Sudan

Not Free
17
100
PR Political Rights 2 40
CL Civil Liberties 15 60
Last Year's Score & Status
12 100 Not Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.

header1 Overview

Since military commanders and a prodemocracy protest movement ousted the repressive regime of Omar al-Bashir and his National Congress Party (NCP) in 2019, Sudan has been ruled by a transitional government in which military and civilian leaders are to share power until national elections can be held. The government has begun to enact reforms, and space for the exercise of civil liberties is slowly opening, but security personnel associated with the abuses of the old regime remain influential. Violence involving security forces, other armed groups, and rival ethnic communities persists in many parts of the country.

header2 Key Developments in 2020

  • To prevent the spread of COVID-19 during the year, the government imposed curfews, banned large gatherings, and limited international travel. More than 1,500 deaths from the disease had been reported by year’s end, and the pandemic worsened an already weak economy.
  • In October, the transitional government, headed by the Transitional Sovereign Council (TSC), signed the Juba Peace Agreement with an alliance of rebel groups. The accord included provisions for the integration of rebel fighters into the security forces, power-sharing allocations, and commitments to address economic marginalization. It also pushed back national elections until early 2024. Despite the peace agreement, local conflicts among rival ethnic communities increased across the country.
  • The TSC stated in February that former president Omar al-Bashir should face charges of genocide and war crimes before the International Criminal Court (ICC), and a delegation from the court visited the country for talks in October. Al-Bashir and other former officials remained in custody in Sudan at year’s end.
  • In July, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok replaced military governors with civilian appointees, and the TSC repealed several repressive laws that had particularly affected the rights of women and members of religious minority groups.
  • Citizens continued to organize protests on a variety of issues, including the slow pace of reforms, and security forces often responded with tear gas or live ammunition, though their use of violence was less severe overall than in 2019.

PR Political Rights

A Electoral Process

A1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 0.000 4.004

Former president Omar al-Bashir, who had ruled Sudan since taking power in a 1989 coup, was himself ousted by the military in April 2019, under pressure from a prodemocracy protest movement that began in late 2018. After initially attempting to crack down on the protests, the military leadership held negotiations with an opposition alliance, the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), and reached a power-sharing deal in August of that year. The pact created the 11-member TSC, which was to govern Sudan until elections could be held after a 39-month interim period, with the military and the FFC each naming five members and agreeing on the final member, a civilian. General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan was named as the TSC’s chair for a 21-month term, after which a civilian would lead the council for 18 months.

Abdulla Hamdok, a former UN official, was named as prime minister. He presided over a cabinet of technocratic ministers who wielded day-to-day executive power under the transitional agreement. The military, however, retained control of the defense and interior ministries.

The October 2020 signing of the Juba Peace Agreement between the TSC and rebel groups led by the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) had the effect of restarting the 39-month transition period prior to national elections. The peace agreement also reorganized the government’s power-sharing allocations so that the armed groups would have three seats on the TSC and hold 25 percent of ministerial posts in the cabinet. The new appointments had yet to be made at the end of the year.

The interim constitutional document that emerged from the 2019 power-sharing deal was amended to incorporate the provisions of the Juba Peace Agreement. Among other changes, a new Article 80 created the Council of Partners for the Transitional Period—comprising the prime minister, the FFC, the military, and the rebel groups that signed the peace agreement—with a mandate to discuss major political issues that arise during the transition. Critics of the new body warned that it could come to supersede the authority of the existing governing structures.

A2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 0.000 4.004

The former parliament was dissolved as part of the 2019 revolution, and the transitional constitution called for the FFC to appoint two-thirds of a 300-seat Transitional Legislative Council (TLC), which was to hold office until elections could be held. Other political factions would select the remaining members. The October 2020 peace agreement revised this structure by allocating 75 seats to the signatory armed groups, 60 to the military, and 165 to the FFC. With consultations pending, the TLC’s members had yet to be selected at the end of 2020.

A3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 0.000 4.004

The former National Election Commission, which was loyal to al-Bashir and led by an NCP official, was to be replaced by a new commission appointed by the TSC, according to the interim constitution. However, the entity’s members had not been named as of late 2020, and the TSC had not developed a legal and administrative framework for elections.

B Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 1.001 4.004

The transitional constitution guarantees the right to form political parties, subject to legal regulation. In practice, the FFC and a number of separate parties have continued to operate. However, transitional authorities have arrested high-ranking NCP members associated with the former regime, and in November 2019 the TSC disbanded the NCP altogether and established a committee to seize its assets. In June 2020, the government arrested former NCP leader and foreign minister Ibrahim Ghandour.

Divisions among political parties and activists emerged during 2020. In April, the Umma Party froze its participation in the FFC. A faction of the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which played a crucial role in the 2019 protest movement, withdrew from the FFC in June, and the Sudanese Communist Party did so in November.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 1.001 4.004

Political groupings that were excluded from government under al-Bashir secured participation in the TSC in 2019 and have maintained varying degrees of influence during subsequent negotiations. The transition process more broadly has raised the possibility of future transfers of power through elections. Following the Juba Peace Agreement in October 2020, however, elections were not expected until 2024.

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 1.001 4.004

Military and security organizations that used force to oppose the 2019 prodemocracy protests have retained significant power within the TSC. The Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a wing of the military known for human rights abuses during al-Bashir’s era and in the crackdown prior to the power-sharing agreement, was incorporated into the transitional government structure, with its commander, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (commonly known as Hemeti), serving as deputy chairman of the TSC.

In 2020, there were several incidents in which violent actors attempted to derail the transition. In January, a shootout broke out in Khartoum between former officers of al-Bashir’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) and members of the current General Intelligence Service (GIS). Authorities accused former NISS director Salah Gosh of orchestrating the clashes. In March, Prime Minister Hamdok survived an assassination attempt in the capital. In September, the attorney general announced that between mid-August and early September, RSF officers had seized large amounts of explosives and arrested 41 people while dismantling an alleged terrorist cell.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 1.001 4.004

The interim constitution commits Sudan to a plural, decentralized political system in which citizens are free to exercise their rights without discrimination based on race, religion, gender, regional affiliation, or other such grounds. This vision had yet to be implemented as of 2020.

Women played an influential role in the 2019 protest movement and have since demanded greater representation at all levels of government. Two women were named to the TSC in August 2019, though the vast majority of council members and other senior officeholders are men. One woman on the council, Raja Nicola Abdulmessih, is a member of the Coptic Christian minority. Prime Minister Hamdok’s cabinet includes four women. In July 2020, the prime minister named two women to serve as state governors. Women are guaranteed 40 percent of the seats on the TLC, which had yet to be formed in 2020.

LGBT+ people remain politically marginalized given the continued criminalization of same-sex sexual activity.

C Functioning of Government

C1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 0.000 4.004

While the transitional government includes civilian leaders, it remains unelected. The TSC is chaired by a military officer, and the cabinet’s defense and interior ministers are selected by the TSC’s military members. In July 2020, Prime Minister Hamdok replaced the military governors of Sudan’s 18 states with civilian appointees.

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 0.000 4.004

The transitional government had yet to establish an anticorruption commission as of 2020, but it has begun efforts to track down and recover national assets that were stolen by members of al-Bashir’s regime. The former president himself was convicted on corruption charges, including receiving illegal funds from Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, and sentenced to two years in a reform institution in December 2019.

However, other members of al-Bashir’s regime who engaged in corrupt activities have escaped scrutiny. These include senior security officials who sold the services of their troops to foreign powers for use in the ongoing civil war in Yemen. RSF commander Hemeti’s rise to high office has been aided by a personal fortune gained through the forcible acquisition of gold mines and other assets.

C3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 0.000 4.004

President al-Bashir’s regime lacked transparency before its overthrow, running large off-budget accounts and reserving most of the formal budget for opaque security institutions. In his early engagements with foreign creditors in 2019, Prime Minister Hamdok pledged greater transparency, robust budget management, and an overhaul of the civil service, though these efforts had get to gain traction in 2020.

The interim constitution requires members of the TSC and TLC, the cabinet, and governors to file disclosures about their personal assets, but there are no clear mechanisms for enforcement, and compliance is reportedly poor in practice.

