© Photo: MENA WHRD Coalition

, Middle East & North Africa

Call to action to protect the democratic transition and human rights in Sudan

The international community must take urgent action to protect the democratic transition and human rights in Sudan, especially those of women and women human rights defenders.

A military coup targeting the civilian government in Sudan took place on Monday 25 October 2021. The African Union suspended Sudan’s membership.  The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat made a statement noting that the deeply concerning events occurring in Sudan have resulted in the arrest of the Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdock, who was released on October 26, and other civilian officials. The total number of arrests made during the coup in unknown, but it is believed all cabinet ministers have been arrested and are being subjected to torture or at severe risk of torture. Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat calls for “the immediate resumption of consultations between civilians and [the] military” and “the release of all arrested political leaders”.

At the international level, the United Nations Special Envoy for the Sudan and South Sudan and United Nations Security Council must take urgent action to protect Sudan’s transition to democracy and the human rights situation in the country following the second military coup in so many months which targeted the civilian government today.

The UN High Commissioner strongly condemned the military coup in Sudan and the declaration of a nationwide state of emergency, the suspension of key articles of the Constitutional Document and the governing bodies, deplored the reported arrest of the Prime Minister, several Ministers, leaders of the Forces of the Freedom and Change and other civil society representatives, and call for their immediate release, and reminded the military and security forces to refrain from unnecessary and disproportionate use of force, to respect people’s freedom of expression, as well as the right of peaceful assembly.

It is crucial that women’s rights and the situation of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) is addressed in the international community’s response to the coup as their position is particularly worrisome and today’s events have only exacerbated their already vulnerable position. This comes as militarisation of the State and violence against protestors remain some of the biggest threats to women’s rights in Sudan.

Civil and political rights were once again violated as peaceful protesters were met with violence including live ammunition, resulting in at least five confirmed deaths and hundreds being injured. Rapid Security Forces (RSF) stormed medical centers that were providing medical care to the injured. A number of activists and protesters were arrested in several cities. Residential areas were also attacked by weapons.  Further the majority of means of communication in the country have been cut off including phone lines and internet connection. Blanket internet shutdowns contravene international law. On October 26, Internet and mobile services were briefly restored for a few hours, they must be immediately restored 

We call on all States at the Human Rights Council to consider urgent action, such as convening a Special Session, to ensure respect for human rights and the rule of law. In addition, the upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Sudan on 3 November presents one opportunity for States to bring to the fore these issues and call on the required urgent action. We urge all States to make statements during Sudan’s UPR condemning the coup and supporting the civilian-led democratic transition, and make recommendations relating to[1]:

  • reform of the military and security forces
  • accountability for violence against protesters
  • access to justice for women
  • legal reforms combatting violence and discrimination against women
  • ensuring gender equality
  • ratification of international and regional instruments
  • women, peace and security
  • guaranteeing freedom of expression and assembly
  • the protection of women human rights defenders.

Read also here a statement by the MENA Women Human Rights Defenders Coalition.



  • Sudan Women’s Rights Action
  • Regional Coalition for Women Human Rights Defenders in the Middle East and North Africa
  • International Service for Human Rights
  • Global Fund for Women
  • Inter Pares, Canada
  • Canada for Africa Group
  • Rights for Peace Foundation
  • Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan
  • Vital Voices, USA
  • Equality Fund, Canada
  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  • AWID


  • Susan Bazilli, Director of International Women’s Rights Project
  • Karen Breeck MD
  • Carole Doucet, Gender/ Women, Peace and Security Expert Adviser
  • Georgina Bencsik, Advisor, Consultant and Strategist
  • Monique Cuillerier (WPSN-C)

[1] In March 2021 Sudan Women Rights Action, Nora Centre for Combating Sexual Violence, ISHR and the Regional Coalition for Women Human Rights Defenders in the Middle East and North Africa made a joint submission to the UPR of Sudan.  Read here a summary of the recommendations to Sudan on women’s rights and women human rights defenders and the full joint submission to the UPR of Sudan.

Related articles