Between the European Union’s multi-million dollar deal that would effectively pay Sudan to prevent refugees from fleeing into Europe, and Israel’s attempts to influence western nations to normalize relations with Sudan, it seems as if the world has forgotten who Sudan’s President, Omar al-Bashir is. Let me remind you.
President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir is an indicted war criminal and génocidaire wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes committed in Darfur, Sudan. Most widely known for his role in the genocide in Darfur that has killed approximately 400,000 people, and displaced more than three million, Bashir has also been the mastermind behind atrocities committed in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Also known as “the two areas”, South Kordofan and Blue Nile’s civilian population have been subjected to indiscriminate bombings by Sudan’s military and attacks by ground forces since 2011, displacing more than one million people. The continued violence has had a direct impact on the lives of the Sudanese living in these regions, and the blocking of humanitarian aid has caused millions to be severely food insecure.
In 2009, the first ever arrest warrant issued for a sitting head of state was issued to Bashir. The ICC prosecutor indicted al-Bashir for five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes. When the arrest warrant was announced the ICC issued this release detailing Bashir’s crimes: “He [Bashir] is suspected of being criminally responsible, as an indirect (co-)perpetrator, for intentionally directing attacks against an important part of the civilian population of Darfur, Sudan, murdering, exterminating, raping, torturing and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians, and pillaging their property.”
In 2010, another arrest warrant was issued for Bashir. This time he was being indicted on three counts of genocide against ethnic groups living in Darfur. The crimes he was accused of included: “genocide by killing, genocide by causing serious bodily or mental harm and genocide by deliberately inflicting on each target group conditions of life calculated to bring about the group’s physical destruction.”
Since 2003, there have been countless human rights, UN, government, and nongovernmental organizations reports released on the atrocities committed by Bashir’s regime. So why are the EU and Israel interested in working closer with Bashir and Sudan?
Europe Seeks to Stem Flow of Refugees through Sudan
First let’s talk about the EU. It is no secret that Europe is currently struggling to effectively cope with the increase in refugees crossing into their countries. In an attempt to deal with this issue, the EU is trying to find ways to stem the flow of some refugees into European nations. One such strategy is to work with countries, like Sudan, to forcibly stop refugees and migrants from passing through on their way to Europe. Deals like this would encourage countries like Sudan to round up refugees and migrants within their borders to prevent them from leaving and potentially moving on to Europe.
The problem with this strategy is that it would encourage a genocidal regime to crack down (likely violently) against refugee populations, knowing that there was a financial incentive for them to do so. There has already been an uptick in crackdowns on refugees in Sudan after the news broke about the EU’s proposed plan, and it is certain this would only increase if a deal was fully reached.
What’s most troubling is the fact that EU funding could be used to sponsor genocide and mass atrocities throughout Sudan. If funding was used to better equip Sudan’s armed forces and militias, it is all but certain that the arms would be used to continue Bashir’s reign of terror. And this new arrangement between EU countries and the genocidal regime would make the EU less likely to hold Bashir accountable as it would no longer be in their best interest to do so, essentially giving Bashir carte blanche to continue killing his own people.
Israel Seeks Increased Western Cooperation with Sudan
Now on to Israel’s interest in Sudan. It was recently reported that Israel has been urging high-level diplomats from the United States and Europe to warm relations with Sudan. Israel believes that Sudan is distancing itself from its long-time ally Iran and has begun to strengthen its relationship with Saudi Arabia. Sudan’s long-time relationship with Iran meant that arms would often find their way from Iran to Sudan and then to the Gaza Strip. As Israel begins to see Sudan as less of a threat, the Israeli government wants to capitalize on this shift by getting its western allies to increase cooperation with Sudan. Sudan would like western powers to reduce sanctions and for the United States to remove Sudan from the state sponsors of terrorism list. Based on these reports, it would seem Sudan has found an unlikely partner in Israel to lobby on Sudan’s behalf.
The idea that the US government would normalize relations with Sudan is not new. The US has discussed normalizing relations with Sudan in the context of offering incentives to modify Sudan’s behavior. The merits of such an approach have been debated inside Washington for quite some time. The US had even previously promised to remove Sudan from the state sponsor of terrorism list, but eventually reneged on their commitment.
In a major policy address in 2014, the US Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Donald Booth, spoke about normalizing relations with Sudan stating that it was the long-term goal of the US to have a “normal bilateral relationship” with Sudan. At the time Booth seemed optimistic about the prospects for normalizing relations, but Sudan’s continued gross human rights violations, and pressure from advocates has ensured that the US has not softened on Sudan.
Jewish World Watch’s Position and Efforts
Jewish World Watch’s continued advocacy has been met with commitments from the Special Envoy’s office that the US would not decrease its pressure on Sudan unless marked and measurable progress was made to bring peace to Sudan’s various conflicts. A sentiment shared by many members of Congress as well.
So as Sudan’s President, al-Bashir, continues to kill his own people, we will keep advocating for increased pressure on the regime. As we get closer to Presidential elections in the US, and a new administration and diplomatic agenda, we will continue to raise awareness and advocate to our government that Sudan must be made a priority, and decreasing pressure without significant progress towards peace cannot be an option.
Recently, JWW joined with our coalition partners at Act for Sudan to send a letter to Germany’s Minister of Foreign Affairs urging Germany to use its influence at the EU to end its planned partnership with Sudan to curb refugee flows into Europe. The letter also addresses a number of other concerning issues relating to Sudan. You can read the entire letter by clicking here.
What You Can Do Click the links below to Tweet to the US Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan and to Germany’s Foreign Office:
- Click to Tweet the following message to the US Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan: Dear @SUSSESSS: pressure on genocidal regime in #Sudan must remain strong. Encourage #EU partners not to make deals with #Bashir.
- Click to Tweet the following message to Germany’s Foreign Office: Dear @GermanyDiplo: stop financial support of genocidal #Sudan regime to curb #Refugees into Europe. #EU http://bit.ly/2c954fm
*This article originally appeared on JWW’s website.