Add Q
Is the government or occupying power deliberately changing the ethnic composition of a country or territory so as to destroy a culture or tip the political balance in favor of another group? -2.00-2

Former president al-Bashir faces outstanding arrest warrants from the ICC on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Darfur, where an insurgency by members of local ethnic minority groups began in 2003. During peace talks in February 2020, the government reached an agreement with Darfuri rebel groups to turn over to the ICC the five Sudanese suspects accused of war crimes, including al-Bashir. Prime Minister Hamdok reaffirmed this position in August. In June, Ali Kushayb, one of the five suspects, voluntarily surrendered in the Central African Republic. The Sudanese government welcomed and met with ICC representatives in Khartoum in October, but al-Bashir and other suspects remained in Sudanese custody at year’s end.

In October 2020, the government signed the Juba Peace Agreement with the SRF alliance and another rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) Minni Minnawi faction. The peace deal, which was meant to end ethnic insurgencies and alleged government war crimes in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States as well as in Darfur, included provisions for a special court for war crimes, the integration of rebels into the security forces and political institutions, economic and land rights, and the creation of a fund to address social and economic marginalization in the conflict areas and support the return of displaced persons. In November, General al-Burhan signed a decree granting general amnesty to the leaders and fighters of the SRF and the SLA Minni Minawi. Other rebel groups in the country were negotiating separately or rejected the peace talks, and some Darfur residents protested the Juba pact, arguing that they were not consulted and that it did not address their needs.

Despite the negotiations, localized ethnic or communal conflict increased across Sudan in 2020. Dozens of people were killed in outbreaks of fighting in West Darfur in January and July, prompting the prime minister to promise to send security forces to the region. Also in July, militias connected with security forces attacked an internally displaced persons (IDPs) camp in North Darfur, killing nine and injuring 20. Amnesty International reported in December that from July to September in Central, North, and West Darfur States, more than 70 people were killed, almost 80 were injured, and houses and businesses were looted and destroyed. According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 8,000 people were displaced during the same time period in Central Darfur. In October, fighting in South Darfur State resulted in dozens of deaths and the displacement of some 4,500 people.

In Red Sea State, in the country’s east, fighting between members of the Nuba and Beni Amer ethnic groups in August resulted in at least 34 deaths. In October, members of the Beja community protested against the interim governor, a member of the Beni Amer community, who was subsequently dismissed. Following the dismissal, communal clashes in the cities of Port Sudan and Suakin resulted in the deaths of six Beja members. Subsequent Beni Amer protests turned violent, and security officers opened fire, killing seven people and injuring 19. Ethnic clashes increased in South Kordofan as well. In May, fighting in Kadugli resulted in 26 deaths and injuries to 19 people. The Human Rights and Development Organization (HUDO) reported increased killings and robberies in the state during the year.

In response to local conflicts, the government deployed additional security forces, imposed curfews, and engaged in peacebuilding initiatives. The United Nations reported that there were more than 2.5 million IDPs in Sudan at the end of the year.

CL Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there free and independent media? 1.001 4.004

The interim constitution guarantees freedom of the press, and the transitional government has pledged to draft legislation that increases protections for journalists. However, a number of repressive statutes—including a 2007 information offenses law, the 2009 press law, and the 2010 national security law—are still in effect, and the government in July 2020 amended the 2018 Law on Combating Cybercrimes to increase the prison sentences for crimes such as disseminating false information.

Journalists have expressed concern that individuals connected with al-Bashir’s regime retained positions at media outlets in the country, and key newspapers continued to be closely affiliated with former officials and other political parties. In January 2020, the government committee tasked with recovering assets from the former ruling party suspended the newspapers Al-Rai al-Am and Al-Sudani and the television channels Ashorooq and Teiba. In December 2020, more than 80 state media workers were fired for their alleged loyalty to al-Bashir’s regime.

Intelligence officers no longer raid and censor newspapers or interfere with printing presses, and institutional censorship in general has declined. However, in July 2020 the military announced that it had appointed a commissioner to bring legal cases against online journalists who insult the armed forces. Journalists reportedly received threats that they would be prosecuted if they did not stop criticizing the military and delete critical reports. In May, two reporters were harassed by intelligence officers in North Darfur State for investigating and reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic.

