Country Listing

Sudan Table of Contents


The Prison System

General supervision of the Sudan Prison Service was carried out by the director general of prisons, who was responsible for the country's central prisons and reformatories. Provincial authorities managed detention centers and jails in their administrative jurisdictions. The central prisons were Kober in Khartoum North, Shalla in Al Fashir, Darfur State, and Port Sudan on the Red Sea. It was reported that there were about 140 local prisons and detention centers in the early 1990s.

Prison conditions were generally poor. Treatment of prisoners varied widely, however. Some were restricted by shackles, while others were allowed to return home at night. There were persistent reports of beatings and other forms of mistreatment, including torture, of detainees and other political prisoners in the central penal institutions, although these were apparently inflicted by security officials and not regular prison guards. After reports appeared that detainees of the Bashir government were being subjected to torture, Amnesty International was allowed to visit a select group of prisoners at Kober, where prison conditions were reputed to be the best in Sudan. Facilities at the large prison at Port Sudan were spartan. Although treatment was not brutal, extreme heat contributed to the harsh living conditions. The most primitive conditions were said to be at Shalla. In general, political prisoners welcomed transfer to prison to escape physical abuse from security personnel.

Although conditions at prison hospitals were described as fair, a number of political prisoners complained of being denied treatment for medical problems. Trade unionists arrested after the 1989 coup and held at Kober Prison submitted a protest alleging the denial of family visits and of adequate medical treatment, while challenging the legal grounds for their arrests. In retaliation, the government transferred many of them to Shalla Prison, 600 kilometers from Khartoum.

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Details on military units and equipment are available from The Military Balance published annually by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. Further information on the sources of Sudan's arms can be found in Forecast International/DMS Market Intelligence Report: Middle East and Africa. Reports by two international human rights organizations give accounts of the conflict in the south, the role of various militia groups, and the abuses committed by all of the fighting units, especially against the civilian population. These are Amnesty International's Sudan: Human Rights Violations in the Context of Civil War, published in 1989, and Africa Watch's Denying "The Honor of Living:" Sudan, A Human Rights Disaster, published in 1990.

The Southern Sudan by Douglas H. Johnson provides a concise account of the fighting in the south through 1988. The section on Sudan by Gwynne Dyer in World Armies includes an abbreviated history of the Sudanese armed forces until 1983. Articles by John O. Voll in Current History in 1986 and 1990 discuss the record of military regimes in Sudan as alternatives to civilian government.

United States-Sudanese military relations are recounted in Jeffrey A. Lefebvre's "Globalism and Regionalism: U.S. Arms Transfers to Sudan" in Armed Forces and Society. Information on the criminal courts system and the record of the Bashir government with respect to judicial processes and human rights can be found in the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices published by the United States Department of State. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography).

Data as of June 1991