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US lifts sanctions on Sudan: 'More progress needed'

October 6 - 2017 WASHINGTON / KHARTOUM
President Donald Trump of the United States (file photo)
President Donald Trump of the United States (file photo)

Today the administration of President Donald Trump lifted economic sanctions on Sudan "in recognition of its sustained positive actions". Much more progress is needed, say the State Department and international organisations.

In a press statement by the United States Department of State, spokeswoman Heather Nauert announced that the US decided to permanently lift the longstanding sanctions. "In recognition of the Government of Sudan's sustained positive actions to maintain a cessation of hostilities in conflict areas in Sudan, improve humanitarian access throughout Sudan, and maintain cooperation with the US on addressing regional conflicts and the threat of terrorism."

The revocation will be effective as of 12 October. Lifting the sanctions, which is opposed by some human rights advocates, will suspend a trade embargo, unfreeze assets and remove financial restrictions that have hobbled the Sudanese economy.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will publish a notice in the Federal Register and has provided a report to the president on the Government of Sudan’s sustained positive actions over the mandated reporting period of the last nine months. The report cites a number of incidents that affected or did not affect the cessation of hositilities that Khartoum attempted to maintain in the last months. This includes the deadly clashes between Sudanese military forces and displaced people partaking in a demonstration near Kalma camp in South Darfur on 22 September.

Six civilians were killed during the clashes. "We have raised our concern about this incident publicly and with the government, particularly regarding the government’s use of live ammunition against protestors, and called for an investigation," according to Tillerson's report on whether Sudan has sustained its positive actions.

Sanctions in place

The decision to lift the sanctions and end an economic embargo against Sudan comes after the Trump administration last month removed it from the list of countries whose citizens are subject to travel restrictions. Sudan was the only country that was removed.

But the decision leaves other sanctions in place for the time being, including those against individuals with arrest warrants related to atrocities committed during the conflict in Darfur. And it does not remove Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

“ This new policy should be tied to modernised network sanctions that spare the Sudanese public and target those responsible.” - John Prendergast, Enough Project

Five tracks

The USA imposed the sanctions in November 1997 by Executive Order after Sudan was accused of being a “state sponsor of terrorism”. The order blocked all Sudanese government assets in the US and barred all trade transactions involving certain persons in Sudan.

At the end of 2016, the administration of former President Barack Obama began working on the criteria for partially lifting the sanctions for a period of six months. The Trump administration extended the reviewing period to 12 October, assessing five criteria on which Sudan should improve on in case of the definite repeal of sanctions.

The improvement of access for humanitarian organisations in Sudan was one of the five criteria the United States assessed Sudan on, for the possible lifting of economic sanctions. In April this year, Sudan also granted the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) access to previously unreachable areas such as Kurmuk (Blue Nile), Golo (Central Darfur) and Belle El Sereif (South Darfur); the latter had not been accessible for over five years. A delegation of the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) talked in Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan, in September to discuss the return of the organisation to Sudan.

USSD: 'More progress'

"However, much more progress is needed to fully and sustainably achieve peace in Sudan and to cooperate with the United States on a range of Administration priorities, including further expanding humanitarian access, improving the Government of Sudan’s human rights and religious freedom practices, and ensuring that the Government of Sudan is committed to the full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea," Nauert added in the press statement today.

The advocacy organisation Enough Project commented today that Sudan should be pressured to continue to improve its human rights record. John Prendergast, Founding Director at the Enough Project, said: “The focus should be on promoting fundamental human rights and religious freedoms, countering grand corruption, and achieving peace in Sudan's various war-torn regions. But these serious policy objectives need serious leverage, and thus this new policy framework should be tied to a new set of smart, modernised network sanctions – including asset freezes targeting a network of individuals and entities, rather than a single person – that spare the Sudanese public and target those in power responsible for mass atrocities, the demolition of churches, obstruction of humanitarian aid, jailing and torturing journalists, and undermining of peace efforts.”


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