Since independence from Britain in 1956 Sudan has experienced continuing social and political unrest arising from the competing demands of different linguistic and cultural groups and ideological divisions between Left and Right.

Conflict between North and South Sudan, from the 1950s until 1972 and then again from 1983 until 2005, resulted in the deaths of more than two million people. The number of deaths in the Darfur conflict, which began in February 2003 with a rebellion against Khartoum by non-Arabs, is estimated to have been in the hundreds of thousands, though the government insists that the figure is much lower. The UN puts the number of those made homeless by the fighting in Darfur at almost three million. The government is accused of waging war by proxy, using Arab militia to implement a policy of ethnic cleansing. The conflict largely ended with a peace agreement in January 2010.

In addition to these major conflicts, and wars with its neighbors, Sudan has experienced a series of tribal-based conflicts, as well as natural disasters including major flooding in 2007.

A 2010 Amnesty International report accuses Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) of perpetrating institutionalized human rights violations, including enforced disappearances, and notes that police in the country have extensive powers of arrest and detention and enjoy immunity from prosecution.

President Omar al-Bashir, in power since June 1989, has been accused of human rights violations in relation to the South Sudan and Darfur conflicts, as well as repressive measures against opposition organizations in Khartoum. Two arrest warrants on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity have been issued against him by the International Criminal Court.

Organizations that have been active in human rights advocacy in Sudan include the Khartoum International Centre for Human Rights the Sudan Social Development Organization (SUDO), the Amel Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture, and the Sudan Organization Against Torture (SOAT).