LRWC Sudan Country Report: April 2005

Morris, Catherine BA, LLB, LLM

Republic of Sudan

Sudan was much in the news in 2004 as the world’s media attention was focussed on the crisis in Darfur, Sudan, which is very conservatively estimated to have killed more than 70,000 people and displaced at least two million others.[ii] Escalation of armed fighting between the government and insurgent movements[iii] in the Darfur region has been occurring since early 2003. The UN has found that the government is responsible for attacks by government-supported Arab Janjaweed militia against the ethnically-African civilian populations in the Darfur region.[iv] A UN Security Council Resolution was adopted on March 31, 2005 referring the situation of Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC).[v]

The massive human rights abuses that have been taking place in Darfur must be viewed in the context of serious conflict in Sudan for more than two decades. A peace agreement was signed in January 2005 between the Sudan government and rebel groups in the South which agreement formally ended a twenty-one-year civil war between the government-supported Muslim-dominated north and the primarily Christian-animist south. An estimated two million people have died in this conflict with relatively little foreign intervention or attention. The tactics against the population used by the government in the North-South civil war were similar to the attacks that have taken place in the Darfur region, and there were serious violations by both sides.[vi]

The current military government in Sudan, headed by President Umar Hasan Ahmad al‑Bashir, has been in place since 1989 when it took power by means of a coup. In 1998 and 2000, the government held presidential and parliamentary elections resulting in the election of the same government for further terms. While opposition parties have refused to participate in elections and have alleged electoral irregularities, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the Arab League monitored the elections and stated they were fair.

The legal system is a combination of common law and Islamic law. Its 1998 Constitution[vii] is to be superceded by a new constitution to be drafted pursuant to the 2004 peace agreement. Sudan has ratified the following Conventions (information as of December 2, 2004):[viii]

  • The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), ratified 21 March 1977;
  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified 18 March 1986;
  • The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), ratified 18 March 1986;
  • The Convention on The Rights of the Child (CRC), ratified 03 August 1990; with accession to CRC amendment re: Article 43(2) on 09 April 2001;
  • Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, ratified, 02 November 2004;
  • The Convention Against Torture, and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), signed 04 June 1986 (but not ratified).

Dangers to Safety and Independence Facing Advocates in Sudan

Sudan has a lengthy history of arresting and harassing human rights defenders.[ix] In the aftermath of the 1989 coup, members of the legal profession, along with members of the political opposition, were detained without charge for months and in some cases years. The Sudan Bar Association, which had been considered independent, was taken over by a government‑appointed steering committee. Many judges were dismissed and replaced by judges more sympathetic to the regime, and this has resulted in deterioration of competence of the judiciary.[x] In 2002, the government declared a State of Emergency, and set up Special Courts in Darfur with wide ranging jurisdiction in criminal matters. In Special Courts, lawyers have no right to appear to represent the accused and instead may only act as a Afriend of the defendant to Aprovide help to the court.@[xi] The National Security Forces Act, Article 31,[xii] allows security forces to detain people incommunicado for up to nine months without charge or judicial review. The Act also allows immunity to the security forces for violations of human rights. The failure of the government to repeal this legislation provides considerable insecurity to lawyers and human rights defenders.

Increase or Decrease on Attacks on Advocates

In 2004, a number of human rights workers, including lawyers, were arbitrarily detained. Reports of violations of rights of lawyers or human rights defenders had been received in 2001 and 2003 (to which LRWC responded with letters to the government of Sudan). However, in 2004, an dramatic increase in the number or reports of violations of rights of human rights defenders and lawyers was noted, with reports of arbitrary detentions of at least nine lawyers and human rights defenders (among many other people of other occupations) between January and July 2004, particularly between May and July, 2004. Since August, 2004, LRWC has received no new reports of violations against individual lawyers or human rights defenders in Sudan.

Perpetrators of Attacks on Advocates, Effective Actions Taken

Government officials appear to be the main violators of international human rights of lawyers and human rights defenders.

LRWC Actions

Letters for Lawyers

In 2004, LRWC wrote the following letters to the Sudan government

August 2, 2004 (Catherine A. Morris) on behalf of:

  • Nour Eldin Mohamed Abdel Rahim
  • Bahr Eldin Abdallah Rifa
  • Madawi Ibrahim Adam
  • Osman Adam Abdel Mawla
  • Salih Mahmoud Osman

July 10, 2004 (Catherine A. Morris) on behalf of:

  • Salih Mahmud Osman, lawyer; Adel Abdallah Nasr al‑Din

June 23, 2004 (Monique Pongracic‑Speier) on behalf of:

  • Adel Abdallah Nasr al‑Din
  • Salih Mahmoud Osman
  • Madawi Ibrahim dam

May 26, 2004 (Monique Pongracic‑Speier) on behalf of:

  • Al‑Fadi Tambour,
  • Al‑Tayib Mohammed Daf’alla and others

May 26, 2004 (Catherine A. Morris) on behalf of:

  • Al‑Fadi Tambour
  • Al‑Tayib Mohammed Daf’alla and others

May 2, 2004‑05‑02 (Catherine A. Morris) on behalf of:

  • Nour Eldin Mohamed Abdel Rahim
  • Bahr Eldin Abdallah Rifa
  • Madawi Ibrahim Adam
  • Osman Adam Abdel Mawla
  • Salih Mahmoud Osman

February 9, 2004 (Monique Pongracic‑Speier) on behalf of:

  • Saleh Mahmud Osman

January 19, 2004 (Catherine A. Morris) on behalf of:

  • Mohammad Abdallah Duma
  • Mohammad Harun Kafi and others

Other LRWC actions

Given the dramatic increase LRWC had noticed in arbitrary detentions of lawyers and human rights defenders, and given our awareness of the grave and widespread human rights violations taking place in the Darfur region, LRWC decided to take the following additional steps:

  • Letter to the Honourable William Graham, P.C., D.U., Q.C., then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Government of Canada urging action and requesting advice.
  • Letter to the Honourable Stephen Owen, PC, MP, QC, Member of Parliament (founding board member of LRWC) July 19, 2004 urging action and requesting advice.
  • Letters to the editor of ten Canadian newspapers, August 4, 2004 raising awareness of the grave human rights situation in Darfur. Letters were published in the Vancouver Sun and Winnipeg Tribune.
  • Response to request for assistance by CBC radio Vancouver in identifying appropriate experts in Sudan for a phone-in broadcast. LRWC worked with CBC producer Craig Lederhouse to identify Mobina Jaffer, Canadian Senator and Canada’s Special Envoy to the Sudanese Peace Process, and Canadian human rights lawyer, as a guest speaker. This program aired August 11, 2004. Catherine Morris, Sudan Monitor, phoned into the program.
  • Telephone discussion August 31, 2004 with Mobina Jaffer about the Sudan human rights situation (Catherine Morris);
  • Follow-up letter to Mobina Jaffer, September 7, 2004, providing more detailed information about LRWC (Catherine Morris).

Plans for the Future

The situation in Sudan is complex. LWRC plans to continue to monitor the situation in Sudan, and to build more in-depth understanding of the human rights situation in Sudan and to build networks among lawyers and human rights defenders in Sudan and among those knowledgeable about Sudan in Canada and elsewhere. Further follow up is planned with Mobina Jaffer determine whether LRWC may be of further assistance regarding human rights in Sudan.

Recommendations for Improved Campaigns for Advocates in Sudan, Assessment of What Is Needed

It would be highly desirable to build a coordinated network of persons for research on human rights in Sudan, and to build closer links with persons working on human rights in Sudan, including those working on behalf of the International Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others. It is recommended that LRWC support the efforts of the international community if they are in accordance with the principles of international law, international human rights and international humanitarian law. Thus the strategy for the future is two-fold, including support for persons and groups inside Sudan who are working to uphold human rights, and working externally on effective advocacy to encourage the international community to act in a coordinated way to insist that the government of Sudan take immediate action toward sincere efforts to build international human rights.

Assessment of LRWC Actions

The government of Sudan responded to two LRWC letters in 2004. While the Sudan government’s effort at providing responses indicates that the government of Sudan is aware of the need to appear responsive to international concerns, the history of severe human rights abuses throughout Sudan is lengthy and persistent. Independent reports of human rights organizations provide no evidence of change in Sudan government policies towards respect for human rights Conventions or principles.

Need for More People And/or Resources

LRWC needs the assistance of persons who are knowledgeable about Sudan to assist with research, coordination, updating of information, and network-building among groups of persons working to uphold international human rights in Sudan.


[i] Catherine Morris is the LRWC Sudan Monitor.
[ii] This widely-reported number of deaths is believed to be conservatively estimated. See Russell Smith, “How many have died in Darfur?” BBC News, 16 February, 2005,

[iii] The Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).

[iv] United Nations. Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur to the United Nations Secretary‑General Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1564 of 18 September 2004.
Geneva: UN, 25 January 2005,

[v] United Nations Security Council. Resolution 1593 (2005) Adopted by the Security Council at its 5158th meeting on 31 March 2005,

[vi] Human Rights Watch. Civilian Devastation: Abuses by All Parties in the War in Southern Sudan. HRW, 1993, See also Human Rights Watch, Sudan. Oil, and Human Rights, HRW, 2003,

[vii] The Constitution of the Republic of the Sudan 1998, found on Sudan’s official government website at

[viii] Ratifications: Sudan.,

[ix] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2002,

[x] International Commission of Jurists. ASudan – Attacks on Justice 2002,’2671&lang’en; Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. ASudan: Lawyers Committee Report: Beset by Contradictions: Islamization, Legal Reform and Human Rights in Sudan.@ New York: LCHR, December, 1996,

[xi] Amnesty International. ASudan: North‑South peace deal leaves future of human rights uncertain.@ Press release. Amnesty International, January 7, 2005,; Amnesty International. ASudan: Darfur: Incommunicado detention, torture and special courts.@ Memorandum to the government of Sudan and the Sudanese Commission of Inquiry, Amnesty International, June 8, 2004, ; Amnesty International, Sudan: The Special Courts in Darfur, Amnesty International, February 1, 2004,’ENG‑2F4 .

[xii] Amnesty International. ASudan: Darfur: Incommunicado detention, torture and special courts.@ Memorandum to the government of Sudan and the Sudanese Commission of Inquiry, Amnesty International, June 8, 2004,

10 April 2005