9-7-2011By Crimes Against Humanity Program
Human Rights First
In 2003, the Government of Sudan summoned Sudanese business leaders and solicited financial assistance from them for its violent campaigns in Darfur, according to a cable published by Wikileaks. At the meeting, officials from Khartoum acknowledged that its operations against rebels in Darfur “would lead to civilian deaths,” and that its response to the Darfur uprising “may require some bombing[,] and civilians would be killed.” From 2003 through 2008, Khartoum regularly sought support from the Sudanese business community for its Darfur operations.
As reported in diplomatic cables from the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, this episode is just one of a series of incidents in which Sudanese businesses and parastatals – companies working with the government in an unofficial capacity – enabled the Khartoum government’s perpetration of atrocities against civilians.
According to a Sudanese source in another cable published by Wikileaks, “the Sudanese economy is dominated by parastatal companies connected to the Northern ruling elite.” This source asserted that over 400 parastatals funded or supported the National Congress Party over the years, ensuring an NCP win in the 2010 elections. The NCP is the party of Sudanese President and alleged war criminal Omar al-Bashir and has led violence against many of Sudan’s marginalized populations. It is widely criticized for its support of the Janjaweed and other forces carrying out mass atrocities in the Darfur region and elsewhere in Sudan.
The source in the second cable goes on to say that “government officials and ministries have not been limited to establishing domestically-based parastatals, as establishing foreign companies allows them to access tax breaks, diminish the effect of U.S. sanctions, and more easily move money in and out of Sudan.” The source argues that “the [U.S.] Department of Treasury does not monitor non-Sudanese companies as closely as domestically-based enterprises….”
These accounts point to a deficit in U.S. efforts to disrupt the enabling supply chain behind atrocities in Sudan. Current U.S. policies include a multilateral arms embargo in Darfur and a unilateral trade and investment embargo against Sudan. However, in light of the new information that Sudanese officials are establishing foreign “grey companies” to evade U.S. Treasury attention and funnel money into the country, more must be done.
First, policy makers should work with partners to strengthen existing embargoes in order to keep the pressure on the Sudan’s ruling regime. Second, U.S. officials must expand their efforts and use the full range of U.S. economic tools, such as those used to attack other global threats, including terrorism, narcotics trafficking, and money laundering, to target and disrupt the flow of financial and political support to Khartoum.