Home | Press Releases    Saturday 28 February 2004

On the Sudan Government’s Obligation to Suppress Slavery in Sudan


Press Release
February 28, 2004

In 1995, the HRW/A publication, Children of Sudan - Slaves, Street Children and Child Soldiers (New York, 1995), affirmed (based on Sudan Government invited field research) the horrible existence of slavery in Sudan beyond any reasonable doubt.

Judged by the intent, extent, and scope of involvement, the HRW/A report conferred direct responsibilities upon the government, above all, to suppress the scourge with possible procedures, measures, and programs for which the Sudan Government hardly paid attention up to this day.

The 1995 HRW/A report did not exempt the SPLM/A or the SSIM/A, the South operating armies and influential political groups, from accountability specifically with respect to "recruitment of children under the age of eighteen, including recruitment disguised as education, and using children under the age of eighteen as combatants or in any capacity in military or militia structures, and prevent them from participating in such activities."

Concerning this particular part, the HRW/A report acknowledged in 1995 that "The SSIA cooperates with UNICEF family unification programs."

The SPLM/A, as mentioned in the SHRO-Cairo periodical report (October 31, 2003 - January 2004), "demobilized 94 child recruits in the Upper Nile region. The children were returned home as a significant step towards complete demobilization of the UNICEF-estimated previously recruited 800 children for active service in the SPLA." Moreover, "The efforts so far exerted by UNICEF since 2001 have successfully freed 1,200 children from the SPLA."

SHRO-Cairo welcomes these responsible actions to free children from military service.

The Organization calls on the Sudan Government to take immediate measures towards the full stoppage of student conscription, especially the children less than 18 years of age.

To help suppress enslavement practices, SHRO-Cairo equally asks the government to remove war-inciting curriculum from Sudan education (see the Organization’s detailed research in Issue 16 of the Sudanese Human Rights Quarterly, shro-cairo.org).

The US Report on Human Rights (2003) provides ongoing evidence on the existence of slavery in Sudan in different forms, including abductions - the term Sudan Government elusively mentions - or disappearances, the term the US Report emphasizes together with the other Convention definitions.

The UN international definitions of slavery are crystal clear: Article 1 of the Slavery Convention to which Sudan Government is a State Party says: "Slavery is the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the power attaching to the right of ownership are exercised. (2) The slave trade includes all acts involved in the capture, acquisition or disposal of a person with intent to reduce him to slavery; all acts involved in the acquisition of a slave with a view of selling or exchanging him; all acts of disposal by sale or exchange of a slave acquired with a view to being sold or exchanged, and, in general, every act of trade or transport in slaves."

The UN and all States Party to the Convention are obligated to suppress slave trade, liberate all humans enslaved, and punish wrong-doers whether government, community, or individuals.

The U.S. Report (2003) confirms the existence of slavery in Sudan in a national level whereby the scourge is intensively practiced in war-areas, and then spread about other areas. Since the innocent enslaved powerless women and children in particular, are transferred to different parts of the country, as indicated by HRW/Africa and other human rights reports, the US Report that "Slavery and trafficking in persons remained significant problems" adds new evidence.

The US Report further indicates that the Sudan Government committees and legal efforts are far behind the level needed to effectively suppress the scourge of slavery in Sudan.

SHRO-Cairo stresses that slavery is a most abhorred crime against humanity whether restricted to a single case or spread over whole regions of the country. What matters is that Sudan Law, as well as international conventions prohibit slavery: The Sudan Government is obliged to suppress slavery for good without hesitation or political elusiveness, and to punish the culprits publicly. The government must therefore free the press from censor to be able to impart information on the issues in question.

SHRO-Cairo believes that the Sudan Government, being the most responsible entity by national and international law to abide-by the anti-slavery legal principles and obligations, is not doing its job properly.

The Sudan Government must show strong political and legal determination to free the victimized citizens from all forms of enslavement. At this point, SHRO-Cairo regrettably points to the recurring reports that the government troops, as well as DarFur warring groups, have been engaged in kidnapping and abduction practices against innocent citizens in DarFur.

The Sudan Human Rights Organization Cairo Office continuously aska all parties concerned to increase the effort to suppress slavery, return the innocent victims to their families and communities, and punish the wrong-doers before the independent judiciary.

