Sudan

Not Free
10
100
PR Political Rights 0 40
CL Civil Liberties 10 60
Last Year's Score & Status
17 100 Not Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.

header1 Overview

After military commanders and a prodemocracy protest movement ousted the repressive regime of longtime president Omar al-Bashir and his National Congress Party (NCP) in 2019, Sudan was ruled by a transitional government in which military and civilian leaders agreed to share power until national elections could be held. The government began to enact reforms, and space for the exercise of civil liberties slowly opened. However, the process was thrown into turmoil in late 2021 when the military leadership dissolved the transitional government in a coup and cracked down on the ensuing prodemocracy protests. Throughout the transition period, violence involving security forces, other armed groups, and rival ethnic communities has persisted in many parts of the country.

header2 Key Developments in 2021

  • In October, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, commander of the SAF and chairman of the Transitional Sovereign Council (TSC), declared a state of emergency and dissolved the transitional government that had been in place since the overthrow of Omar al-Bashir’s regime in 2019. The SAF detained civilian prime minister Abdulla Hamdok and several other government ministers and advisors.
  • On November 21, Hamdok was reinstated as prime minister after signing an agreement with al-Burhan. The November 21 agreement provided for the release of political detainees, a new technocratic government, and the restructuring of a committee tasked with recovering public assets stolen by the former regime. The country’s main civilian political coalition, the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), was excluded from both the new government and the TSC, of which al-Burhan remained the chairman.
  • Violence by the authorities against protesters increased from the October coup through the end of the year, with security forces killing 53 anticoup protesters and injuring hundreds more. Security forces also obstructed demonstrators’ access to medical care by arresting doctors and patients, firing tear gas into hospitals, and blocking access to ambulances and health facilities. To prevent demonstrations, authorities shut down the internet, blocked bridges and roads in Khartoum, arrested organizers, and outlawed labor unions that played a leading role in the prodemocracy movement.
  • Intercommunal ethnic violence, especially in the Darfur region, increased throughout the year. UN agencies reported that between January and August, hundreds of people were killed and nearly 500,000 people were newly displaced as a result of such violence. Displacement levels in Darfur in 2021 were eight times higher than those in the previous year.

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

On October 25, 2021, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, commander of the SAF and chairman of the TSC, declared a state of emergency and dissolved the transitional government that had been in place since the overthrow of Omar al-Bashir’s regime in 2019. The SAF detained civilian prime minister Abdulla Hamdok and several other government ministers and advisors. On November 11, al-Burhan reconstituted the Sovereign Council, with himself as chair, including old members, new members, and Juba Peace Agreement (JPA) signatories in the body. On November 21, Hamdok was reinstated as prime minister after signing an agreement with al-Burhan that provided for the release of political detainees, a new technocratic government, and the restructuring of the Empowerment Removal Committee (ERC). However, it also retains the Sovereign Council’s “oversight” role in government and excluded the civilian political coalition, the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), from participating in the Sovereign Council. These provisions allow the military and al-Burhan to maintain significant control over the transitional government.

The FFC and Sudanese across the country rejected the November 21 agreement, protesting to demand a full civilian government. Additionally, 12 ministers resigned in protest.

Following the coup, General al-Burhan dismissed multiple government ministers, replacing them with caretaker deputy ministers. He also replaced multiple state governors. In December 2021, Prime Minister Hamdok issued decrees to replace many of those caretaker officials but could not garner the political consensus to appoint a full cabinet.

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. The transitional constitution called for a 300-seat Transitional Legislative Council (TLC), which was to hold office until elections could be held. The TLC was not formed prior to the October 2021 coup and remained unformed at the end of the year.

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

In September 2021, the Ministry of Justice presented and held public consultations on a draft electoral commission law. The draft law set forth the commission’s powers, membership, and legal and administrative responsibilities, including the drafting of and consultations on electoral law. However, the draft law was not passed, and an electoral commission was not created prior to the October coup.

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 guaranteed the right to form political parties, subject to legal regulation. Security forces arrested procivilian political party and FFC leaders and members following the October 2021 coup, including the heads of the Sudanese Congress Party and the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party—Omar al-Diqir and Ali al-Rih al-Sanhoury—and a leader in the Umma Party, Siddiq al-Sadiq al-Mahdi. Released in December, some party leaders were held incommunicado and may have experienced torture. Also in December, unidentified assailants fired tear gas to break up an FFC public meeting to discuss plans to counter the coup.

