The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Brenda Bowser Soder
O -202/370-3323

Leading Rights Group Says Implementation of New Sudan Policy is Key

Announcement comes as UN Security Council is to review Panel of Experts report


Human Rights First welcomes today's announcement of President Obama's new policy on Sudan. While President Obama's statements during the presidential campaign promised a strong response to those responsible for atrocities in Sudan, his administration's policy to date has been more focused on engagement with Sudan's leaders than consequences. For the newly announced White House policy to succeed, the Obama Administration must demand the enforcement of existing United Nations and U.S. sanctions.

According to Human Rights First, during the seven months since his appointment, President Obama's Special Envoy to Sudan, J. Scott Gration, has consistently promoted a policy of engagement over all other tools, including sanctions. This viewpoint could be a significant roadblock to implementation of the Obama Administration's newly announced policy. "We won't know if sanctions work until we've actually tried to enforce them," noted Julia Fromholz, director of Human Rights First's Crimes Against Humanity program. "The Administration must immediately dedicate itself to ensuring that effective pressure is applied not only to the Government of Sudan and all other belligerents, but also to those who support the conflict in violation of United Nations and U.S. embargoes."

In 2005, the United Nations Security Council expanded a year-old arms embargo on Darfur to include the government of Sudan. Since then, the Sanctions Committee charged with monitoring and enforcing the embargo has dispatched successive expert groups to find detailed evidence on embargo violations. Despite scarce resources and obstacles erected by the Sudanese government-such as refusals to issue visas to Panel of Experts members-these expert groups have submitted hundreds of pages of solid evidence to the Sanctions Committee on violations of the embargo. Yet the Sanctions Committee and the UN Security Council have taken no action to hold either the Sudanese government or third-party suppliers including China and Russia accountable. The embargo remains in place and the Panel of Experts' mandate has already been renewed for another year.

Today's announcement comes just days before panel's latest report on Sudan is expected to be discussed at the Sanctions Committee. "This is an ideal moment for the Obama Administration to show that it is in fact willing to apply pressure to a government that has time and again broken promises while abusing its people, and that it will also hold accountable those who sustain that government," said Fromholz. "Imposing consequences on embargo violators would clearly show that President Obama is serious about the sanctions he mentioned this morning."

Human Rights First urges Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Ambassador Susan Rice and Special Envoy to Sudan Gration to ensure that the discussion this week at the Sanctions Committee is thorough and detailed, and to galvanize multilateral support for imposing consequences on those who have violated the embargo. Fromholz noted, "The most effective start to implementation of this morning's new policy would be to ensure that laws already on the books are applied, not ignored."

Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.