The office of the Public Prosecution in Khartoum has warned that it will take action against any person who attempts to enforce the repealed Public Order Law that “has been abolished and is no longer part of the legislative system”. The Prosecution was responding to “some voices calling for its return”, referring to remarks last week by the Director of Khartoum State Police, Lt Gen Issa Adam Ismail, calling for the Public Order Law to be reinstated “to combat crime”.
In its statement, the Prosecution emphasises that “under the umbrella of this law, the privacy of citizens were violated, women, youth, and students have been humiliated,” and that “under this Act all the basic rights of the Sudanese people have been violated”. It warns that it “will not hesitate to take legal measures against those persons who call for this campaign, and the return to past practices of aggression on women and young people in the streets”.
The statement calls on the public to report any violations in this regard.
As reported by Radio Dabanga last week, remarks by the Director of Khartoum State Police, Lt Gen Issa Adam Ismail, prompted a chorus of condemnation, after he called for the Islamist Public Order Law, which was a notorious tool of oppression by the deposed Al Bashir regime, to be reinstated “to combat crime”.
In a press statement, Ismail expressed dissatisfaction with what he called the “Sudanese feeling of increased freedom after the Revolution”. He said that society demanded the return of the law in a new form, stressing its importance and necessity for preserving society’s traditions, customs, and the protection of families.
The Sudanese Interior ministry distanced itself from Ismail’s remarks, while they sparked widespread reactions on social media. In an interview with Radio Dabanga, the leader of the No to the Oppression of Women initiative, Amira Osman, expressed her regret at his demand for the restoration of the Public Order Law.
She said that the statements mean that the former regime is still present in the corners of Sudan’s judicial institutions, stressing the importance of carrying out a campaign to remove members of the police associated with the former regime under Omar Al Bashir. She said that the police are trying to regain immunity and return to using whips. “Because of this,” she said, “the revolution is not yet complete.”
In November 2019, the Sudanese government repealed the Public Order Law, which disproportionately affected women. Women groups continue to call on the transitional government to do more and ratify important international instruments related to women’s rights including the Maputo Protocol and the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
The Public Order system disproportionately affected women. “Sudanese women are the mirror of the injustices and discriminatory nature of Sudan’s legal system. These laws as long as they continue to serve are affecting communities for generations to come by imposing the subordination of women in the mindset of the younger generation, and hence taking away any potential for the country to progress and to live in peace,” said Hala Alkarib, founder and director of the SIHA Network for women rights in the Horn of Africa, in 2018.
In 2016, more than 45,000 complaints were issued against women under Sudan’s Public Order Act, medical doctor Ihsan Fagiri, Coordinator of the No to Oppression of Women Initiative, told Radio Dabanga in April 2017. “Students, working women, and especially food and tea vendors have received the lion’s share of physical and verbal violence,” she said.
In June 2015, for instance, 12 young Christian Nuba women were detained by the Public Order police for wearing “indecent outfits”, when they were leaving a church in Khartoum North. They wore trousers and skirts. Later that year, five members of the Sudanese athletics team were held by the Public Order police in southern Khartoum for wearing “indecent dress”.
The rules also punished men brewing or drinking alcohol, among them Sudanese and also South Sudanese Christians living in the country. In general, they were sentenced to a fine and flogging the day after they were held.