sources, thousands of children worked in artisanal gold mining, particularly in River Nile, Blue Nile, West Darfur, and North Darfur States, resulting in large numbers of students dropping out of school.

There were reports of the use of child soldiers by the SPLM-N, but numbers were difficult to verify (see section 1.g.).

Also see the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

Law and regulations prohibit discrimination based on race, sex, gender, disability, tribe, and language, but they were not consistently enforced. There were legal restrictions on women in employment including limitations on working hours, occupations, and tasks. The constitutional declaration provides legal protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, HIV or other communicable disease status, political opinion, social or national origin, age, social status, religion, or ethnicity. Employers determined whether or not they would accommodate religious or ethnic practices. For example, employers adopted Islamic practices, including reduced working hours during the month of Ramadan and paid leave to perform the Hajj pilgrimage. Labor laws apply to migrant workers with legal contracts, but foreign workers who do not have legal status are not provided legal protections from abuse and exploitation.

The CLTG does not effectively enforce antidiscrimination laws and regulations in the workplace; penalties in the form of fines were rarely imposed and were insufficient to deter violations. Penalties were not commensurate with those for similar violations. Discrimination occurred in employment and occupation based on gender, religion, and ethnic, tribal, or party affiliation. Ethnic minorities reported that government hiring practices discriminated against them in favor of “riverine” Arabs from northern Sudan. Ethiopians, Eritreans, and other refugees or migrants were often exposed to exploitative work conditions.

There were reports some female refugees and migrants working as domestic workers or tea sellers were not compensated for their work, required to pay “kettle taxes” to police, sexually exploited, or trafficked. Female tea sellers also reported harassment and confiscation by police of their belongings. Observers reported, however, such harassment largely stopped under the CLTG, although challenges persisted.

Migrant workers and some ethnic minorities were unaware of their legal rights, suffered from discrimination, and lacked ready access to judicial remedies. The International Organization of Migration (IOM) established migrants’ reception centers in Khartoum in 2015 and Gedaref in 2019 that conducted workshops on workers’ rights and the hazards of migration. The state government allocated the land and building to the IOM.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The government sets a minimum wage, which is below the poverty line. In April the CLTG increased the minimum monthly wages for the workers in the public sector from SDG 425 ($8) to SDG 3,000 ($56). Although meant to reduce the burden of the cost of living, by November the action increased the inflation rate to 299 percent.

Employers generally respected the minimum wage law in the formal sector. Wages in the informal sector were often significantly below the official rate. Enforcement by the Ministry of Labor and Social Development was minimal. Inspections and enforcement were inadequate in both the formal and informal sectors.

The law limits the workweek to 40 hours (five eight-hour days, not including a 30-minute to one-hour daily break), with days of rest on Friday and Saturday. Overtime should not exceed 12 hours per week or four hours per day. The law provides for paid annual leave after one year of continuous employment and paid holidays after three months.

The laws prescribe occupational safety and health standards. Any industrial company with 30 to 150 employees must have an industrial safety officer. A larger company is required to have an industrial safety committee that includes management and employees. Committees and officers are required to report safety incidents to the Ministry of Labor and Social Development. The law requires the owner of an industrial company to inform workers of occupational hazards and provide means for protection against such hazards. Management is also required to take necessary precautions to protect workers against industrial accidents and occupational diseases. The law does not recognize the right of workers to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without loss of employment. Some heavy industry and artisanal mining operations, notably gold extraction, reportedly lacked sufficient safety regulations.

Safety laws do not apply to domestic servants; casual workers; agricultural workers other than those employed in the operation, repair, and maintenance of agricultural machinery; enterprises that process or market agricultural products, such as cotton gins or dairy-product factories; jobs related to the administration of agricultural projects, including office work, accounting, storage, gardening, and livestock husbandry; or to family members of an employee who live with the employee and who are completely or partially dependent on the employee for their living.

Representatives of the Eritrean and Ethiopian communities in Khartoum stated that undocumented migrants in the capital were subjected to abusive work conditions. They also reported many undocumented workers did not report abuse due to fear authorities might deport them to Eritrea because of their illegal status.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Development, which maintained field offices in most major cities, is responsible for enforcing these standards. The ministry employed labor inspectors, including specialists on labor relations, labor conflicts, and vocational, health, and recruitment practices. The government did not effectively enforce wage, hour, and occupational safety and health laws, and penalties were not sufficient to deter violations.

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