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The Role of the International Community

United Nations

The U.N. continued its massive emergency assistance program for Sudan under the umbrella of Operation Lifeline Sudan. Several organizations withdrew from OLS in protest of its failure to take a lead in negotiating access on their behalf with the SPLA in the MoU controversy among other things. OLS remained severely underfunded due to donor fatigue. Several U.N. agencies on occasion protested in press statements or quietly the government's denial of humanitarian access and government bombing of relief and other civilian facilities.

In April 2000, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights expressed concern about human rights violations in Sudan by the government and SPLA. It renewed the mandate of the special rapporteur on human rights in Sudan. In October, the General Assembly voted against Sudanese membership on the Security Council and for the membership of an African country with a more credible human rights record, Mauritius.

European Union members continued to urge that greater engagement and a less confrontational approach on human rights would lead to improvements. E.U. countries rushed to do business in the petroleum sector, despite government of Sudan statements that oil development would be put to military use.

But in July, the European Parliament issued a declaration condemning the LRA and the government of Sudan for sponsoring it, and in August the E.U. Presidency issued a declaration expressing deep concern about the government bombing of civilian targets in the south. The ACP-E.U. Parliament also issued a resolution condemning Sudan and the SPLA for human rights violations.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom continued to monitor human rights and raise human rights issues with the government. Domestically, it denied many Sudanese applicants political asylum and issued a visa application form for Sudanese that sought to curb their right to apply for political asylum once they reached the U.K. That form was withdrawn with an apology after being widely denounced. The U.K.'s international commerce agency touted Sudan as a country suitable for investment until the Foreign Office, under pressure, reminded the agency of Sudan's human rights problems.

United States

The United States government's policy of isolating the Sudan government diplomatically proved unworkable. The U.S. worked successfully for months, however, on a unilateral campaign to deny Sudan a seat on the U.N. Security Council.

Congressional conservatives sponsored one-year legislation that permitted the president, at his discretion, to provide food aid to the military members of the NDA, of which the SPLA constituted the largest force. In February 2000, President Clinton declined to authorize food aid to the NDA.

Harry Johnston was appointed U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan in 1998 with a mandate to focus on three areas: human rights, humanitarian issues, and peace negotiations. One of the benchmarks the U.S. administration proposed to the Khartoum government for improving relations was that it call a halt to bombing civilians. While Johnston was still in Khartoum with this message, the government bombed a hospital in the south sponsored by a U.S. nonprofit religious group.

A 1997 executive order imposing stiff sanctions on all financial transactions between U.S. and Sudanese persons and entities remained in effect. The State Department's annual human rights report accused both government and opposition forces of human rights abuses.

A divestment campaign against Talisman Energy Inc., a Canadian company engaged in production and development of oil in Western Upper Nile, was endorsed by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. The U.S. government balked at another tactic, denial of the use of U.S. capital markets to Sudan and its business partners.


Canadian church groups and NGOs waged a struggle to force the government to impose sanctions on all Canadian companies doing business with Sudan. Canada's Foreign Minister, Lloyd Axworthy, announced in October 1999 that he would send a human rights team to investigate whether oil development, and specifically Talisman Energy Inc., had caused an increase in human rights abuses and exacerbatedthe conflict. If so, he threatened, the Canadian government would consider imposing sanctions on its companies operating in Sudan. In February 2000, the human rights team headed by John Harker responded affirmatively to both questions after visiting north and south Sudan and Canadian operations there. Sanctions, however, were never imposed.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2000

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