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Sudan - Intelligence & Security Agencies

Civilian authorities at times did not maintain effective control over the security forces. The Ministry of Defense oversees all elements of the SAF, including the RSF, Border Guards, and DMI units. Post-independence Sudan witnessed the successes of "people's power" during two historic turning points in October 1964 and April 1985, when a combination of political general strikes at places of work and scattered day-long demonstrations in residential areas resulted in bringing down unpopular military dictatorships. In 1988 similar tactics led to the weakening of the elected civilian government of Prime Minister Sadiq al Mahdi, later toppled in June 1989 by the third military takeover in Sudan's recent history. The Bashir government took steps to prevent a recurrence of this pattern.

Some armed elements did not openly identify with a particular security entity, making it difficult to determine under whose control they operated. Government authorities did not investigate human rights violations by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), the military, or any other branch of the security services, with limited exceptions relating to the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). Impunity remained a problem in all branches of the security forces and government institutions.

Human rights issues included unlawful or arbitrary killings, forced disappearance, torture, and arbitrary detention, all by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; political prisoners; arrests and intimidation of journalists, censorship, newspaper seizures, and site blocking; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, such as overly restrictive nongovernmental organization (NGO) laws; restrictions on religious liberty; restrictions on political participation; corruption; lack of accountability in cases involving violence against women, including rape.

Civil society activists in Khartoum, former detainees, and NGOs all reported that government security forces (including police, NISS, SAF Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) personnel, and the RSF) tortured persons in detention, including members of the political opposition, civil society, and journalists. Reported forms of torture and other mistreatment included prolonged isolation, exposure to extreme temperature variations, electric shock, and the use of stress positions.

Several government entities have responsibility for internal security, including the Ministry of Interior, which oversees the police agencies; the Ministry of Defense; and NISS. Ministry of Interior police agencies include the security police, Special Forces police, traffic police, and the combat-trained Central Reserve police. There was a police presence throughout the country.

The government attempted to respond to some interethnic fighting and, in a few instances, was effective in mediating peaceful solutions. The government had a poor record, however, in preventing societal violence. Numerous residents in Darfur, for example, routinely complained of a lack of governing presence or authority that could prevent or deter violent crime.

The Sudanese internal security and intelligence apparatus evolved into a feared and hated institution after Nimeiri came to power in 1969. During the period of Revolutionary Command Council rule (1969-71), the military intelligence organization was expanded to investigate domestic opposition groups. After the council was abolished, the organization's responsibilities focused on evaluating and countering threats to the regime from the military. It also provided a 400-man Presidential Guard.

The Office of State Security was established by decree in 1971 within the Ministry of Interior. The new agency was charged with evaluating information gathered by the police and military intelligence; it was also responsible for prison administration and passport control. The sensitive central security file and certain other intelligence functions were, however, maintained under the president's control. In 1978 the presidential and Ministry of Interior groups were merged to form the State Security Organisation (SSO).

Under the direction of Minister of State Security Umar Muhammad at Tayyib, a retired army major general and close confidant of the president, the SSO became a prominent feature of the Nimeiri regime, employing about 45,000 persons and rivaling the armed forces in size. This apparatus was dismantled in 1985.

According to the United States Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practicesfor 1990, government surveillance, which was previously rare, became intense after the 1989 coup. Efforts were made to prevent contact between Sudanese and foreigners. Civilians, especially suspected dissidents, were harassed, church services were monitored, and activities ofjournalists were closely supervised. Neighborhood "popular committees" used their control over the rationing system to monitor households.

The Bashir government created a new security body. Generally referred to as "Islamic Security" or "Security of the Revolution," it was under the direct control of a member of the RCC-NS. Its purpose was to protect the Bashir regime against internal plots and to act as a watchdog over other security forces and the military. It quickly became notorious for indiscriminate arrests of suspected opponents of the regime and for torturing them in its own safe houses before turning them over to prison authorities for further detention. A similar organization, Youth for Reconstruction, mobilized younger Islamic activists.

Various security agencies routinely assumed powers which prior laws of Sudan reserved to the police alone. The most damning denunciation of this trend was reportedly made by no other than the first minister of interior under the national salvation government who resigned in protest of this amid other serious matters. In mid-April 1991, Minister of Interior Gen. Faisal Ali Abu Salih presented a strongly worded letter of resignation from his ministerial position, and from the membership of the then ruling Revolutionary Command Council, the terms of which later leaked to the public. Top among his grievances was the conflict of mandates between the police, military intelligence and the sprawling branches of the security apparatus. He cited as an example of this conflict that although issuance of passports and exit visas is the prerogative of the ministry of interior, it is routine practice for other security organs to confiscate passports and annul duly obtained exit visas without referring the matter to that ministry.

SAF’s paramilitaries, such as the Border Guard Forces, the Central Reserve Police, and the Rapid Support Forces have joined in tribal disputes in which their own groups were involved, using government-issued arms and munitions in these conflicts with total impunity as they are granted immunity by the national laws. The government security forces have well established relations with several local militias leaders and have mobilized some militias as proxies during military operations against the rebels. The participation of these militia groups in operations is usually coordinated by officials of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) Military Intelligence or the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), depending on the operational needs. Moreover, according to different sources, the militias sometimes act with and are integrated into official paramilitary units such as RSF and the Border Guards, themselves constituted mostly of former Arab militiamen. When required by security forces or NISS, the militias participate in RSF operations and commit most of the abuses against civilians, such as the looting of villages and livestock, rapes and torching of homes.

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