The Organization takes this opportunity to renew its call upon the Sudan Government to:

? Abide by the Convention of Slavery

? Activate with sufficient funds the established legal and social committees to stop slavery; and

? Take all measures necessary (as advised by international and national human rights groups, including the HRW/A 1995 publication and other subsequent advisements) to maintain the citizens’ dignity and tranquillity against slavery.


Relevant Sections from the U.S. Department of State Sudan: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2003Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (February 25, 2004).

Security forces and associated militias were responsible for forced labor (including forced child labor), the abduction of women and children, and the forced military conscription of underage young men. Child labor was widespread. Slavery and trafficking in persons remained significant problems.

Antigovernment insurgent groups and associated militia forces also continued to commit numerous, serious abuses. There were reports of SPLM/A violations of citizens’ rights. During the year, the SPLM/A was responsible for killings, beatings, rape, arbitrary detention, and forced military conscription of underage young men. The SPLM/A continued to manipulate humanitarian assistance for military advantage.

b. Disappearance

There were continued allegations that the Government was responsible for the arrest and subsequent disappearance of persons suspected of supporting rebels in government-controlled zones in the south, the Nuba Mountains, and in the Darfur region.

There were reports that during raids on civilian settlements, government forces and government-supported militia abducted persons, including women and children, for use as domestic servants, forced labor, or sex slaves (see Sections 1.g. and 6.c.). In the last approximately 15 years, an estimated 15,000 Dinka women and children have been abducted; between 10,000 and 12,000 persons, primarily Dinka, remained abducted or unaccounted for at year’s end. Observers believed that some of those abducted were sold into slavery, while others were used as forced labor or drafted into the military. In some cases, the abductees escaped or eventually were released or ransomed; however, in other cases, they were killed.

The Kenya-based Rift Valley Institute documented more than 11,000 persons abducted by government-supported militia in northern Bahr el-Ghazal during the last 20 years, more than 90 percent of whom were still missing at year’s end. According to the report, only 528 of those documented were known to have survived and returned home.

There was no known action taken, nor was any likely to be taken, in the reported 2001 cases of disappearances.

The Committee to Eradicate the Abduction of Women and Children (CEAWAC) continued to report a lack of necessary funding to document, rescue, and transport abductees back to their families. During 2002, CEAWAC formed 22 joint-tribal committees, conducted 2 field missions resulting in the documentation of more than 150 cases of abduction, and transported 26 to a facility in Fulla until their families could be located; however, the facility in Fulla was closed during the year. CEAWAC reported that 300 abductees returned during the year. The Government did not publicly identify the abductors or forced labor owners and chose not to prosecute them.

In May 2002, the International Eminent Persons Group completed its investigation into the extent of slavery, abductions, and associated abuses by government and SPLA forces in the conflict. The Group concluded that armed pro-government militias were responsible for committing these crimes and operated with virtual impunity. The Group also concluded that abductions met prescribed definitions of slavery; however, the Group was unable to determine the scale of abduction and enslavement. The group made several suggestions to stem abductions; some of these suggestions were implemented during the year. For example, the rail line from Babanusa, via Aweil, through SPLM/A-held territory, to Wau, which was directly linked to slave trading, was shut down in 2002 and remained suspended at year’s end.

There continued to be reports of abductions by SPLA forces and allied militias. The CPMT reported the systemic abuse of civilians, including abductions, along the Eritrean border under National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and SPLA control. For example, the CPMT reported that in March, two civilians were abducted near the village of Deresta, northeast of Kassala, and subsequently released. Follow-up on the reports was hindered by a lack of cooperation by SPLM/A allied groups and general insecurity of the region.

There was at least one report during the year that rebel forces in Darfur abducted persons. On November 13, one government humanitarian aid worker and four others working for an independent relief organization near Geneina town in Western Darfur were reportedly abducted. The four nongovernmental workers were reportedly released by the end of November; however, at year’s end, there was no information available on the status of the government employee.

There also were reports of periodic intertribal abductions of women and children in the Eastern Upper Nile (see Section 5).

The LRA kidnapped Ugandan children and took them to the southern part of the country (see Section 6.f.).

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The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

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