a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were numerous reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, especially of prodemocracy protesters.
Two protesters were killed on January 2 – one in Khartoum and one in Omdurman. Amid the protests, Hamdok announced his resignation as prime minister (see section 3). On January 17, security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition at peaceful protesters as they marched on the Presidential Palace, killing Osman Abdullah Elsharif and six others, and wounding more than 100.
On June 30, security forces fired live ammunition at prodemocracy protesters in Khartoum, killing Ali Zakaria and eight other protesters. Zakaria’s death drew significant public attention, as a video captured the moment a member of the Sudanese National Police fired his rifle and shot Zakaria in the stomach; Zakaria later died from his wounds. The Ministry of Interior acknowledged Zakaria’s death, noting the officer violated firearms policy and promised to investigate and hold responsible those who committed the act. The case remained pending at year’s end.
In response to the October 2021 military takeover, prodemocracy civilian actors continued to organize demonstrations and strikes in Khartoum and across the country condemning the military’s actions and calling for full civilian rule. Resistance committees in Khartoum, Omdurman, and Khartoum North organized numerous large-scale peaceful protests, which were often met with violence by security forces, including the use of live ammunition.
In January security forces killed a total of 26 protesters. While deaths at the hands of security forces were meaningfully reduced after January, at least one protester lost his life every month as security forces violently cracked down on protesters. Deaths spiked again on June 30, when security forces used live ammunition, tear gas, water cannons, and stun grenades against protesters, killing nine. Security forces also stormed hospitals in search of injured protesters, assaulted journalists, and raided a television station (see sections 1.c., 1.d., and 2.a.). According to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, 68 protesters were killed, and more than 7,000 injured during protests as of November.
There were several reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings through exchanges with rogue security force elements in Darfur (see section 1.g.).
There were cases of disappearance during the year.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported that on August 22-23, members of the joint security forces in plain clothes detained three male protesters in advance of planned August 24 demonstrations. All three individuals were reportedly taken to an undisclosed location and interrogated for 24 hours before two of them were released. The location of the third individual remained unknown as of year’s end.
According to the OHCHR, the whereabouts of four male protesters who were taken in November 2021 from Khartoum and Khartoum North by men in plain clothes, reportedly from the General Intelligence Service, remained unknown as of year’s end.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and Other Related Abuses
The 2019 constitutional declaration prohibits torture or inhuman treatment or punishment. Nevertheless, there were numerous reports of violent attacks on peaceful protesters under the military government that seized power in October 2021.
After the military takeover, security forces often used live ammunition, tear gas, water cannons, and stun grenades against peaceful protesters. Security forces also searched hospitals for injured protesters, fired tear gas inside the hospitals, assaulted journalists, and raided a television station. During these incidents, security forces reportedly killed scores of individuals and injured hundreds (see sections 1.a., 1.d., and 2.a.).
On September 12, security forces posted at major intersections in Khartoum stopped vehicles and pedestrians and forcibly shaved young men’s heads and searched vehicles for contraband. There were credible reports that security forces targeted young men with long hair, whom they associated with prodemocracy protesters.
The OHCHR reported that persons arrested following demonstrations were routinely and severely beaten with pipes, sticks, and batons, and were kicked by security forces, including when already restrained. Severe beatings carried out by security forces at detention centers resulted in broken bones and one miscarriage.
There were several reports of security forces committing sexual violence against women across the country, reportedly to discourage their participation in demonstrations. Following the June 30 prodemocracy protests, the OHCHR reported that two women were sexually assaulted and raped during their arrest and transportation to the police station. The OHCHR reported 18 verified cases of gender-based violence involving 25 survivors between October 2021 and September 2022. There were reports that security forces sexually assaulted women who were attempting to flee the area near the Presidential Palace where the demonstrations took place.
There continued to be some reports that security forces committed sexual violence in Darfur, although most abuses were committed by militias (see section 1.g.).
Before the military takeover, the civilian-led transitional government (CLTG) took strong steps towards reckoning with the crimes perpetrated by the Bashir regime as well as addressing contemporary abuses. After the military takeover, these efforts largely ceased.
The CLTG banished flogging in 2020, although courts handed down flogging and internal displacement as punishment for adultery cases in March and July.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions throughout the country remained harsh and life threatening; overcrowding was a major problem, as was inadequate health care.
Abusive Physical Conditions: The nongovernmental organization (NGO) World Prison Brief estimated, based on 2017 data, that the country’s prisons held 21,000 prisoners in facilities designed for 7,500 prisoners. More recent data were not available but overcrowding remained a serious problem. The Prisons and Reform Directorate, a branch of the national police that reports to the Ministry of Interior, oversees prisons. The Ministry of Interior generally did not release information on physical conditions in prisons. Data on the numbers of juvenile and women prisoners were unavailable.