In 2019 and 2020, transitional authorities arrested high-ranking NCP members associated with the former regime, disbanded the NCP, and established a committee to seize its assets. Following the 2021 coup, several former NCP leaders, Islamists, and al-Bashir allies were released from detention.

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? 0.000 4.004

General al-Burhan dissolved the TSC and transitional government in the October 2021 coup, and security forces detained more than 100 government ministers and advisors and procivilian political party and FFC leaders. He later reconstituted the Sovereign Council with himself as chairman and extended its oversight authority. The November 21 agreement led to the release of opposition leaders from detention but excluded the civilian political coalition FFC from governing arrangements.

Score Change: The score declined from 1 to 0 because the military seized control of the country’s transitional government in a coup.

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? 0.000 4.004

The October 2021 coup was led by the SAF and supported by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and leaders of armed movements that had signed the JPA. International media organizations reported that General al-Burhan spoke with Egyptian officials prior to the coup, seeking their support for the military takeover. It followed a coup attempt on September 21, 2021, when soldiers loyal to the former regime tried to seize control of the state media building.

Score Change: The score declined from 1 to 0 because the military seized control of the country’s transitional government in a coup.

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 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.

Women played an influential role in the 2019 protest movement and have since demanded greater representation at all levels of government and in peace negotiations. Although two women were named to the TSC in August 2019, one resigned in May 2021 protesting military dominance in the Council.

LGBT+ people remain politically marginalized and same-sex sexual relations is still criminalized.

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

In October 2021, General al-Burhan staged a coup, dissolved the TSC and transitional government, and detained Prime Minister Hamdok and several government ministers and advisors. Following the coup, local and regional government officials were removed and replaced, and General al-Burhan reconstituted the Sovereign Council with himself as chair. Although Prime Minister Hamdok was later released, reinstated, and attempted to replace officials appointed by the coup leaders, the military continued to control the government at the end of the year. The TLC has yet to be formed.

Per the JPA, in April 2021, Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) leader Minni Minawi was appointed governor of the Darfur region.

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

Sudan is a signatory to but has not ratified the UN Convention Against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption. Transparency International (TI) ranked Sudan 164 of 179 countries in its 2021 global Corruption Perceptions Index.

Following the October 2021 coup, General al-Burhan suspended the ERC, which was created by transitional authorities to investigate financial crimes by former regime officials and their supporters and recover stolen assets, and arrested several of its members. In addition, he established a committee to review and receive the funds recovered by the Empowerment and Removal Committee.

Before the 2021 coup, the ERC froze 500 bank accounts and recovered approximately $140 million in assets from persons accused of money laundering, currency trading, and tax evasion. Other members of al-Bashir’s regime, who engaged in corrupt activities, have escaped scrutiny and use their senior government positions to enrich themselves.

In April 2021, the TSC approved the Anti-Corruption National Commission Law that sets forth an anticorruption commission’s powers, membership, differences to the Empowerment Removal Committee, and legal and administrative responsibilities, including the drafting of and consultations for anticorruption laws and directives. In September, the minister of justice issued an open invitation for nominations to the commission, though it was not established prior to the coup.

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

The interim constitution required 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.

ADDITIONAL DISCRETIONARY POLITICAL RIGHTS QUESTION:

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 / 0

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. The transitional government reached an agreement with Darfuri rebel groups in February 2020 to turn over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) five Sudanese suspects accused of war crimes, including al-Bashir, and signed the Juba Peace Agreement with the SRF alliance and another rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) Minni Minnawi faction. In August, the ICC and the transitional government signed a Memorandum of Understanding that allows the international body to open an office in Sudan. Terms for al-Bashir’s extradition to The Hague were in discussion at the end of 2021.

The October 2020 Juba Peace Agreement, which was meant to end ethnic insurgencies and alleged government war crimes in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States as well as in Darfur, includes provisions to establish a transitional justice commission, a special court for war crimes, economic and land rights, integration of rebels into security forces and political institutions, 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 the end of 2021. Prior to the October 2021 coup, the transitional government continued negotiations with the Sudan’s People Liberation Movement-North around issues of unification of their armed forces, ethnic and religious diversity, minority rights, government decentralization, and a secular state. In July 2021, the Council of Ministers approved a draft bill on the Darfur governance system as a Darfur region as opposed to five states.

