The Sudanese Parliament on Monday approved a nationwide state of emergency of six months instead of one year as ordered by President Omar al-Bashir to quell protests against his iron-fisted rule.
The President declared a year-long state of emergency from February 22 after an initial crackdown failed to suppress the demonstrations that have rocked his administration for nearly three months.
“A six-month state of emergency has been approved by a majority,” the speaker of parliament Ibrahim Ahmed Omer said after lawmakers voted on the presidential decree.
Deadly protests erupted on December 19 after a government decision to triple the price of bread.
The demonstrations quickly escalated into nationwide rallies against Bashir’s administration, with analysts calling it the biggest challenge to his rule stretching back three decades.
Officials say 31 people have died in protest-related violence so far, while Human Rights Watch has given a death toll of at least 51 including medics and children.
Monday’s vote by lawmakers backed a recommendation from a parliamentary committee to shorten the state of emergency to six months.
Activists and rights groups have slammed the measure as curbing freedoms in the country.
“The parliament didn’t want to reject Bashir’s decree, so it came out with a compromise by keeping the state of emergency for six months,” said prominent Sudanese human rights defender Nabil Adib.
“But to me, it’s not about six months or one year. The measure violates human rights that are permitted in the Sudanese constitution.”
Sudan’s Minister of Justice Mohamed Ahmed Salim defended the state of emergency in parliament, which is overwhelmingly dominated by lawmakers from the ruling National Congress Party.
“What we have is a soft state of emergency and still people are complaining,” he said.