U.S. Must Not Lift Sudan Sanctions
The United States should not rush to reward the government of Sudan for signing a peace agreement with southern rebels while it is still pursuing a policy of ethnic cleansing in the country's west, Freedom House said today.
As Sudanese government forces and government-backed militias continue to murder innocent civilians and drive others from their homes in Sudan's western Darfur province, the United States should not lift the remaining sanctions against Khartoum, despite the signing of a peace deal today that formally ended Sudan's separate 21-year civil war in the south, the organization said.
The government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Army, the main rebel group in the country's south, signed the peace deal.
In an effort to coax a conclusion to the civil war -- characterized by slavery, rape, massacres, forced displacement, and religious persecution -- the United States had previously hinted that it would lift sanctions imposed on Sudan.
"Much of what is happening in Darfur today closely resembles tactics used by the Sudanese government forces in the south," said Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor. "Today we are witness to mass killings of tens of thousands of civilians and the forced displacement of over one million people at the hands of government forces and state-backed Arab militias," she said. "Sudan's leaders should not be rewarded for ending one war while brutally waging another against defenseless civilians."
Freedom House welcomed President Bush's statement on April 7, in which he called on the Sudanese government to immediately cease its activities in Darfur, to disarm the Arab militias, known as Janjaweed, and to immediately allow humanitarian agencies unfettered access to the region's increasingly vulnerable population.
In a letter to National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleeza Rice on May 10, Freedom House, together with a broad coalition of non-governmental organizations, urged the administration to also "make clear that its ultimate goal is to reverse the ethnic cleansing, to enable the victims of ethnic cleansing in Darfur to return to their communities with security, and then to take steps adequate to achieving that goal.
In a meeting today with U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, leaders of several human rights organizations, including Freedom House, stressed the need for President Bush to publicly make clear that it regards the situation in Darfur as one of ethnic cleansing, and to maintain pressure on Sudan through both sanctions and active engagement by the UN Security Council. The group urged the U.S. to work towards a binding UN Security Council resolution that lays out clear benchmarks the government of Sudan must meet.
In addition, Freedom House also urged the U.S. to provide additional immediate financial assistance to Darfur and to southern Sudan to help stabilize the situation in both regions.
Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom has tracked Sudan's record of repression against ethnic and religious minorities and has lobbied extensively for the U.S. to apply consistent pressure on the Sudanese government through a national coalition of churches, religious groups and civil rights organizations it helped coordinate.
"With the specter of genocide hovering over Darfur, now is not the time to reward Khartoum," said Center director Nina Shea.
In it's latest global annual survey of political rights and civil liberties, Freedom House ranks Sudan among the most repressive regimes in the world. "The government of Sudan is a brutal dictatorship," said Ms. Windsor. "Until it demonstrates basic respect for the fundamental human rights of all its citizens, it should be regarded, and treated, as the rogue regime it is.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.