Sudan: U.S. Closely Monitoring Commitment to Human Rights

In what has become an iconic image of the Sudan protests, 22-year-old architectural engineering student Alaa Salah (@oalaa_salah) chants poetry from the top of a car, wearing traditional dress.

The United States said Monday it will closely monitor the commitment of Sudan's transitional government to human rights, democracy and peace before Washington decides to remove Khartoum from the U.S. list of countries that sponsor terrorism.

"If both sides are fully engaged, you know, we will proceed as quickly as possible," said a senior State Department official.

Sudan's new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, a well-known economist, was sworn in to head Sudan's transitional government. His appointment came four months after the ousting of former leader Omar al-Bashir, who had ruled for nearly three decades.

"Prime Minister Hamdok has said all the right things, and so we look forward to engaging with the government," said another senior State Department official, adding the U.S. will begin to measure the seriousness of the transitional government's commitments.

"We want to see how the government begins to deliver on its full commitment as a civilian government, respecting human rights, respecting freedom of speech, respecting access for humanitarian access," added that official.

U.S. officials said Washington is encouraged by initial contact with Hamdok and his government.  But the U.S. said there were concerns about Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commonly known by his nickname Hemedti, and his role in Sudan's Rapid Support Forces.

"We understand that he has a mixed history and people in Sudan who do not feel he's an appropriate interlocutor," said a senior State Department official, adding that Hemedti is not on the U.S.'s sanction list. So, "we have no legal obstacle preventing us [from] interacting with him."

"We want to see how the government begins to deliver on its full commitment as a civilian government, respecting human rights, respecting freedom of speech, respecting access for humanitarian access," added that official.

U.S. officials said Washington is encouraged by initial contact with Hamdok and his government.  But the U.S. said there were concerns about Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commonly known by his nickname Hemedti, and his role in Sudan's Rapid Support Forces.

"We understand that he has a mixed history and people in Sudan who do not feel he's an appropriate interlocutor," said a senior State Department official, adding that Hemedti is not on the U.S.'s sanction list. So, "we have no legal obstacle preventing us [from] interacting with him."

Hamdok said in an interview that ending Sudan's international pariah status and cutting military spending are prerequisites for recusing a floundering economy.

As Sudan expressed the need for $8 billion in foreign aid over the next two years to cover its struggling economy, U.S. officials said there is "an obstacle," and Washington can neither support Sudan in international financial institutions nor provide bilateral assistance, because the country has been labeled as a state that sponsors terrorism.

Bashir charges

Sudan's former president Omar Hassan al-Bashir sits guarded inside a cage at the courthouse where he is facing corruption charges, in Khartoum, Aug. 19, 2019.

Earlier this month, Bashir appeared in court to face corruption charges, four months after he was ousted by the military.

Bashir, who ruled Sudan for 30 years, is charged with illegally possessing foreign currency and receiving gifts in an illegal manner.

Human rights organizations said the corruption trial should not overshadow the war crimes committed by Bashir.

The International Criminal Court has charged the former president with war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide for his actions during the long-running war in Sudan's Darfur region.

"We want to see accountability for atrocities committed in Sudan and all parts of Sudan. But that is up to the people in Sudan to decide how they want to see justice dispensed," said a senior State Department official. "And so, we've not been prescriptive, we've not been dictating, not at all been pushing in any particular direction."

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