Sudan Overturns Moral Policing Law and Disbands Al-Bashir’s Party

Sudan Overturns Moral Policing Law and Disbands Al-Bashir’s Party

CAIRO — Sudan’s transitional government announced on Friday that it had overturned a moral policing law that criminalized revealing clothing worn by women and drinking alcohol. It also moved to dissolve the former governing party of Omar al-Bashir — fulfilling two major demands by pro-democracy protesters.

The country’s sovereign council and cabinet announced both decisions after a 14-hour meeting that ended shortly after midnight on Thursday.

Mr. al-Bashir was overthrown as president in April, after wielding authoritarian power for three decades. He is currently imprisoned and under trial on charges of corruption and money laundering. A verdict is scheduled to be announced on Dec. 14.

Mr. al-Bashir’s Islamist government passed the Shariah-inspired Public Order Act in 1992, which criminalized a wide range of individual behavior, including revealing clothing and drinking alcohol. The government first enforced it in the capital, Khartoum, then applied it nationwide four years later.

Those convicted of violating the act faced prison sentences, fines, lashing and confiscation of property. For decades, human rights activists had denounced the law and argued that its vague language gave the police and judges leeway to prosecute women, who later played a crucial role in the mass protests that culminated in Mr. al-Bashir’s ouster.

“This law is notorious for being used as a tool of exploitation, humiliation & violation of rights,” Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said on Twitter. “I pay tribute to the women and youth of my country who have endured the atrocities that resulted from the implementation of this law.”

Amnesty International welcomed the repeal of the law as “a step forward for women’s rights.” The London-based rights group also called on the transitional government to overturn other repressive clauses in criminal laws such as articles dictating women’s dress code and flogging as a form of punishment.

Pro-democracy groups in the country had held protests demanding the former governing party’s disbandment and the exclusion of all its remnants from different state institutions.

The sovereign council grew out of a power-sharing agreement between the country’s generals and protesters demanding sweeping political change. Under the deal, the council and the civilian-led cabinet share legislative powers until a new Parliament is formed.

The council said the law to dismantle former Mr. al-Bashir’s National Congress Party would also confiscate all the party’s assets and funds. The justice minister, Nasr-Eddin Abdul-Barin, announced that the law passed by the interim government on Friday would transfer all assets and funds of al-Bashir’s party to the state treasury.

“With this law, we will be able to retrieve a lot of funds that were taken from the public treasury to create institutions that acted as a parallel state,” the minister told reporters after the meeting.

But the former governing National Congress Party condemned the move, saying it would pursue internal reforms, according to Reuters.

In a statement issued on Friday, the party said the dissolution order “would add nothing to the country but tension and hyperbole devastating to political life.”

“We assure our proud people and our extended membership in cities, villages, towns and districts across Sudan that we are continuing to complete the reform and change we have initiated before others in order to safeguard our country and serve our people,” the National Congress Party said.

But Mr. Hamdok said on Twitter that the law dismantling Mr. al-Bashir’s party was not the outcome of “a quest of vengeance, but rather to preserve and restore the dignity of our people who have grown weary of the injustice under the hands of NCP, who have looted & hindered the development of this great nation.”

The Sudanese Professionals Association, which spearheaded the uprising against Mr. al-Bashir, hailed the move as “an important step” toward the establishment of a civil and democratic state in the country.

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