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Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs / Vice-President of the European Commission

Foreign Ministers of the EU member states

Brussels, June 12, 2019

Dear High Representative Mogherini,

Dear Foreign Ministers,

I am writing to you ahead of the June 17 Foreign Affairs Council to urge that the European Union and its members states take concrete action to confront the ruthless crackdown on peaceful democracy activists by Sudan’s armed forces and militias.

While Sudan’s Transitional Military Council (TMC) pledges its willingness to negotiate with opposition groups on the transfer of power to a civilian led administration, it has unleashed armed forces, including the Rapid Response Force (RSF), to violently attack peaceful democracy sit-ins, bystanders, medical workers including at hospitals, and journalists. More than 100 civilians are estimated killed in an attack on June 3. In a public statement of June 11, UNICEF expressed its grave concerns at the impact of the crackdown on children referring to at least 19 children reportedly killed and another 49 injured since June 3.

Security officials have also beaten, arbitrarily detained, and deported opposition figures.  The whereabouts of many civilians who are believed to have been detained is still unknown, and authorities have shut down the internet, making reporting and information sharing extremely difficult.

For decades violent crackdowns on peaceful protest with complete impunity were the hallmark of the National Congress Party led government, headed by President Omar al-Bashir, who is himself subject to an international arrest warrant for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Now, since al-Bashir was ousted, following four months of protests across the country, Sudan’s military and armed militias continue to commit grave human rights abuses, and violently crackdown on dissent.

Armed forces have also violently attacked protesters elsewhere in the country, including Darfur where the Rapid Support Forces continue to attack civilians especially in the Jebel Mara area. 

Indeed, for decades Sudan’s government forces including the army, paramilitaries and national security officials, have carried out serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law - including killings, enforced disappearances, rape and torture. The TMC, led by army general Abdel Fattah al-Bourhan, who has commanded troops in Darfur in the past, seems to be promising to engage in dialogue while at the same time persecuting dissent and opposition. Once again, the TMC appears confident that grave human rights violations will come at no cost: no international sanctions, no justice. 

The European Union needs to urgently take concrete steps to confront this dangerous and appalling calculation by Sudan’s armed forces and militias.

At the June 17 Foreign Affairs Council, the European Union needs to “raise the price” for the brutal crackdown and continued grave violations of international human rights law in Sudan, and decide to:

1.  Ensure the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) urgently launches an investigation into violations committed since December 2018. The European Union has previously led or actively supported the establishment of the important investigative mechanisms, such as the Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, by the HRC. The EU should work with members of the African Union and other like-minded states to ensure the adoption of a resolution establishing a similar mechanism for Sudan mandated to:

  1. Investigate human rights violations and abuses committed in Sudan since December 2018;
  2. Make recommendations to prevent further human rights violations in the context of peaceful demonstrations and ensure accountability;
  3. Prepare a comprehensive report to be shared with the HRC and all other relevant UN bodies;

The resolution should also call on the TMC to fully cooperate with, and allow unhindered access to, the mechanism established by the HRC, as well as request the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to publicly and regularly report on the human rights situation in Sudan.

2.  Impose targeted punitive sanctions against individuals and entities responsible for grave human rights violations. As it is the case for Venezuela, EU punitive measures should be imposed against  those responsible for serious human rights violations that undermine democracy and the rule of law.

The European Union and its member states should also use the upcoming Foreign Affairs Council to:

  • Press for the immediate surrender to the International Criminal Court of war crimes suspects wanted by the court, including former President Omar al-Bashir and Ahmed Haroun, both said to be in custody in Khartoum, and former minister of defense, Abderaheem Mohamed Hussein.
  • Strongly condemn security forces’ attacks on peaceful protesters, medical facilities and journalists, including reports of rape and other sexual violence, and insist that those responsible be held accountable;
  • Strongly condemn arbitrary arrests, beating and detention of opposition figures
  • Insist that the TMC immediately release any detained protesters and make known the whereabouts of all those in detention
  • Press the TMC to immediately rein in, and disarm all militias, including the Rapid Support Forces.
  • Unequivocally condemn TMC actions against freedom of expression, association and assembly, and actions to suppress freedom of the press including the closure of Al Jazeera and local radio stations
  • Press the TMC to immediately end its shutdown of the internet networks,
  • Press for unhindered access to all areas of Sudan for international monitors, members of the press, and diplomats;
  • Finally, the EU should recognize the important role played by women in Sudan’s peaceful protests, and work with the opposition for the inclusion and participation of women in all future negotiations, and work for the urgent repeal of all laws restricting women’s rights and freedom;

Atrocities should not be allowed to continue with impunity in Sudan.

European Union expressions of condemnation and concern are welcome, but they are not enough. What is needed is EU action in the form of targeted sanctions, and EU leadership at the UN Human Rights Council to ensure violations and abuses are independently and impartially investigated, evidence gathered and analyzed, and those responsible identified.

Following the African Union’s decision to suspend Sudan, the EU needs to also put perpetrators of grave human rights abuses in Sudan on notice that it will no longer be business as usual. Sudan’s military elite needs to understand that their cynical calculation that crimes pay is no longer valid.

Thank you for your attention to this important and urgent matter.


Lotte Leicht
EU Director,
Human Rights Watch



Head of Cabinet of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Mr Stefano Grassi
Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS), Ms Helga Schmid
Deputy Secretary General for political affairs, Political Director, EEAS, Mr Jean-Christophe Belliard
Managing Director for Africa, EEAS, Mr Koen Vervaeke
Deputy Managing Director for Africa, EEAS, Ms Birgitte Markussen
Head of Division for Horn of Africa, East Africa, EEAS, Mr Patrick Simonnet
Deputy Secretary General for economic and global issues, EEAS, Mr Christian Leffler
Managing Director for human rights, global and multilateral issues, EEAS, Ms Lotte Knudsen
Deputy Managing Director for human rights, global and multilateral issues, EEAS, Mr Marc Giacomini
Head of Division for Human Rights, EEAS, Ms Luisa Ragher
EU Special Representative for the Horn of Africa, Mr Alexander Rondos
EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Mr Eamon Gilmore
Chair of the EU’s Political and Security Committee, Ms. Sofie From-Emmersberger
Ambassadors to the EU’s Political and Security Committee
Chair of the Council’s Working Group on Africa, Ms Marie Lapierre
Members of the Council’s Working Group on Africa
Chair of the Council’s Working Group on Human Rights, Ms Ciara O’Brien
Members of the Council’s Working Group on Human Rights
Head of the EU Delegation to Sudan, Amb. Jean-Michel Dumond
Head of the EU Delegation to the UN and other international organisations in Geneva, Amb. Walter Stevens
EU member states’ ambassadors to the UN in Geneva



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