The United States remains very concerned about Sudan’s human rights record, including the continued closing of political space, and restrictions on religious freedom, freedom of expression, including press freedom.
In a statement on Thursday, the US Embassy in Khartoum says that they have outlined their concerns in detail in their annual Human Rights Report, and continue to press the Government of Sudan to improve its performance in these areas.
“As we have repeatedly stated in Washington, New York, Geneva, and Khartoum, the protection of human rights is deeply intertwined with peace and security,” the statement reads.
“We continue to monitor the Government of Sudan’s progress in the five key areas noted in Executive Order 13761 to determine if it has met the order’s requirements for the lifting of certain sanctions in July 2017. In this process we have pressed to ensure Sudan has adhered to its unilateral cessation of hostilities in conflict areas and ceased all indiscriminate aerial bombardment, a key human rights concern.
Moving forward, we want to see stronger progress in these areas by the Sudanese government.
“While we have worked for progress in the five areas, we have also engaged intensively on human rights concerns. We have raised at all levels our concerns regarding jailed activists, newspaper confiscations, church demolitions, constricted political space, and restrictions on personal and religious freedom. Moving forward, we want to see stronger progress in these areas by the Sudanese government.
“The United States remains committed to the Sudanese people and to continued policy engagement with the Government of Sudan, and the opposition, to realize peace and further the protection of human rights in Sudan,” the statement concludes.
By 12 July, Washington must decide whether to permanently lift the economic and trade restrictions on Sudan it suspended in January. On 13 January this year, the USA said it would temporarily lift certain sanctions against Sudan, based on positive actions by Khartoum over the preceding six months.
Washington would permanently repeal them if progress were sustained over the subsequent six months, and listed five tracks on which advances would be gauged: counter-terrorism cooperation, addressing the threat of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), ending hostilities in Darfur and the Two Areas (South Kordofan and Blue Nile), improving humanitarian access, and ending negative interference in South Sudan.
The lifting of the anctions could be used as leverage to push for greater change.
The sanctions were imposed in 1997, after Sudan was listed as a “state sponsor of terrorism”. The measures blocked all Sudanese government assets in the USA and barred a large number of trade transactions with Sudan.
Many see the lifting of sanctions as a reward for an autocratic and repressive government, African Arguments stated on Tuesday. But not lifting them could discourage further cooperation and lead to a reversal of the advances made.
If it repeals the sanctions, Washington would retain important leverage over Khartoum, including targeted sanctions on individuals associated with the Darfur conflict and Sudan’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. These could be used as leverage to push for greater change.
The Crisis Group expressed the same notion: “On balance, lifting sanctions is the better of two imperfect options, particularly if coupled with clear signals that far more is needed for the government to escape those sanctions that will remain in force, and obtain debt relief. The USA should also make clear that it stands ready to impose new targeted financial sanctions should Khartoum renege on its commitments,” the international think-tank said in a briefing on 22 June.
The Washington-based Enough Project, which aims to counter genocide and crimes against humanity, has urged for a re-think of the policy framework between the USA and Sudan in The Missing Track released in June.