A bipartisan group including 53 US lawmakers has urged President Donald Trump to delay the permanent lifting of sanctions on Sudan, ahead of tomorrow’s (12 July) deadline for a decision to be made.
Meanwhile, Sudan’s President, Omar Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes including “genocide”, has announced that he will visit Russia in August.
In their letter to Mr Trump, the lawmakers argue that “at this point in time the evidence is unavailable or inconclusive to decide whether or not the Sudanese government has abided by the requirements of the engagement plan”, reports The Sudan Tribune.
They specifically mention the “demolition of two Christian churches in Khartoum this year” and the Sudan government’s plan to bulldoze at least 27 more, describing it as “state-sanctioned persecution of Christians and the denial of freedom of religion”.
The letter echoes the appeal of seven US-based organisations last month to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, asking him to take into account the situation of ethnic and religious minorities in Sudan.
As World Watch Monitor reported in January, one of Barack Obama’s last acts in office was to scale back a 20-year-old trade embargo on Sudan, giving the government in Khartoum 180 days to show itself ready for sanctions to be lifted. The move was criticised by human rights groups, which called it “premature” and “despicable” as Sudan’s President is still wanted by the ICC.
The ICC this week said Sudan’s President should have been arrested by the South African authorities when he visited the country to attend the African Union Summit in 2015.
Meanwhile President Bashir announced last week that he hopes to visit Russia in the second half of August, in response to an invitation by Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, as Al-Monitor reports.
“The visit aims to enhance bilateral relations in the areas of economy, commerce and politics,” the Sudanese foreign minister, Ibrahim Ghandour, said in a statement. “Russia has been a key supporter of Sudan in the UN Security Council and other international organisations, and there has been continuous cooperation between the two countries at all levels.”
Analysts told Al-Monitor that “this was the first time that an overseas trip planned by Bashir had been announced weeks in advance”.
“It looks like Sudan wants to send a message to the United States that we have other alternatives if it does not lift the sanctions,” Khalid Tigani, editor of the Elaff newspaper, is quoted as saying.
As AFP reports, Russia signed the founding statute of the ICC in 2000 but never ratified the treaty, and in November 2016 formally withdrew its signature.
Sudan is one of six countries whose citizen are subject to the new “travel ban“ imposed by President Trump.
The country is also No. 5 on the Open Doors 2017 World Watch List of the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to be a Christian.
World Watch Monitor has reported on the destruction of several churches in and around Khartoum, and the situation of the people of the Nuba Mountains, who have been the subject of “ethnic cleansing”, according to Open Doors.
World Watch Monitor also recently spoke to Mariam Ibrahim, three years after she was freed from prison after narrowly escaping being hanged for “apostasy”, first having been lashed 100 times for “adultery”.
Several pastors have faced trial for alleged actions against the state, including espionage and attempting to defame the government.