D2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 2.002 4.004

Sudan’s population is mostly Muslim, with a small Christian minority. Under al-Bashir, Christians were persecuted and churches were shuttered, often under the pretext that they lacked appropriate permits. The 2019 interim constitution guarantees freedom of worship and does not give Islam an official status. The new TSC pledged to issue clear guidelines for those seeking permission to build new churches, and Christians welcomed the appointment of a Coptic Christian judge to one of the TSC’s civilian seats. Also in 2019, the transitional government repealed the Public Order Act, which had been used to punish both Muslims and non-Muslims for public behaviors that were deemed indecent or immoral according to the official interpretation of Sunni Islam.

Legal reforms continued in 2020, and in July the government adopted the Miscellaneous Amendments Act, which repealed the criminalization of apostasy, abolished corporal punishment for blasphemy, and permitted non-Muslims to trade and consume alcohol, among other provisions.

Score Change: The score improved from 1 to 2 because the government continued to repeal long-standing legislation that had restricted religious freedom, including laws criminalizing apostasy.

D3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 2.002 4.004

Al-Bashir’s government regularly interfered with education and worked to suppress dissent on university campuses, using increasingly violent tactics as students became involved with the protest movement that began in late 2018. After the TSC’s creation in mid-2019, university students demanded the dismantling of student groups loyal to al-Bashir, the withdrawal of security forces from campuses, and the departure of administrators tied to the former government. In response, the transitional authorities moved to disband NCP groups in higher education and dismissed 28 university chancellors and 35 vice chancellors, many of whom were affiliated with the NCP. The administrators were then replaced with more independent figures. Since campuses reopened in October 2019, after being shuttered early that year, student unions have held elections for their new leaders, and a variety of student groups have been able to organize and hold meetings.

Score Change: The score improved from 1 to 2 due to a reduction in violence and intimidation on university campuses since 2019, the ongoing replacement of university officials and student union leaders who were loyal to the former regime with more independent figures, and a related increase in open debate and activism among students.

D4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 2.002 4.004

The interim constitution affirms the right to privacy, including citizens’ right to engage in private correspondence without interference. The transitional government has begun to dismantle the surveillance apparatus associated with the former regime, notably by replacing the NISS with the GIS—which has narrower powers and responsibilities—in 2019. However, the government’s decision to increase penalties for disseminating false information and other such offenses in July 2020, and the military’s threats to take legal action in response to online insults, raised new doubts about the authorities’ commitment to freedom of personal expression. Ongoing violence by security forces and nonstate actors during the year also served to deter unfettered discussion and criticism among ordinary citizens.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 1.001 4.004

The security forces repeatedly used lethal violence to suppress protests during the movement to oust al-Bashir. The TSC reaffirmed the right to assemble in the interim constitution, and citizens regularly participated in demonstrations during 2020, calling for more rapid democratic reforms, the advancement of women’s rights, accountability for a June 2019 massacre of protesters in Khartoum, and the appointment of civilian state governors, among other demands. In addition, local committees of citizens across the country organized protests to highlight governance problems in their respective areas, and supporters of the former regime protested against reforms that they said were anti-Islamic.

The authorities imposed some restrictions on large gatherings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and security forces repeatedly use tear gas and live ammunition to break up demonstrations, though the violence was less extreme and caused fewer deaths than in previous years. In June, for example, police used force to disperse a march calling for a faster pace of reforms, and one person was killed. In July, security forces disrupted a sit-in in North Darfur State, killing one person and injuring a dozen others. In August, neighborhood resistance committees launched demonstrations throughout Khartoum that led to clashes with police and the arrest of 77 people. In October, security officers in Kassala State opened fire on protesters demonstrating against the removal of the interim governor, killing seven and injuring 19.

Score Change: The score improved from 0 to 1 because the authorities’ use of force and administrative restrictions against protesters was less severe than in previous years.

