Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Urge White House to Delay Sudan Sanctions Relief
United States Congress
Washington, DC — U.S. Congressmen Randy Hultgren (R-IL) and Jim McGovern (D-MA), co-chairs of the bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, and Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Tom Rooney (R-FL) led a bipartisan letter this week calling on President Trump to delay lifting sanctions on Sudan. This comes one week before the July 12 deadline when the U.S. must make a decision on the sanctions. Click here to view the letter online.
In January 2017, President Obama issued Executive Order 13761, which provides temporary relief from many U.S. sanctions against Sudan that have been in effect for 20 years. Today’s letter calls for a delay in sanctions relief for one year or until the Trump Administration has fully staffed the State Department and National Security Council and named a Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan who can conduct a thorough and objective review. The lawmakers specifically cite unimpeded humanitarian access and cessation of hostilities in Sudan as key priorities where progress must be made for sanctions relief to be considered.
“At our April Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing on Sudan and sanctions, we heard first-hand from experts who were troubled by the negative consequences that could follow by prematurely lifting sanctions on this repressive regime,” Congressman Randy Hultgren (R-IL) said. “This bi-partisan letter reaffirms Congressional commitment to ensure Sudan improves its human rights record before the United States lifts sanctions.”
“Our bipartisan letter to President Trump sends a strong message that both Democrats and Republicans believe America must stand up for human rights and hold Sudan accountable. I was deeply disappointed that President Obama eased sanctions on Sudan when there has been little to no progress in the human rights and humanitarian crises there,” Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) said. “Today we are urging President Trump not to continue a mistaken policy. America must stand up for human rights and clearly condemn the brutal and corrupt practices of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.”
“I did not support this executive order when it was issued by the Obama Administration and I don’t believe the actions of the Sudanese government warrant any sanctions relief at this time,” Congressman Tom Rooney (R-FL) said. “The reality is that violence and displacement at the hands of government forces still persists in Sudan, and there has been no credible, widespread evidence of increased humanitarian access to the abused populations.”
Bipartisan Priorities for U.S.-Sudan Policy
The bipartisan letter highlights key priorities that must be achieved and carefully considered before the U.S. provides sanctions relief to Sudan.
- The U.S. State Department, National Security Council, and Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan must more thoroughly review whether the Government of Sudan has abided by the requirements of the Executive Order 13761.
- The Executive Order requires progress from Sudan on five tracks of U.S.-Sudan engagement, including three key priorities: 1) Sudan’s commitment to a cessation of hostilities; 2) Unimpeded humanitarian access to regions under siege by the Sudan Armed Forces; and 3) Cooperation on counterterrorism.
- Providing sanctions relief while clear evidence remains that Sudan is supporting violent non-state armed groups, like the former combatants of the Islamist group, Seleka, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and other similar violent actors operating in northern and central Africa, the Middle East and neighboring countries would only reward such actions.
- Without strong sanctions to hold Sudan accountable, Sudan will likely continue to expand its financial and logistical support to illegal armed groups on the African continent – something that certainly represents a threat to our national security and interests on that continent.
- Relieving Sudan of sanctions – without having a new phase of engagement in place, along with new, targeted pressures – will not increase our leverage but rather weaken it while empowering a genocidal regime with additional capacity to acquire more military equipment, train more soldiers to commit more war crimes.
- By delaying the July 12th deadline, the U.S. government will ensure it has the proper personnel in place and the time and resources to review Sudan’s compliance with the executive order. Ultimately, such a review will pave the way for a more constructive relationship with Sudan that is in the best interest of the United States and the long-suffering people of Sudan.
Joining Hultgren and the leaders of the bipartisan letter to President Trump on Sudan are U.S. Representatives Michael Capuano (D-MA) and Christopher Smith (R-NJ) – Co-Chairs of the Sudan/South Sudan Caucus and Representatives Joe Crowley (D-NY), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Richard Neal (D-MA), Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Daniel Donovan, Jr. (R-NY), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Glenn Grothman (R-WI), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Lou Barletta (R-PA), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Chris Stewart (R-UT), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Charles Dent (R-PA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Robin Kelly (D-IL), Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Peter Welch (D-VT), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Norma Torres (D-CA), Nita Lowey (D-NY), David Cicilline (D-RI), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Chellie Pingree (D-MN), Michael Doyle (D-PA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), John Yarmuth (D-KY), Matt Cartwirght (D-PA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY).
