Peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators were slaughtered in Sudan over three days in early June. As many as 128 people were killed in Khartoum, Darfur, Port Sudan, and Blue Nile State. Victims were demanding that the Military Council restore the deal for a transition to civilian democratic rule, established after the long-time dictator Omar Al-Bashir was removed from the presidency.
The Rapid Support Forces serve as the point of the spear for the Military Council, a new incarnation of the Janjaweed insurgency who committed genocide in Darfur beginning in 2004. In June, the Rapid Support Forces engaged in an orgy of violence: killing protesters, raping women, and rounding up members of the Declaration of Freedom and Change, a civic alliance that represents the protesters.
The Donald J. Trump administration can use carrots and sticks to compel the Khartoum regime to change course. But American engagement must send a clear message of accountability to leaders of the military junta and members of the Rapid Support Forces.
Cocktail of US Sanctions
Those who committed crimes against the people of Sudan cannot act with impunity. Punitive measures led by the U.S. and the international community will change the cost-benefit calculus of Janjaweed leaders and Khartoum’s generals, including head of the Military Council General Abdel-Fattah Burhan.
The U.S. State Department, working with Members of Congress, should prepare a list of Sudanese officials and security personnel for sanction. The list would include Janjaweed leader Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known by his nom de guerre “Hemedti,” and others involved in the murder of civilians.
Washington has a range of tools at its disposal. The Global Magnitsky Act, which provides the authority to sanction human rights offenders and corrupt officials worldwide, could be applied.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee can formally request the Trump administration to sanction Sudanese officials and their commercial accomplices who are responsible for ongoing violence and state looting.
Beyond the Global Magnitsky Act, Washington can ratchet up the pressure by using so-called network sanctions, in which an entire group involved in human rights abuses and/or mass corruption is held accountable. Members of the Military Council can be targeted.
The Treasury Department can also play an important role in imposing sanctions. It should issue an anti-money laundering advisory to banks around the world, putting them on the lookout for illicit financial flows that have come out of Sudan during the last year. The anti-money laundering advisory would enlist bank compliance officers globally in the search for stolen and laundered assets.
Through this cocktail of sanctions, the U.S. would freeze and seize assets of the perpetrators. Sanctions would block targeted Sudanese officials from accessing the international financial system. Travel bans could also be imposed.
Washington Must Draw Red Line
The Sudanese people demand justice. To this end, the Declaration of Freedom and Change seeks an independent investigation into crimes against civilians. They also demand the immediate release of individuals arbitrarily detained as well as an accounting of persons who were tortured or who died in detention. Accountability should be part of a broader transitional justice strategy.
The Government of Sudan is working assiduously to cover up crimes by suspending telecommunications and internet services. The communications black-out is also intended to restrict popular mobilization. The U.S. should demand the immediate restoration of telecommunications and internet services.
Washington must draw a red line. U.S. officials should insist on a peaceful transition to civilian rule, paving the way for human rights, peace, and justice. Until then, Sudan’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism by the U.S. Department of State will remain. Other sanctions imposed for Sudan’s trafficking in human persons should be further enforced.
Sudan’s Tipping Point
Failure to act could lead to another round of atrocities and refugee flows. Christians in Sudan and other religious minorities will be hard-hit. Extremist and Islamist organizations supported by the al-Bashir regime may be resurgent.
Sudan is at a tipping point. Pressure will send a signal to the generals that they cannot act with impunity. Sudan will remain an outlier until it stops the violence and allows human rights and democratic government for Sudanese.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.