Groups concerned over harassment of Christians in Central Darfur

A US-based human rights group has called upon the Sudanese authorities to stop the judicial harassment of Christian citizens.

The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) urged authorities to ensure respect for religious rights and guarantee individual’s freedom of religious creed and worship as provided for in the Constitutional Declaration and under international human rights treaties which Sudan is party to.

“On 22 June 2022, police in Zalingi city in Central Darfur State raided a church located in Alestad Stadium in Zalingi neighborhood and arrested four Christian men whom they found praying,” ACJPS said in a statement.

The arrest of the four men, is further noted, followed a complaint by a police officer to the office of the attorney general vide file number 1356/2022.

“The men were accused of committing the offence of apostasy contrary to article 126 of the Sudanese Penal code 1991,” added the statement.

During investigations, the men were questioned about their religious beliefs, and they responded that they are Christians. They also said that their church was built before the fall of former President, Omar Al Bashir’s regime in April 2019. However, the police insisted that the men had converted from Islam to Christianity even though they maintained that they are Christians.

“The four men were later released but were rearrested shortly afterwards. On 28 June, the men were released on bail,” explained ACPJS’s statement.

In July 2021, the transitional authorities decriminalized the crime of apostasy following significant reforms to Sudan’s Criminal Act 1991, the group said.

It, however, stressed that despite this amendment, Sudanese security agencies have continued to harass Christians by raiding churches and arresting individuals who have converted from Islam to Christianity.

Meanwhile, ACJPS called on Sudanese authorities to respect the freedom of religion guaranteed in the Constitutional Declaration of 2019 and International treaties ratified by Sudan, citing Article 48 of the Constitutional Declaration of 2019, which guarantees the right to equality before the law including protection from discrimination on grounds of religious faith.

In recent years, increasing restrictions on religious freedoms have reportedly been documented, particularly targeting members of Christian churches in Sudan. This has included raids on churches and harassment and arrests of church members by security agencies.

During Sudan’s periodic review in January 2022, recommendations were made for its authorities to enhance the promotion of religious tolerance.

Source: Sudan Tribune