Tracing the roots of discrimination in Sudanese law

Sudan’s history is replete with periods of fierce contestation about what kind of nation Sudan could be, and what its future should look like. Few periods are a better example of this than the recent 2019 revolution, in which the Sudanese people fought to re- establish their voices in this debate. The revolutionary protests overthrew a regime that had appeared fragile yet untouchable by popular demands mere months earlier. When Sudan’s former president Omar al-Bashir was arrested on April 11, 2019, it seemed that the protestors had succeeded in opening up a new space in which groups of citizens (and non-citizens in some cases) could articulate their concerns and be heard by those in power.

This report examines how the dynamics of inequality and oppression identified by parts of the revolutionary movement play out in Greater Khartoum’s criminal justice system. Specifically, it examines to what extent this manifests as discrimination within the criminal justice system. This encompasses Sudan’s criminal laws, including laws criminalising specific areas of conduct – a more detailed examination of which can be found below. “Criminal justice” is an incredibly powerful tool of the state that is intimately tied in to state values and systems of morality. It can be used to protect the people (and more often the things and resources) that the state deems worthy, and can be used to exact violence to coerce people into following the state’s demands. This power affects daily life, both in public and in private. The intensity and scope of the state’s criminal justice powers and the enormous effect this has on ordinary people’s lives make criminal justice systems a lightning rod for calls for change.

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