However, localized ethnic or communal conflict increased across Sudan in 2021. The UN reported 152 documented security incidents between May and August, with the most significant intercommunal clashes and incidents of violence (including sexual violence) occurring between local citizens or displaced persons and rival tribes, RSF soldiers, or government-affiliated militias in North and South Darfur, and South and West Kordofan. In Darfur, fighting also broke out between the SLA and RSF, as well as between SLA factions. UN agencies reported that between January and August, hundreds of people were killed and approximately 410,000 people were newly displaced (mostly in Darfur), a six-fold increase from the same time period in 2020. Violence further escalated between October and December, with hundreds more people killed or injured and more than 83,000 people newly displaced. Displacement levels in Darfur in 2021 were eight times higher than those in 2020.

In response to local conflicts, the government deployed additional security forces, declared states of emergencies, imposed curfews, and engaged in peacebuilding initiatives. In June, the transitional government announced a new National Plan for Protection of Civilians.

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 pledged to draft legislation that increases protections for journalists. In August 2021, the Ministry of Culture and Information published draft media reform laws for public consultations. The draft laws address the creation of a commission to support and protect the right to information; the independence of journalists and media organizations; the establishment of a Press Council to protect press freedom and oversee professionalism; and the creation of a Board of Governors of the Radio and Television Corporation. The draft laws were not approved prior to the October 2021 coup and their future remained unclear at the end of the year.

However, throughout 2021, security officers assaulted and arrested journalists and suspended publications under the guise that they violated the criminal code by inciting violence or committing “crimes against the state.” Others were arrested for defaming public officials. Attacks on the press escalated in September, when the Press and Publications Council suspended Al-Intibaha and Al-Sayha newspapers for three days after they published announcements about planned protests in eastern Sudan. The council accused the newspapers of inciting violence or war. One day later, police arrested Otaf Abdelwahab Altom, journalist and director of Al-Naba Center for Press Services, claiming he undermined the constitutional system and waged war against the state; he was being held incommunicado at the end of the year. The Empowerment Removal Committee also dismissed 79 employees of the Sudan News Agency in September, for their connections to the former regime.

Following the October 2021 coup, the Sudanese Journalists Association reported that coup leaders arrested journalists, shut down radio news outlets’ broadcasting stations, and harassed editors, pressuring them to abstain from critical reporting.

The 2018 Law on Combating Cybercrimes increased the prison sentences for crimes such as disseminating false information remains in effect.

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. The 2019 interim constitution guarantees freedom of worship and does not give Islam an official status. The 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. 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.

In 2020, the transitional 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.

D3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 1.001 4.004

Following the October 2021 coup, authorities arrested deans and professors at al-Gezira University who had criticized the military takeover. In addition, security forces attacked student protesters on university campuses. In November, several universities closed their campuses and suspended classes, citing political instability.

In 2019, 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 replaced with more independent figures.

Score Change: The score declined from 2 to 1 because universities closed due to the coup, and students and teachers opposing the coup were attacked.

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? 1.001 4.004

The interim constitution affirmed the right to freedom of expression and privacy, including citizens’ right to engage in private correspondence without interference. The transitional government began to dismantle the surveillance apparatus associated with the former regime, notably by replacing the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) with the General Intelligence Service (GIS)—which has more restricted powers and responsibilities—in 2019. The transitional government increased penalties for disseminating false information and other such offenses in July 2020, and officials have arrested and harassed activists for critical speech. In March 2021, activist Waad Bahjat was sentenced to a six-month suspended prison sentence and fined 10,000 Sudanese pounds ($22) after being found guilty of “public annoyance” and “use of criminal force.” She had been arrested in November 2020 after she livestreamed video on her Facebook page documenting women being harassed by police and SAF soldiers. She was initially charged with defamation, insult to a public servant exercising judicial proceeding, publishing false news, and public nuisance under the Sudanese Criminal Act of 1991, though some of these charges were dropped.

