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Sudan free of US sanctions, rights groups unhappy
October 15, 2017, 5:13 pm

Last week, the United States lifted the trade and financial embargo that it had first imposed on Sudan in 1997, in response to alleged human rights violations and terrorism concerns in the African country. In 2006, the US government layered on more sanctions for what it said was Sudan’s complicity in committing violence in the Darfur region.

Removing the punitive sanctions, which had practically cut Sudan off the global financial system for nearly two decades, President Donald Trump said the country had made significant progress in fighting terrorism and in easing humanitarian distress. The US also secured Khartoum’s commitment not to pursue any new arms deals with North Korea.

Despite the removal of trade sanctions, Sudan would still remain on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism — alongside Iran and Syria — which entails banning the sale of US weapons and restricting aid to  the country, said US officials. They also warned that any back-sliding on the part of Sudan would immediately lead to reinstating the sanctions.

Also, the US decision to lift sanctions would not, at least for the moment, make any changes to the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court against Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, who stands accused of orchestrating genocide in Darfur. Nor would it affect the status of Sudanese officials subject to sanctions by the United Nations for human rights violations during the Darfur conflict.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the sanctions relief was in recognition of Sudan’s “sustained positive actions” but that more improvement was needed. The lifting of sanctions reflects a US assessment that Sudan has made progress in meeting Washington’s demands, including cooperation on counter-terrorism, working to resolve internal conflicts and allowing more humanitarian aid into Darfur and other rebellious border areas, the official said.

The lifting of sanctions is expected to unfreeze Sudanese government assets and could benefit a range of businesses in Sudan, including its key energy sector. The economy has been reeling since South Sudan, which contains three-quarters of former Sudan’s oil wells, seceded in 2011.

However, rights groups have expressed reservations on the lifting of sanctions. “It sends the wrong message to lift these sanctions permanently when Sudan has made so little progress on human rights,” said Andrea Prasow, deputy director of the Washington office of Human Rights Watch.


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