State Department report charges Sudan with rights abuses, including slavery Islamic government urged to take action to halt practices

THE BALTIMORE SUN

WASHINGTON -- Human rights in Sudan are "extremely poor," the State Department said yesterday, charging the Islamic-led government with responsibility for killings, disappearances, forced conscription of children into the army -- and slavery.

Citing a series of articles in The Sun, published in June, that detailed the purchase of two young slaves by two of the newspaper's reporters, the State Department said in its human rights report: "Although the law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, slavery persists. The government has not taken any action to halt these practices."

Gaspar Biro, the United Nations special representative for Sudan, was quoted in the report as having concluded that "the number of cases of slavery, servitude, slave trade and forced labor have increased alarmingly" since 1994. This finding, the State Department said, was confirmed "by information from a variety of sources."

Several human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch/Africa, have documented the existence of slavery in Sudan. It is largely a byproduct of the civil war that has raged there for 14 years between the Islamic-led government in Khartoum and African tribes in the south, who are mainly Christian or animist.

The African rebels, who are fighting against the imposition of Islamic law and who demand a secular democratic society, point to pro-government Arab militia forces as the main slave raiders.

The State Department report said: "The taking of slaves, particularly in war zones, and their export to parts of central and northern Sudan continued" in 1996.

Jemera Rone, a Sudan expert with Human Rights Watch/Africa, said the Khartoum government had ignored international reports of slavery in the country.

"I don't understand why they don't take more action," she said. "It may simply be too shameful for them to admit this practice has ever gone on. One would hope they would feel ashamed anyway.

"It may be they feel they can't proceed against anyone in the army or the [Arab militia] because they are at war, and currently they feel severely under attack, and they don't want to rock the boat internally with the army."

Pub Date: 1/31/97

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