Sudan has been ruled by a transitional government for the past three years, a period in which military and civilian leaders have shared power until national elections can be held.
The country is categorized by the Freedom in the World 2022 Report as “not free” but many of the violations of human rights that take place within its borders are simply not on the radar of the international community, due to the fact that other higher profile cases in other countries are more visible and demanding of attention.
During the political battles that have taken place in Sudan over the past three years, dozens of political prisoners and their families have been incarcerated. Political detainees have been mistreated and persecuted in contravention of international ethical and legal standards.
After the overthrow of the regime of President Omar al-Bashir on April 11, 2019, many former employees were arbitrarily dismissed without warning and were not informed of the reasons for their expulsion. The dismissals were arbitrary and based only on allegations of relations and contacts between those dismissed and the former regime. The Ministry of Labor, however, and other state bodies were preserved without changes after the 2019 events, and were not involved in the dismissal procedure.
This arbitrary removal of such a large number of citizens is a serious violation of human rights, but the international community has not paid attention to these events.
Before the overthrow of the regime of President Omar al-Bashir in 2019, the world’s leading international agencies recorded human rights violations and the mistreatment of political prisoners in Sudan. But since the end of Al-Bashir’s rule, global interest has faded, although hesitation to act may have actually deteriorated.
If we look at some specific examples, the case of Abdullah Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir (the brother of President Omar al-Bashir).
Abdullah was arrested on November 4, 2019, and imprisoned without trial for a period of 14 months until June 14, 2020. He was then accused of embezzling state funds, together with Dr. Al-Sadiq Qassem Allah, who was released on bail of £11 million.
Abdullah Al-Bashir was not allowed bail.
On April 22, 2020, he was diagnosed with third-degree cancer, and after roughly 20 days, he appealed to the medical commission but was denied the possibility of treatment abroad, despite his proving medical evidence that the trip was necessary by claiming that in the absence of special treatment, he could die within a month.
On November 13, 2020, he tested positive for COVID and was transferred to isolation in the Hospital of the Armed Forces, where he died 15 days later.
The right to a fair trial, within a reasonable time, to personal liberty, medical care, and humane conditions while in detention were all violated.
The following individuals died under similar circumstances:
Sharif Ahmed Omar Badr, a Sudanese politician who held several positions in the former regime including the governor of the states of Gezira and Gedaref, the Minister of Investment and the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Sudan Airways. He was arrested on November 1, 2019, and died on May 14, 2020. He had contracted COVID while being held in Kober prison. He was prevented from receiving proper treatment. When his condition deteriorated he was transferred to a hospital but unfortunately, died before arriving there.
Al-Zubair Ahmed Al-Hassan, a Sudanese politician, who also held several governmental and non-governmental positions including the Secretary-General of the Islamic Movement in Sudan, Minister of Energy and Mining, Minister of Finance, Deputy Governor of the Central Bank, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Bank of Sudan in Omdurman, Chairman of the Parliament’s Economic Committee. He also was infected and did not receive any treatment from the Kober prison authorities until his health deteriorated significantly, although everyone knew that he had heart disease and diabetes. He was arrested on November 1, 2019, and died on May 14, 2020, in the hospital at the age of 66.
Abu Huraira Hussein, a Sudanese politician, previous Minister of Youth and Sports, and the head of the Children and Youth Welfare Committee. He died as a result of multiple health issues, the most serious being kidney failure. He also received no form of medical treatment from the authorities after his arrest on April 11, 2019. He died on October 12, 2021, at the age of 48.
Wedad Babiker Modawi (Omar al-Bashir’s wife). She was brought to trial only due to her status as Al-Bashir’s wife. Wedad was arrested on December 12, 2019, and spent a long period in detention without any charges being brought against her.
During her stay in prison, her serious chronic diseases worsened and according to the doctors, these diseases appeared as a result of improper health care and poor personal hygiene in the prison. Even though there were no accusations brought against her in 10 months, her family members and lawyers were not allowed to see her. Due to her deteriorating health, she was placed under house arrest and until the present day still, no charges have been brought against her.
The above examples share a common strand, namely negligence on the part of the responsible authorities and unreasonably long legal procedures.
Since coming to power, the new Sudanese government has introduced some reforms but nothing to improve the existing legal base with regard to compliance with international human rights.
More recently the government has adopted a law to amend the Criminal Code and abolish the statute of limitations on a number of categories of criminal cases. The adoption of the amendments does not contradict the rules of international law, but the Sudanese judicial authorities have applied them with retroactive effect, meaning that suspects whose trial period had expired in accordance with the law, were nevertheless prosecuted. Such actions directly contradict the international obligations that Sudan took upon itself when it joined the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Today, justice in Sudan faces three main problems. Firstly the legal and political system in Sudan continues to allow for the violation of the rights of political prisoners. Secondly, the diffidence of the international community to what is happening in Sudan and the lack of engagement to monitor reforms and prevent violations. Finally, the Sudanese courts are adopting double standards in the administration of justice rather than a clear, unified set of rules and procedures.
To this day, hundreds of doctors, soldiers and politicians detained for political reasons are still being held in Sudan’s prisons. However, due to the lack of international scrutiny, their fate still remains unclear.