World Watch Monitor

The US has announced it will lift economic sanctions on Sudan “in recognition of [its] positive actions” in fighting terrorism, expanding humanitarian access and reinforcing a cease-fire in conflict areas, but rights groups say the decision is premature as there has been little progress on human rights.

The decision, which will take effect on 12th October, has “disappointed” the chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, Daniel Mark.

“The State Department must now redouble its efforts to engage the government of Sudan on pressing for greater religious freedom and better overall human rights,” he said.

Andrea Prasow, deputy director of the Washington office of Human Rights Watch, told Reuters that “it sends the wrong message to lift these sanctions permanently when Sudan has made so little progress on human rights”.

Despite its decision to lift the sanctions, the US government said it recognises “much more progress is needed...including further expanding humanitarian access, improving the Government of Sudan’s human rights and religious freedom practices, and ensuring that the Government of Sudan is committed to the full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea”.

According to a UN report earlier this year, in 2013 Sudan supplied North Korea with sophisticated air-to-ground missiles that use satellite guidance systems. For that reason Sudan will remain on the US’s list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, together with Syria and Iran. Some sanctions will also remain in place, such as the arms embargo, freezing of funds and blocking of property against those who were involved in committing human rights abuses in Darfur.

Meanwhile, the UN Human Rights Council seemed to signal that in a year’s time it will terminate the mandate of the UN Independent Expert on Human Rights in Sudan, referring to a “period of transition”. Advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide said it was concerned the move was “perhaps influenced by the eagerness of some States to cooperate with Sudan on migration and counter-terrorism”.