Authorities generally provided food, water, and sanitation, although the quality of all three was basic. Prison health care, heating, ventilation, and lighting were often inadequate but varied from facility to facility. Some prisoners did not have access to medications or physical examinations. Family members or friends provided food and other items to inmates. Most prisoners did not have beds. Former detainees reported needing to purchase foam mattresses.
Overall conditions, including food and sanitation, were reportedly better in women’s detention facilities and prisons, such as the Federal Prison for Women in Omdurman, than at equivalent facilities for men, such as the main prison in Khartoum or the Kober or Omdurman Prisons. In Khartoum juveniles were not held in adult prisons or jails, but they were reportedly held with adults at other prisons.
Administration: The police inspector general, the minister of justice, and the judiciary are authorized to inspect prisons.
Police allowed some visitors, including lawyers and family members, while prisoners were in custody and during judicial hearings. Islamic and Christian clergy were allowed to hold services in prisons after the CLTG came to power, although it was unknown whether this practice was allowed under the military government. Access varied across prisons. In Omdurman Women’s Prison, church services were held six times a week, but other information on the regularity of services was not available. Sunni imams were granted access to facilitate Friday prayers.
Independent Monitoring: While the CLTG lifted restrictions on independent monitoring, the International Committee of the Red Cross was generally denied access to prisons, apart from installing water points and distributing hygiene products during the COVID-19 pandemic. International monitors were not allowed access to those detained for protesting the military takeover.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The 2019 constitutional declaration prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The military government issued a decree in December 2021 to expand the arrest, search, and seizure powers of the country’s security forces, which upended the constitutional declaration’s prohibition against arbitrary arrest and detention.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees
Under the law, warrants are not required for an arrest. The law permits police to detain individuals for 24 hours for the purpose of inquiry. A magistrate may renew detention without charge for up to two weeks during an investigation. A superior magistrate may renew detentions for up to six months for a person who is charged. The General Intelligence Service is not allowed to detain individuals without permission of the attorney general, although the military government worked with Sudanese National Police to detain individuals based on its own investigations.
The law provides for an individual to be informed in detail of charges at the time of arrest, with interpretation as needed, and for judicial determination without undue delay. Following the military takeover, authorities routinely violated these laws.
The law allows for bail, except for those accused of crimes punishable by death or life imprisonment if convicted. There was a functioning bail system; however, persons released on bail often waited indefinitely for action on their cases.
Suspects in common criminal cases, such as theft, were compelled to confess guilt while in police custody through physical abuse and police intimidation of family members.
By law any person may request legal assistance and must be informed of the right to counsel in cases potentially involving the death penalty, imprisonment lasting longer than 10 years, or amputation if convicted. Accused persons may also request assistance through the legal aid department at the Ministry of Justice or the Sudanese Bar Association. The government was not always able to provide legal assistance, although legal aid organizations and lawyers partially filled the gap. Detainees arrested in connection with protesting the military takeover were routinely denied access to their families and to legal counsel.
Arbitrary Arrest: Following the military takeover, hundreds were detained without charges, including high-level political actors and activists. Some were subsequently charged. In advance of and during subsequent protests throughout the year, security forces detained resistance committee members, activists, and protesters, releasing most the same day or the day following the protest.
Pretrial Detention: The law states that pretrial detention may not exceed six months; however, the attorney general may authorize a second six-month period. Lengthy pretrial detention was common. The large number of detainees and judicial inefficiency resulted in trial delays.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The constitutional declaration and relevant laws provide for an independent judiciary. Following the October 2021 military takeover, authorities began to reinstate several judges as well as judiciary advisers and staff members who had been dismissed by the Dismantling Committee during the CLTG, thereby undermining judicial independence and impartiality.
The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial as well as a presumption of innocence; however, this provision was rarely respected. In cases of national security and offenses against the state, trials were usually closed.
By law criminal defendants must be informed promptly of the charges against them at the time of their arrest and charged in detail and with interpretation as needed.
Defendants generally have the right to present evidence and witnesses, be present in court, confront accusers, and have access to government-held evidence relevant to their cases. Throughout the year some defendants reportedly did not receive legal counsel, and counsel in some cases could only advise the defendant and not address the court. Defendants were not always permitted time and facilities to prepare their defense. Persons detained in connection with prodemocracy protests were routinely denied counsel. Persons in remote areas and in areas of conflict generally did not have access to legal counsel. The government sometimes did not allow defense witnesses to testify.
Military trials, which sometimes were secret and brief, lacked procedural safeguards. The law prescribes military trials for any civilians in Sudanese Armed Forces-controlled areas believed to be armed opposition or members of a paramilitary group.
Three-person security courts deal with violations of constitutional decrees, emergency regulations, and some sections of the penal code, including drug and currency offenses. Special courts primarily composed of civilian judges handled most security-related cases.