E2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 2.002 4.004

Under al-Bashir, international and domestic nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), faced serious legal and administrative obstacles or were banned from operating altogether. Upon taking office, the transitional government signaled a loosening of restrictions on civil society, though it had yet to introduce a new NGO law as of 2020. Local NGOs report being able to register, and organizations that had operated in exile continue to return to and register in Sudan. International humanitarian entities that had been denied access to conflict zones under al-Bashir have similarly been allowed to resume some activities since the second half of 2019.

E3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 1.001 4.004

Independent trade unions were largely absent under al-Bashir; his government banned them after taking power in 1989, and instead co-opted the Sudan Workers’ Trade Unions Federation (SWTUF). The independent SPA, founded in late 2016, was instrumental in the protest movement that led to al-Bashir’s ouster, and it has since played a role in the transitional government, with one of its members named to the TSC.

The interim constitution affirmed workers’ right to form and join trade unions. However, as part of the transitional government’s efforts to dismantle the former ruling party and affiliated institutions, it dissolved the SWTUF and the Sudan Journalists Union in late 2019. The International Trade Union Confederation’s Africa branch criticized the decision as a violation of freedom of association.

F Rule of Law

F1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 1.001 4.004

The interim constitution envisages the establishment of an independent judiciary to replace the politically influenced judiciary of the al-Bashir era. The first senior appointments were announced in October 2019, following large protests calling for an acceleration of judicial reform. The new chief justice appointed that month, Nemat Abdullah Khair, became the first woman to hold the position in Sudan’s history. The replacement of incumbent judicial officials continued during 2020. In August, the government committee tasked with dismantling the former regime dismissed 151 judges and 21 prosecutors.

F2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 0.000 4.004

The interim constitution called for the establishment of a new public prosecutor’s office, and Taj al-Ser Ali al-Hebr was appointed to lead it in October 2019. In addition to the prosecution of former president al-Bashir, the office prosecuted 27 members of the security forces for the detention and killing of a schoolteacher in February 2019, obtaining death sentences against them in late December of that year.

Although the interim constitution enshrines the right to due process, it also contains a provision allowing the government to invoke emergency powers and suspend parts of the document. In practice, security forces continued to engage in arbitrary arrests and detentions during 2020, including in response to protests.

In one high-profile case in August, the authorities arrested and charged 11 artists, including filmmaker Hajooj Kuka, with creating a public disturbance while rehearsing a play—and by chanting prodemocracy slogans at the police station once in custody. The artists reported beatings and other mistreatment in detention, and five of them were sentenced to two months in jail and fines in September, but an appeals court ordered all 11 released in October.

F3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 0.000 4.004

Torture and abuse of prisoners was rampant under al-Bashir and intensified as antigovernment protests gathered momentum in 2019. Civilians were frequently victims of deadly violence during the final months of al-Bashir’s rule and the period of military rule after his ouster. In July 2019, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors reported that 246 people had been killed and more than 1,300 had been wounded since the start of the protest movement in December 2018, with most deaths attributed to the security forces.

To date, almost none of the perpetrators of these attacks have been held to account, though eight RSF members were arrested in August 2019 for their involvement in the June massacre of protesters in Khartoum. In September of that year, Prime Minister Hamdok announced the creation of an independent committee to investigate the incident; the findings had not been published as of 2020.

A series of legal amendments adopted by the transitional government in July 2020 banned forced confessions and the “infliction of torture” on suspects, prohibited the death penalty for defendants under age 18, and abolished the penalty of flogging for some criminal offenses, although flogging and other forms of corporal punishment were still prescribed for other crimes.

Despite the October 2020 Juba Peace Agreement, civilians in Sudan continued to suffer from the effects of armed conflict and related lawlessness, and some rebel factions refused to participate in the peace talks. Scores of people were killed and many more were displaced by the rise in communal violence in several parts of the country during the year.

F4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 0.000 4.004

Successive governments in Sudan have neglected or abused populations living in the periphery of the country, particularly non-Arab ethnic minority communities, sparking uprisings that were met with indiscriminate force. The 2019 interim constitution commits the transitional government to upholding the human rights of all citizens without discrimination and ensuring their equal treatment under the law. The charter also calls for accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of human rights. The peace deal signed in October 2020 includes provisions to establish a transitional justice commission, a special court to deal with crimes committed in Darfur, and a 10-year, $750 million fund to address social and economic marginalization in the conflict areas and support the return of displaced persons. Implementation of these measures remained uncertain at year’s end.

