Trump Administration Lifting of U.S. Economic Sanctions on the Khartoum Regime Will Assist Tyranny

In January 2017—as the Obama administration was cynically, if provisionally, lifting longstanding U.S. economic sanctions against the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime in Khartoum—Amnesty International was reporting on the increasingly frequent and brutal human rights abuses endured by Darfuri students in Sudanese universities, particularly in Khartoum and Omdurman:

“UNINVESTIGATED, UNPUNISHED” | HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS AGAINST DARFURI STUDENTS IN SUDAN | Amnesty International, January 2017

| https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/AFR5448482017ENGLISH.pdf (Excerpt from the Executive Summary below)

Radio Dabanga has recently reported on two significant incidents that given heightened relevance to the findings of Amnesty’s report.

None of this, however, seems to register with the current U.S. Charge d’Affaires in Khartoum, Steven Koutsis,whose chief recent tasks have been to utter soothing words to the Khartoum regime about the inevitability of a permanent lifting of U.S. economic and financial sanctions by the Trump administration come October.

Koutsis seems either profoundly ignorant of the reasons the sanctions were originally imposed or simply mendacious. His comments about the origin of sanctions was first reported by Agence France-Presse (El Daien, East Darfur | June 24, 2017), but subsequently by many other news organizations. Referring to those expressing grave concern about Khartoum’s increasing repression and continuing violent suppression of political dissent, religious intolerance, its abysmal human rights record, and its continuing deployment of brutal militia forces in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan, Koutsis declared:

“None of these other issues were the point of sanctions, and none of these other issues, therefore, should be linked to the lifting of sanctions.”

Here Koutsis is so egregiously in error that we must question his basic diplomatic competence in dealing with the Khartoum regime. U.S. economic sanctions imposed by President Clinton in 1997 are explicit about why they were being imposed; in the Preface of his Executive Order, Clinton declared:

The language here could hardly be clearer

Steven Koutsis represents the Trump administration in Khartoum as senior U.S. Charge d’Affaires; he is either extraordinarily ignorant or a liar

That the most serious human rights abuses continue to be common practices by the NIF/NCP regime throughout Sudan has been thoroughly documented by the world’s most distinguished human rights groups for over 28 years. Although for years Khartoum has allowed no independent human rights reporting in Sudan, Amnesty International and Human Rights have proved intrepid in securing interviews with witnesses inside Sudan and from those who have escaped. In addition to the January 2017 report on Human Rights Abuses Against Darfuri Students, we have as well:

• “Mass Rape in Darfur: Sudanese Army Attacks Against Civilians in Tabit” | Human Rights Watch, February 11, 2015 | http://www.hrw.org/news/2015/02/11/sudan-mass-rape-army-darfur

• “Men With No Mercy”: Rapid Support Forces Attacks Against Civilians in Darfur, Sudan,” Human Rights Watch | September 9, 2015 | https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/09/09/men-no-mercy/rapid-support-forces-attacks-against-civilians-darfur-sudan

• “Scorched Earth, Poisoned Air: Sudanese Government Forces Ravage Jebel Marra, Darfur,” Amnesty International | 109 pages; released September 29, 2016

| http://www.amnestyusa.org/research/reports/scorched-earth-poisoned-air-sudanese-government-forces-ravage-jebel-marra-darfur

Beyond this, we have the distinguished and relentless reporting by Sudan Tribune (Paris) and Radio Dabanga (Hilversum, The Netherlands). Recent dispatches from Radio Dabanga in particular give clear evidence of how telling the Amnesty report of January 2017 remains—and how despicable is the impending decision to lift sanctions on a regime that wages constant war on its own people and that is guilty of the worst human rights abuses, including serial genocide:

• Two students die from wounds, third stabbed to death in Omdurman | Radio Dabanga | September 1, 2017 | OMDURMAN | https://www.dabangasudan.org/en/all-news/article/student-stabbed-to-death-in-omdurman-dormitory

(UPDATE 18:30) Ashraf El Hadi and Mohamed Ali Abdallah succumbed to their injuries they sustained during a clash in the dormitory of the Omdurman Islamic University on Thursday morning. This means the incident, which is being investigated, has caused the death of three students.

One of the doctors who supervised Mohamed Ali in the Aliya hospital in Omdurman said this in an audio recording. Abdallah’s brain stopped working, according to the doctor. El Hadi died in the private military hospital in Omdurman.

Stabbing

Jaafar Mohamed Abdelbagi, nicknamed Jifara, was stabbed to death with a knife in his student dormitory in Omdurman on Thursday morning. Abdallah and El Hadi were the two other students who sustained injuries during the incident. The incident occurred in El Shigla dormitory of the Omdurman Islamic University, where the police arrived to force the students out with tear gas and beating them with batons. The man, also a student, suspected of the murder surrendered himself to the police. Investigations into the incident are ongoing.

Abdelbagi was from South Darfur and studied at the Faculty of Commerce of El Nilein University.

Yesterday two reports were circulated about the incident. The first report stated that the incident was caused by students supportive of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) who attacked Darfuri students in their rooms. Another report stated that it was a criminal incident resulting from personal differences. Yesterday, students told Radio Dabanga that at least two of the injured were Darfuri students who are receiving treatment in the hospital.

• Mass demonstrations follow Sudanese student guilty verdict | Radio Dabanga | August 30, 2017 | KHARTOUM | https://www.dabangasudan.org/en/all-news/article/mass-demos-after-sudanese-student-verdict

Sudanese students took to the streets in the national capital of Khartoum yesterday in protest against a court verdict condemning Asim Omar, a student at Khartoum University who was on trial on capital charges for allegedly killing a policeman. The court has postponed the verdict several times, and opposition voices have called for Omar’s release.

Answering a call by opposition forces, mass demonstrations broke out after the court ruled Omar guilty, which means he faced the death penalty. The demonstrations swept across El Soug El Arabi, with protestors carrying a picture of Omar and shouting slogans rejecting the court’s ruling (see videos and pictures below). The head of Omar’s defence team, Mohamed El Hafiz, said that the court postponed the final verdict to September 24 at the request of the defence and with the consent of the relatives of the deceased. El Hafiz described the ruling as “surprising and contrary to the estimates of the defence which expected an acquittal of the accused.”

He said that the ruling was “full of flaws and mistakes and that the defence is studying and addressing it through the four litigation stages including review and then challenging the ruling before the Appeal and Constitutional Courts.” He asserts that “the defence has sufficient reasons to challenge the ruling.”

He said aid that the testimony of the witnesses contradicted the investigation and trial, which is sufficient grounds for acquitting the accused. “The question of criminal intent contained in the ruling was not available, explaining that the defence considered that the person in question is not Omar and that the indictment has not provided technical proof or reports.”

Amnesty and pardon

El Hafiz said that the defence managed to talk with the relatives of the dead policeman who agreed to sit-down to discuss the possibility of amnesty and pardon. Hundreds of students demonstrated at the University of Khartoum in protest against the ruling against Omar amid unprecedented police and security crowds in front of the university.

Student anger

A student leader at the University of Khartoum told Radio Dabanga that a state of anger and indignation prevailed among the students because of the judge’s sentence of student Asim Omar for murder, which they considered as a clear targeting of students. He explained that a number of speeches were organised at the headquarters of the main university rejecting the ruling against Omar and calling for escalation of the protests. Yesterday the security authorities arrested journalist Omar El Farouq and other activists during their coverage of Omar’s ruling in Khartoum and the protests that followed the verdict. The police came to the headquarters of the court where hundreds gathered and dispersed them by force at El Hurriya Street.

Arrest