Due to long distances between court facilities and police stations in conflict areas, local mediation was often the first resort to resolve disputes. In some instances, tribal courts operating outside the official legal system decided cases. Such courts did not provide the same protections as regular courts.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
On February 9, former Cabinet Affairs Minister Khaled Omer Yousif, Dismantling Committee (DC) member Wagdi Saleh and several other Forces for Freedom and Change leaders were detained and charged with criminal breach of trust, reportedly for their involvement with the DC. They were released on April 26-27. On May 31, the Sovereign Council ordered the release of additional political detainees. The OHCHR reported that 72 of an estimated 100 detainees were released in the days following the May 31 announcement.
With each round of protests, security forces detained additional protesters, including 150 demonstrators arrested on June 30. While the majority of demonstrators were released after 24 hours in custody, most were formally charged with disturbing the peace or public nuisance.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
Although persons seeking damages for human rights abuses had access to domestic and international courts, there were problems enforcing domestic and international court orders. According to the law, individuals and organizations may appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies. Some individuals, however, reported they feared reprisal if they did appeal.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The law prohibits such actions, but the military government increasingly accessed, collected, or used private communications or personal data arbitrarily. There were also some reports of security forces entering homes without judicial or other appropriate authorization in search of individuals believed to be involved in organizing protests.
g. Conflict-related Abuses
In October 2020 leaders of the CLTG and several armed opposition groups signed the Juba Peace Agreement, intended to end nearly two decades of conflict in the country’s war-torn regions of Darfur and the Two Areas; however, implementation remained slow and uneven throughout the year. Violence increased around the country with sudden flareups of intercommunal fighting throughout the year, especially in Darfur, Blue Nile, Kassala, and Kordofan States. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 211,000 individuals fled their homes in Darfur and Kordofan because of violence. In Blue Nile, more than 97,000 persons were displaced since fighting in July and October killed more than 300 persons, according to the OCHA.
Killings: Military personnel, paramilitary forces, and tribal groups reportedly committed killings in Darfur and the Two Areas. Most reports were difficult to verify due to continued prohibited access to affected areas, particularly Jebel Marra in Central Darfur and areas in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States controlled by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N). Humanitarian access to Jebel Marra was restricted due to fighting among rival rebel groups.
On March 29, violence erupted between the Rezeigat and Fallata tribes in Hashaba and Shergella villages in the Gireida locality in South Darfur, leading to at least 20 deaths and hundreds of injuries. The UN Department of Safety and Security reported the fighting was sparked in retaliation for the killing of a Rapid Support Forces officer days before by suspected Fallata tribesmen.
The general political and security situation of Abyei, the disputed territory between the country and South Sudan, continued to remain fragile and was marked by instances of violence between Misseriya and Ngok Dinka communities.
Nomadic militias also reportedly attacked civilians. Renewed intercommunal violence occurred mainly in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile State, resulting in the deaths of numerous civilians. For example, according to the OHCHR and the UN Panel of Experts, on April 22-25, in West Darfur, confrontations between the Massalit and Arab tribes in Kreinik and El Geneina resulted in at least 159 deaths, 107 injured, and the displacement of thousands of civilians. The UN Panel of Experts reported that during the violence in Kreinik and El Geneina, medical facilities were attacked, civilians were killed inside Kreinik Mosque, and five villages were burned. UNICEF reported that at least 21 children were killed.
On July 10-16, clashes between Hausa and Funj tribesmen in Blue Nile State killed more than 100 persons and displaced more than 15,000. In October further tribal clashes in Blue Nile State killed more than 200.
Abductions: According to NGOs and the OHCHR, there were numerous reports of abductions by armed opposition and tribal groups in Darfur. International organizations were largely unable to verify reports of disappearances.
There were also numerous criminal incidents involving kidnapping for ransom.
Abduction remained a lucrative method adopted by various tribes in Darfur to coerce the payment of diya (“blood money” ransom) claimed from other communities.
Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: There were continued reports that government security forces, progovernment and antigovernment militias, and other armed persons raped women and children.
The UN Panel of Experts reported that in areas of Jebel Marra under government control, bordering Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid (SLA-AW) areas, some civilians, in particular traders, were harassed and sometimes unlawfully detained by security forces on the assumption that they supported the SLA-AW. Armed opposition groups in Darfur and the Two Areas reportedly detained persons in isolated locations in prison-like detention centers.
The extent to which armed opposition groups committed human rights abuses could not be accurately assessed due to limited access. The state of detention facilities administered by the SLA-AW and SPLM-N in their respective armed opposition-controlled areas also could not be assessed for the same reason. Unexploded ordnance killed and injured civilians.
Child Soldiers: The law prohibits the recruitment of children and provides criminal penalties for perpetrators.
Allegations persisted that armed opposition movements conscripted and retained child soldiers within their ranks. Many children continued to lack documents verifying their age. Children’s rights organizations believed armed groups exploited this lack of documentation to recruit or retain children. Due to access problems, reports of the use of child soldiers by armed groups were few and often difficult to verify.
Representatives of armed groups reported they did not actively recruit child soldiers. They did not, however, prevent children who volunteered from joining their movements. The armed groups stated the children were stationed primarily in training camps and were not used in combat.
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.