CSW has learned that a judge in Khartoum has dismissed a case submitted by the Sudanese Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) for administrative control over the church’s affairs.
The case was part of a long-running legal battle that began under the previous al Bashir regime. Under that administration, the Ministry of Guidance and Endowments, which regulates religious affairs in Sudan, appointed a committee to administer the church’s affairs. This committee, which was created in violation of the church’s internal constitution, was granted control over the church’s administrative affairs by the Ministry of Guidance and Endowments in 2013. In 2015 the Supreme Court found that the government had made an error by giving administrative control to the illegally-constituted committee, but the previous regime ignored the decision.
Following the ouster of former President al Bashir and the formation of a joint civilian and military administration, SPEC filed a case before the administrative court against the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Affairs and the illegitimate committee seeking the implementation of the supreme court’s decision which ordered the evacuation of the illegitimate committee from the church’s building and the restoration of full power to the legitimate committee. In July 2021, the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Affairs agreed to implement the decision, while the demands were unsurprisingly objected to by the illegitimate committee. The administrative court was required to review the case and decide whether to authorise it.
On 15 November an administrative court judge decided to dismiss the case to return power to the legitimate church committee as the one with the legal authority to act on behalf of the church, rejecting both the agreement and the 2015 Supreme Court decision. The judge failed to give any reasoning for the decision, indicating that the action was political.
CSWs Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “Although some progress was made by the Ministry of Guidance and Endowments in engaging on this complex case, and noting in particular the work undertaken by the Minister’s advisor, this decision is deeply disappointing. The continuing struggle by the SPEC to control its own affairs is emblematic of the ongoing injustices endured by Sudan's Christian community. This decision is also a worrying sign in the context of the political crisis resulting from the 25 October military coup that advances under the transitional government on freedom of religion or belief are steadily being eroded.”
Note to Editors:
1. Leaders within the SPEC have been targeted in relation to the case. In June 2021, the leader of the legitimate committee, Rafat Obid, was once again arrested and charged with ‘impersonating others’. His trial, which has been postponed on several occasions, is yet to be resolved. In 2017, Mr Obid was acquitted by the Omdurman Criminal Court of the same charge filed by the same complainant.