US Pressures Sudan into Allowing UN Human Rights Office, More Must Be Accomplished

10/07/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – The United States has the ability play a powerful role in advancing religious freedom, even in one of the most tumultuous and religiously restrictive nations in the world. Torn by civil war, regime change, and the implementation of harsh Islamic rule under President Omar al-Bashir, Sudan found itself ranked as the world’s sixth-worst country for religious freedom in Open Door’s World Watch List published earlier this year before the events leading to the regime change and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s current rule.

But the World Watch List itself wouldn’t compel Sudan to invite the UN to open a Human Rights Office in Khartoum as it did just a few weeks ago at the UN General Assembly. That honor likely goes to the US, which lists Sudan as a state sponsor of terror. This designation makes it impossible for Sudan to access funds from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and Hamdok—who holds a doctorate in economics—is determined to change that.

Hamdok’s Minister of Foreign affairs seized the opportunity of the UN General Assembly, held in New York City the week of September 23, to sit down with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and sign an agreement to open a UN Human Rights Office in Khartoum, with field offices to be established in four other locations around Sudan. Simultaneously, Hamdok called upon the US to remove Sudan from the state sponsor of terrorism list, a candid though not subtle demand that the US accept the presence of a Human Rights Office in his country as evidence of real and lasting change.

According to Reuters, a senior US official had already said in August that Washington, D.C. would wait to observe the new Sudanese administration’s commitment to human rights before considering removing it from the state sponsor of terrorism list.

France’s Emmanuel Macron has said that he will hold a conference with Sudan’s creditors but only if the U.S. lifts its sanctions against Sudan. This increases the pressure on Hamdok and Sudan to demonstrate to the U.S. that it is committed to real and lasting change on the human rights front.

Given the economic and geopolitical forces at play in this situation, it is incumbent upon the U.S. to push Sudan in regards to religious freedom. The U.S. publically announced that its main policy objective at the recent UN General Assembly was to advance the cause of religious freedom and so it must continue to pressure Sudan to demonstrate real commitment not only to human rights generally but to religious freedom in particular.

Just as the U.S. is publically stating its commitment to advancing religious freedom globally so Sudan is publically stating a desire to institute reforms in line with the U.S.’s understanding of human rights, and the U.S. must capitalize on this moment.

Chapter 14, Section 55 of the new Sudanese Constitution guarantees in broad and vague terms the right of persons to worship in accordance with their personal beliefs and to pursue education and practices that support those beliefs. More protection is needed both in the law and in practice, guaranteeing the freedom not only believe and worship freely but also to evangelize and spread one’s faith.

More must be done to protect religious freedom in Sudan, and the U.S. government is in prime position to move on this issue and help to guarantee religious freedom for the Sudanese people.

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