Washington, DC — Today, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, sent President Obama a letter urging him to take immediate action on South Sudan and sanction the high-profile individuals on both sides of the conflict who are responsible for committing recent atrocities.
Four weeks ago the Administration issued an Executive Order granting the U.S. the ability to sanction individuals in South Sudan who have threatened the peace and security in South Sudan, or committed human rights abuses. Chairman Royce called for these sanctions during a hearing he held in January, entitled "South Sudan's Broken Promise?"
In the letter to President Obama, Chairman Royce wrote: "Your Executive Order contains broad authority to sanction those involved in the conflict in South Sudan. … It is clear that the rhetorical threat of sanctions has failed to deter the committing of atrocities in South Sudan. Making the determinations that are necessary to publicly sanction high-profile leaders on both sides of the conflict will send a clear message that actions have consequences. I see no reason to wait."
The signed letter to President Obama is available HERE.
The text of the letters follows:
Dear Mr. President:
I am deeply troubled and alarmed by the recent atrocities in South Sudan, including attacks on vulnerable populations and United Nations personnel. I urge you to take immediate action, pursuant to the Executive Order that you issued on April 3rd, to sanction high-profile individuals on both sides of the conflict who are responsible for committing and commissioning such atrocities. It is greatly concerning that no one has been sanctioned under this Executive Order in the four weeks since it was issued.
As you know, on April 15th and 16th , opposition forces conducted operations in Bentiu state that systemically targeted innocent civilians based upon their ethnic and religious affiliations. Women and children were among the hundreds killed while seeking shelter in hospitals, churches, and mosques. On April 17th, a heavily armed mob used rocket-propelled grenades to force entry into the United Nations mission in Bor and open fire on the nearly 5,000 internally displaced people sheltering inside the base. At least 48 civilians were killed and dozens more were injured, including two U.N. peacekeepers. These atrocities occurred within recent weeks. Sadly, it is likely that other atrocities have occurred elsewhere in the country, but have simply gone undocumented.
Additionally, reports indicate that opposition commanders have forced their way into local radio stations to broadcast hate speech, encouraging their followers to commit acts of violence and sexual assaults against members of other communities. Such a development is particularly chilling as we mark the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide, in which such "hate radio" fueled this massive killing spree.
Your Executive Order contains broad authority to sanction those involved in the conflict in South Sudan. In addition, it explicitly states that any individual determined to be, directly or indirectly, engaged in specific actions including "attacks on schools, hospitals, religious sites, or locations where civilians are seeking refuge" and "attacks against United Nations missions" are subject to sanctions. The Executive Order also explicitly states that individuals determined to be engaged in commissioning human rights abuses are subject to sanctions.
It is clear that the rhetorical threat of sanctions has failed to deter the committing of atrocities in South Sudan. Making the determinations that are necessary to publicly sanction high-profile leaders on both sides of the conflict will send a clear message that actions have consequences. I see no reason to wait.
The United States has long been a friend to the people of South Sudan and played a leadership role in supporting the country's independence. We must continue to support those who are working to build peace and stability by sanctioning those who commit and commission atrocities in an attempt to tear this young country apart.
EDWARD R. ROYCE