After the October 2021 coup, General al-Burhan issued a December decree expanding security forces’ and intelligence agencies’ powers to conduct home raids, surveil citizens, and detain suspects. Neighborhood Resistance Committees (NRCs) and human rights groups have claimed that the decree violates citizens’ rights to privacy and due process.

Ongoing violent conflict by security forces and nonstate actors during 2021 also served to deter unfettered discussion and criticism of the government among ordinary citizens.

Score Change: The score declined from 2 to 1 due to increased targeting of activists expressing antimilitary or anticoup sentiments.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 0.000 4.004

The TSC reaffirmed the right to assemble in the interim constitution, and citizens regularly participated in demonstrations during 2021, calling for more rapid democratic reforms, the advancement of women’s rights, accountability for a June 2019 massacre of protesters in Khartoum, and more.

However, security forces repeatedly used tear gas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition to break up demonstrations in 2021. In May 2021, army soldiers used excessive force to break up protests at the military headquarters demanding action against perpetrators of the June 3 massacre, killing two and injuring at least 28 others. Violence by the authorities increased following the October coup, when NRCs began to organize regular countrywide demonstrations against the military takeover and demand civilian rule. From October 25 through December, security forces killed 53 protesters and injured hundreds more. Women protesting reported being raped by security officers. Security forces also blocked demonstrators’ access to medical care, including by arresting doctors and patients, shooting tear gas into hospitals, and blocking access to ambulances and hospitals. To prevent demonstrations, authorities shut down the internet, blocked bridges and roads in Khartoum, arrested organizers, and banned unions to prevent them from organizing.

Sit-ins across the Darfur region were common in 2021, as citizens protested ongoing violence in that region, attacks on internally displaced persons (IDPs), and lack of government support. Security forces routinely responded to these acts of protest with excessive and disproportionate violence. For example, in April, joint security forces in Belil used excessive force to break up a sit-in calling for improved governance; one woman was killed and eight injured as a result of the violence.

In East Sudan, demonstrators engaged in months-long protests in 2021 demanding more political and economic reforms for the region and a new negotiated Eastern Sudan Track of the Juba Peace Agreement. The protesters blocked highways, closed ports, and temporarily shut the oil pipeline. The highway blockage was lifted following the October 2021 coup.

Score Change: The score declined from 1 to 0 because the authorities used lethal force to disperse protests before the October coup and sought to repress prodemocracy protests afterwards, including via a communications blackout and by firing live rounds into crowds.

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

The transitional government has loosened the restrictions and impediments placed on civil society organizations during the al-Bashir regime. Local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are able to register, and organizations that had operated in exile are able 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. However, following the October 2021 coup, NGOs have reportedly been increasingly surveilled.

Though the outgoing minister of labor and social development issued a series of regulations in February 2021 that restricted the work of civil society organizations registered under the Sudan Voluntary and Humanitarian Works Act of 2006, the new minister suspended their enforcement a month later until a new legal framework was drafted and approved.

E3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 0.000 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 Sudanese Professionals Association (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. In June 2021, the TSC approved the Trade Unions Law of 2021, after months of consultations, which lays the groundwork for union organizing. As part of the transitional government’s efforts to dismantle the former ruling party and affiliated institutions, it controversially dissolved the SWTUF and the Sudan Journalists Union in late 2019. In February 2021, the World Federation of Trade Unions condemned the arrest and detention of union leaders and the creation of government-appointed steering committees to oversee union affairs.

However, following the October 2021 coup, General al-Burhan dissolved all trade unions and professional associations to limit their organizing capabilities. Multiple union and association leaders were detained and assaulted during anticoup protests.

Score Change: The score declined from 1 to 0 due to the systematic targeting of unions by the military following the coup.

F Rule of Law

F1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 0.000 4.004

The interim constitution envisaged the establishment of an independent judiciary to replace the politically influenced judiciary of the al-Bashir era. In May 2021, the TSC removed Chief Justice Nemat Abdullah Khair and accepted the resignation of Attorney General Taj al-Ser Ali al-Hebr, who complained of a lack of independence. That month, the ERC removed more than 20 public prosecutors from office.

Following the October 2021 coup, General al-Burhan replaced the acting public prosecutor and chief justice with former NCP officials. Al-Burhan’s replacement head judge, Chief Justice Abdulaziz Fath al-Rahman Abdeen, issued a directive in December ordering the reinstatement of all judges dismissed by the ERC.

