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‘USA must delay permanent lifting of sanctions against Sudan’: HRW

May 7 - 2017 NEW YORK
Members of the Sudan Women’s Solidarity Movement protest against government policies, February 2016 (RD)
Members of the Sudan Women’s Solidarity Movement protest against government policies, February 2016 (RD)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on Washington to delay the definite lifting of economic sanctions until the human rights situation has improved.

On January 13, 2017, US President Barack Obama issued a presidential executive order that suspended the US comprehensive economic sanctions on Sudan in response to “sustained progress” on several fronts.

However, the order did not identify clear benchmarks for progress or explicitly require improvements to the human rights situation before making the suspension permanent. This is a remarkable oversight considering that human rights concerns were among the factors driving the imposition of sanctions for the last 20 years, HRW said in its report Human Rights Benchmarks for Sudan on Wednesday.

“While there may be good reasons to suspend comprehensive economic sanctions, the decision to do so permanently or not should be measured, and reached only after due regard to Sudan’s respect for key and fundamental human rights obligations,” the international human rights watchdog says.

“The executive order states that within six months, or by July 2017, the sanctions revocation becomes permanent if Sudan continues to show progress. Yet six months is not sufficient to determine Sudan’s progress on the criteria mentioned in the order, or on improvements to deeper human rights problems,” HRW warns.


Benchmarks for human rights improvements should include among other things, respect for the right to life, including ending attacks on civilians and indiscriminate bombing, unimpeded humanitarian access to conflict-affected areas, releasing arbitrarily held detainees, greater respect for freedoms of assembly, association, and expression, allowing human rights monitoring and cooperation with international institutions, and carrying out essential reforms to the National Security Act and other key legislation.

HRW believes the US government should defer evaluation of Sudan’s progress to a later date, and continue to monitor the broader set of human rights benchmarks. Washington should revise and update its Sudan sanctions policy, enforce and impose additional individual targeted sanctions against those deemed responsible for serious abuses, and consider new individual sanctions. In addition it should appoint a special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan.

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