Despite guarantees of equal treatment in the interim constitution and some legal improvements adopted as part of the July 2020 reforms, women continued to face disadvantages in many areas of the law, and perpetrators of widespread crimes against women—including during armed conflicts—have generally enjoyed impunity. Same-sex sexual relations are illegal in Sudan, though the July reforms eliminated flogging and execution as potential punishments. Official and societal discrimination against LGBT+ people remains common.

In 2020, the Sudanese government kept its borders open to allow the entry of Ethiopian refugees fleeing the conflict in that country’s Tigray region; as of November, according to UN officials, there were more than 43,000 such refugees in Sudan.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 1.001 4.004

The 2019 interim constitution affirms freedom of movement and the right to travel—including overseas—for all citizens, but these rights are still impeded in practice by state security forces and other armed groups across the country, including those engaged in clashes between ethnic communities in 2020. Most of the estimated 2.5 million IDPs in Sudan at year’s end were concentrated in the long-standing conflict areas of Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile State.

While some temporary travel restrictions were imposed during 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government removed long-standing legal constraints on travel as part of the July 2020 reform package. The legislation abolished the need for exit permits as well as a rule that had required women to obtain permission from a male guardian in order to travel abroad with children.

Score Change: The score improved from 0 to 1 due to the abolition of exit permits and a rule that had required women to obtain a male guardian’s consent to travel abroad with their children.

G2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 1.001 4.004

Weak land rights have been a chronic driver of conflict in Sudan. In a succession of opaque deals, al-Bashir’s regime leased large parcels of arable land to foreign countries for export crop production. In some cases, local populations were forced from their land or had their water supplies depleted.

The 2019 interim constitution guarantees the right to own property and protects citizens from expropriation by the state without compensation. The government has stated its intention to address land-related grievances, but property seizures by security forces and communal conflicts over land rights continue to be reported.

Women are denied equal rights to property and inheritance under laws based on Sharia (Islamic law) and through discriminatory customary practices.

G3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 1.001 4.004

Sharia-based laws deny women equal rights in marriage and divorce. Among other restrictions, a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim man. Extramarital sex is prohibited, and those convicted of adultery can face flogging or the death penalty. Child marriage is not outlawed, and roughly a third of adult women married before reaching the age of 18.

In 2019, the transitional government repealed the Public Order Act, which had been used in part to punish women for dress or behavior that was deemed indecent. The legal reforms adopted in July 2020 included a provision that criminalized female genital mutilation, which is prevalent among the vast majority of women in Sudan. The first charges under the new law were reported in November.

Sexual violence against women remains a major problem. In March 2020, the government signed a framework of cooperation with the United Nations on preventing and addressing conflict-related sexual violence.

Score Change: The score improved from 0 to 1 due to legislative changes since 2019 that supported women’s social freedoms, including the repeal of a public order law that facilitated enforcement of dress codes and the enactment of a ban on female genital mutilation.

G4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 0.000 4.004

Bleak economic conditions, mass unemployment, and high prices for basic goods were among the root causes of the revolution that helped topple al-Bashir’s regime in 2019. Prime Minister Hamdok’s government voiced a commitment to reversing these trends, though the economy worsened in 2020. In September, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a 12-month program to support the government in its efforts to eliminate large fuel subsidies, increase spending for health and social programs, increase its tax base, reduce corruption, and improve the business environment.

The transitional government took early steps to clamp down on hazardous practices and working conditions in the gold-mining sector. In 2019, it announced a ban on the use of cyanide and mercury in gold extraction, following protests in mining areas in South Kordofan that resulted in a heavy-handed response from the RSF. Despite the transitional government’s statements and actions regarding labor exploitation, senior military figures who hold positions in the TSC power structure have profited from illicit economic activities, including mining and smuggling operations.

Migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and IDPs remain especially vulnerable to exploitation, including by criminal networks engaged in human trafficking. Some armed groups in the country have allegedly recruited children as fighters.

On Sudan

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  • Global Freedom Score

    17 100 not free
  • Internet Freedom Score

    30 100 not free