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UN rapporteur calls for setting timeframe to lift US sanctions on Sudan

November 30, 2015 (KHARTOUM) - U N Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, Idriss Jazairy, has called on the United States to determine a timeframe to lift the economic sanctions imposed on Sudan.

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U N Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, Idriss Jazairy, speaks in a press conference held in Khartoum on 30 November 2015 (ST Photo)

Jazairy, who spoke in a press conference at the conclusion of an eight-day visit to Sudan Monday, said that government organs and civil society organizations who he met in Khartoum have agreed to the need for lifting the US sanctions or reconsidering it.

Washington imposed economic and trade sanctions on Sudan in 1997 in response to its alleged connection to terror networks and human rights abuses. In 2007 it strengthened the embargo, citing abuses in Darfur which it labelled as genocide.

Jazairy said he seeks to make an effort to overcome the coercive measures imposed on the Sudanese people, pointing that he will submit his report to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) meeting in Geneva in December.

He disclosed that he was assured by Sudan’s Vice-President that the government is ready to engage in simultaneous talks on the sanctions inside Sudan and abroad.

“We must accept dialogue between Sudan and the source state [US] and the United Nations and [other] international organizations are ready to activate this dialogue,” he said.

The special rapporteur added that his report would include several proposals that could constitute a road-map for the joint dialogue, stressing the decision to lift the sanctions won’t be taken overnight.

He pointed to the experience of Iran and Cuba who managed to reached a compromise with the US leading to the lift of sanctions which have been imposed on both nations form long.

He underscored that sanctions could be prone to politicization particularly as the coercive measures are inconsistent with the international law.

“If the outcome of the sanctions led to the kind of sufferings that I have seen in Sudan, then its legitimacy would be at stake,” he said.

Jazairy said the UN Security Council (UNSC) no longer favours imposition of comprehensive sanctions due to its unintended negative impacts on innocent citizens in the targeted countries, saying it prefers targeting particular individuals or sectors.

“Due to that I consider the comprehensive unilateral coercive measures imposed on Sudan incompatible with the developments in the UN practices in this domain,” he added.

He pointed that the sanctions imposed in Sudan since two decades didn’t adapt with the continuous developments in the domestic situation in the country, saying the situation that had prevailed in 1997 differs from the current situation.

“Despite that, those measures [sanctions] didn’t change even after signing the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement or following the gradual improvement in governance issues and the launch of the national dialogue initiative,” he said.

The UN official pointed the negative impact of sanctions had been reduced after the year 2000 due to the increase in government revenues resulting from the oil discovery, saying however its impact was aggravated as a result of the cession of South Sudan which took with it 75% of the oil revenue as well as the global decrease in oil price.

“[The impact of sanctions] has exacerbated more after three European banks including Crédit Agricole, BNP Paris Bas and Commerz Bank were fined by the source state [US],” he added.

He pointed that the fining of the three banks has led to a crippling blockade on the Sudanese financial sector since 2013 due to stopping foreign banking transactions at a time when the domestic situation was improving.

“It was proven that those sanctions didn’t negatively impact on [government] officials or a particular elite class but it has affected the innocent citizens and deepened inequality among Sudanese classes and between regions due to income variations,” he said.

“It [sanctions] has also expanded the [Forex] black market because transactions were being conducted outside the banking system which created a parallel economy that was prone to all kinds of illegal exploitation,” he added.

He acknowledged that the impact of the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights in Sudan was obvious in several domains on top of which is the health sector, pointing to the difficulty of assessing the negative impact of sanctions on some sectors due to multiplicity of reasons.

The UN official said the right to life and health is negatively affected by inability to obtain hardware spare parts and life-saving drugs, pointing that Sudan is among a few countries where people with diabetes die due to lack of medicines because it is only produced by two states that are abiding by the sanctions.

He also said that the right to development is affected by inability to receive spare parts for basic such as trains, planes, tractors, water pumps and buses, noting the number of mini-buses has dropped from 40,000 buses in 1999 to 12,000 in 2014 due to lack of spare parts.

Jazairy also pointed to the impact of sanctions on education and drinking water sectors besides the elderly and the disabled who were prevented from receiving remittances of their families abroad.

He said the deteriorating education, social and economic conditions in Sudan could be partially attributed to reasons pertaining to the unilateral coercive measures besides other domestic reasons, saying the other domestic reasons fall under the responsibility of the UN independent expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan.

“For those reasons, the comprehensive assessment of the situation in Sudan needs to be undertaken through two parallel tracks to investigate the domestic and external reasons in order to draw a comprehensive picture for the situation in the country”, he said.

The UN official provided 17 preliminary recommendations including setting a specific timeframe for the unilateral coercive measures imposed on Sudan, establishing an appropriate body to review and adjust the sanctions according to the developments in the situations and avoiding over-implementation of sanctions by trade or financial institutions outside the source state (US).

He also proposed holding a technical forum with the participation of Sudan, the concerned international bodies, representatives of private trade and financial institutions besides monitors form the source state in order to improve the implementation of the sanctions.

The UN official also called for activating exemptions made by the source state on Gum Arabic, software and communications devices and vital medicines and lifting the financial on financial transactions to import and export those products.

He also called for lifting sanctions on the remittances of Sudanese expatriates in order to comply with the decision of the source state to lift Sudan’s name from the list of states monitored by the Financial Action Task Force.

“If this measure can’t be taken in the short-run, an alternative solution could be found by establishing a temporary mechanism belonging to the UN and with the approval of Sudan and the source state to secure the transfer of funds for the vital supplies in the various sectors including health, spare parts, epidemics,” he said.

Jaziry also called for the need to seek help from the concerned international mechanisms to reschedule Sudan’s foreign debt which he described as “unbearable”.

“This can serve as a symbolic compensation for losses that have been inflicted upon Sudan by the unilateral coercive measures during two decades and which exceeds the total amount of Sudan’s foreign debt,” he said.

Sudan’s external debt is estimated to be around $46 billion. Khartoum says it has completed technical and economic requirements for debt cancellation but observers assert that it is difficult for Sudan to secure it without Western backing.

He added that concerted efforts between Sudan and South Sudan would participate to achieving the desired goal as stated in the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) resolution 539 on dialogue and peace in Sudan, saying the resolution pointed to support of the African Union to the joint plan presented by the two countries regarding debt cancellation and the lift of sanctions on Sudan and provision of development aid for South Sudan.

The UN official said the complete lift of the unilateral coercive sanctions requires Sudan to have a strong voice at the both regional and international levels, saying that a successful national dialogue could serve in this regard.

“All effective political and [armed] movements must be engaged in the national dialogue without exception in light of the directives of the AUPSC resolution 539,” he said .