Score Change: The score declined from 1 to 0 due to the removal of the acting public prosecutor and Chief Justice with former NCP officials following the coup.

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

Although the interim constitution enshrined the right to due process, it also contained a provision allowing the government to invoke emergency powers and suspend some due process rights. In practice, security forces continued to engage in arbitrary arrests and detentions during 2021, including after the October coup and related protests. Political detainees, activists, and journalists were held incommunicado without access to legal representation and were likely subject to torture and inhumane treatment.

The interim constitution called for the establishment of a new public prosecutor’s office, though the public prosecutor appointed in 2019 resigned in May 2021. In August, the new public prosecutor issued Circular No. 1 (2021), a directive that outlines measures to protect witnesses, victims, and others involved in serious criminal cases. Under this directive prosecutors are advised to use pseudonyms for witnesses and victims, include psychiatrists in sensitive interviews, and provide witnesses security if necessary.

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

In 2020, the transitional government 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. In August 2021, it ratified the UN Convention Against Torture and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. Court cases to hold perpetrators of state violence accountable continued or were resolved in 2021, and a few leaders of the police force responsible for allowing violence against protesters were dismissed throughout the year.

However, demonstrators protesting the October coup were violently repressed and detained by security forces. Political detainees released following the November 21 agreement to restore the transitional government reported being tortured or experiencing inhumane treatment while in detention. An advisor to former prime minister Hamdok, Faisal Saleh, reported he was held in solitary confinement in a military prison.

In September 2019, Prime Minister Hamdok announced the creation of an independent committee to investigate the June 3 Massacre of 2019; this committee was dissolved following the coup.

Despite the Juba Peace Agreement, civilians continue to be killed and tens of thousands of people were displaced by violence in several parts of the country throughout 2021. Controversies about the disposal of the bodies of victims of ethnic violence were pressing political issues, as mass graves were discovered in Central Darfur in July, following the discovery of other mass graves in Khartoum in 2020. Hundreds of decomposed bodies were found in morgues in April 2021; some believe they are the bodies of people who disappeared during the December Revolution of 2018. In response, the National Commission for Human Rights and the public prosecutor’s office both formed investigative committees.

In September and October 2021, security officials cracked down on Islamic State (IS)– affiliated cells in Khartoum, arresting militants and seizing weapons.

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

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.

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. The transitional government in April 2021 ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women but failed to endorse provisions recognizing equality in marriage, divorce, and parenting.

Same-sex relations are illegal in Sudan, though 2020 reforms eliminated flogging and execution as potential punishments under an antisodomy law that is used to target LGBT+ people. Discrimination against LGBT+ people remains common. In 2021, the Sudanese government continued welcome refugees; the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that the country hosted more than 1.1 million refugees as of September 2021.

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. Most of the more than 3 million IDPs in Sudan as of July 31, 2021, were concentrated in the long-standing conflict areas of Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile State.

In 2020, the transitional government abolished the need for exit permits, as well as a rule that had required women to obtain permission from a male guardian to travel abroad with 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

Although the transitional government ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in April 2021, it failed to endorse provisions recognizing equality in marriage, divorce, and parenting, which Sharia-based laws deny women. 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 were married as minors.

In 2019, the transitional government repealed the Public Order Act, which had been used in part to punish women for dress or behavior deemed indecent. However, the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa, an Indigenous African women’s rights advocacy group, reported in September 2021 that women continued to be punished for “morality transgressions.”

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. A UN report released in August 2021 claimed there were high numbers of incidents of domestic and sexual violence in households; family sexual violence against women, in informal jobs, displaced and refugee women outside of camps, children in Quranic schools, and people with disabilities; forced, arranged, and child marriages; female genital mutilation (FGM); and restricted access to financial resources and educational opportunities. In 2020, the transitional government criminalized FGM.

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. In 2020, 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. Though the country officially met the requirements to receive debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC) in June 2021, international financial institutions paused assistance to the Sudanese government after the October 2021 coup, including $500 million from the World Bank and $150 million from the IMF.

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 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. In August 2021, the Sudanese government launched the 2021–23 National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking.

On Sudan

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  • Global Freedom Score

    10 100 not free
  • Internet Freedom Score

    33 100 not free