Full Text of Bipartisan Sudan Letter is Below:
June 30, 2017
Donald J. Trump
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
As you are aware, President Obama issued Executive Order 13761 in January, just one week before your inauguration, which provides temporary relief from many U.S. sanctions against Sudan that have been in effect for 20 years. On or around July 12, 2017, you are called upon to determine whether that temporary relief should be maintained or be made permanent.
We write to request that you delay lifting these sanctions for one year or until your Administration has been able to fully staff the Department of State and National Security Council, and you have named a Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan. Once in place, this team should more thoroughly review whether the Government of Sudan has abided by the requirements of the Executive Order. At this point in time, we believe that the evidence is unavailable or inconclusive to reach a determination, in particular on the two tracks that most affect the Sudanese people, namely unimpeded humanitarian access and cessation of hostilities.
The Executive Order requires progress from Sudan on five tracks of U.S.-Sudan engagement. We are particularly concerned about progress – or lack thereof – on three of the tracks: Sudan’s commitment to a cessation of hostilities, unimpeded humanitarian access to regions under siege by the Sudan Armed Forces, and cooperation on counterterrorism. There has been substantial fighting in Darfur in recent months, including evidence of targeting of civilians by Sudanese armed forces and their affiliated militias and, as expected, no humanitarian access has been granted to South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, and only limited access to Darfur.
While the Sudanese government may seem cooperative on counterterrorism efforts, we believe they continue regularly scheduled support for violent non-state armed groups, like the former combatants of the Islamist group, Seleka, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and other similar violent actors operating in northern and central Africa, the Middle East and neighboring countries.
As you may recall, Sudan housed Osama bin Laden, was found guilty of supporting al-Qaeda’s bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, and the U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. To reward Sudan with this prize will reflect on American credibility and resolve to confront the perpetrators of war crimes and sponsors of terrorism. It should be an action taken very carefully and only after thorough, objective review.
Should the U.S. allow sanctions relief to become permanent in July, we are deeply concerned that Sudan will continue to expand its financial and logistical support to illegal armed groups on the African continent – something that certainly represents a threat to our national security and interests on that continent.
The Sudan government has one of the worst human rights records in the world. Over the past thirty years, President Omar al-Bashir has presided over the murder and violent displacement of millions of Sudanese people. Since June 2011, the Sudanese government has targeted civilians in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile State by dropping over 5,000 thousand bombs on innocent people in villages, schools, hospitals and churches. In addition, the Sudanese President and two of his top officials are wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide in Darfur. This gives Bashir the dubious distinction of being the only sitting head of state to ever be indicted for war crimes.
While we welcome stronger U.S. engagement with Sudan, relieving Sudan of sanctions – without having a new phase of engagement in place, along with new, targeted pressures – will not increase our leverage but rather weaken it while empowering a genocidal regime with additional capacity to acquire more military equipment, train more soldiers to commit more war crimes and further its support for groups like the ex-Seleka. We need look no further than the regime’s demolition of two Christian churches in Khartoum this year, and their plans to bulldoze at least 27 more. This is state-sanctioned persecution of Christians and the denial of freedom of religion –something the original sanctions imposed by Executive Order since 1997 were designed to target.
In addition, before the announcement of a cease-fire by the Sudan government last year, ostensibly in response to the five-track process, the Sudan military took over several large farming areas in the conflict zones, in order to strategically starve the besieged civilian population. U.S. sanctions were imposed for the purpose of curbing actions such as these, and changes to policy and the sanctions regimen must ensure that they do not condone or institutionalize them, let alone reward them.
Further, it is troubling that we have seen both little change in the behavior of the Sudanese government and no indication that its behavior is likely to change if sanctions are lifted. For 30 years, this regime has manipulated the international community by pausing violence when it sees a benefit in doing so. However, these periods during which military attacks against civilians decrease have never become permanent. More time is needed to assess whether the current diminishment (as it is not a cessation) of offensive military operations is permanent or merely a strategic ceasefire that benefits the regime.
By delaying the July 12th deadline, the U.S. government will ensure it has the proper personnel in place and the time and resources to review Sudan’s compliance with the executive order. Ultimately, such a review will pave the way for a more constructive relationship with Sudan that is in the best interest of the United States and the long-suffering people of Sudan.