April 28, 2023
President Joseph R. Biden
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
RE: Human rights concerns in Sudan
Dear President Biden,
We, the undersigned organizations, are writing with deep concern over the catastrophic situation unfolding in Sudan. Since 15 April, fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has killed and wounded civilians in Khartoum, Darfur, and other parts of the country, leading to a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situation. While we acknowledge the difficulties in responding to a volatile and evolving crisis, we urge you to take bold, forward-looking steps to ensure US policy prioritizes human rights, civilian protection, and humanitarian access in Sudan.
We urge your administration to pursue the following actions:
- Appoint a Special Envoy for Sudan. Establishing such a position will elevate US policy toward Sudan and signal the administration’s prioritization of the current crisis. This post should be well-resourced and ensure that policy decisions are centered on the Sudanese people and their determined pursuit of a civilian-led government.
- Sanction abusive actors. Use existing authorities, or authorize new ones, to impose targeted sanctions on leaders of the Rapid Support Forces and Sudan Armed Forces and others responsible for serious abuses against civilians. Imposing sanctions on individuals can act as a deterrent to other bad actors.
- Engage in atrocity prevention. In line with the US Strategy to Anticipate, Prevent, and Respond to Atrocities, conduct an atrocity prevention risk analysis and publicly issue warnings and calls for prevention of large-scale, systematic and deliberate killing of civilians. Coordinate atrocity prevention messaging and actions with the International Atrocity Prevention Working Group, the United Nations, and the African Union.
- Seek an arms embargo on the warring parties in all of Sudan at the UN Security Council. Both parties have a history of widespread and systematic abuses for which an arms embargo is justified. Also hold current suppliers of arms to Darfur, where an arms embargo is already in place, accountable for ongoing violations as documented by the Panel of Experts.
- Support human rights monitoring and documentation efforts. Call for a special session on Sudan at the UN Human Rights Council, with the objective of establishing an independent international mechanism to investigate and report on international human rights and humanitarian law violations and advance accountability in Sudan. Press for additional funding to support monitoring and documentation of human rights violations and abuses and atrocity crimes, including through mechanisms of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the African Union.
- Increase emergency assistance and support local civil society. Such assistance, via State Department and USAID programming, should provide urgently needed items to individuals and groups who are most at risk. It should also aim to prioritize Sudanese civil society groups, human rights defenders, journalists, and other democratic activists.
- Pursue accountability more robustly. Press for criminal accountability for the most serious crimes committed in Sudan by insisting that the Security Council revisit how to increase cooperation with the Darfur investigation by the International Criminal Court, highlighting publicly and privately how impunity for international crimes has fueled further abuses, and consulting with Sudanese justice experts to develop a US plan to address past and present crimes.
- Prepare for increased humanitarian needs in pre-existing vulnerable areas. Darfur, Kordofan, and other areas were already experiencing unmet humanitarian needs, insecurity, and violence. These areas have large, displaced populations in addition to refugees and other vulnerable communities. These conditions will be gravely compounded should fighting increase in these areas.
We understand and acknowledge the US government’s current focus on ensuring the safety and security of US citizens and government personnel, as well as urging parties to agree to a ceasefire. However, the dire nature of the situation, which has the potential to further devolve, highlights the need for an immediate governmental response that seeks the protection of all civilians in Sudan.
We thank you for your attention to our concerns and would be pleased to meet with members of your staff to discuss these matters further.
Act for Sudan
Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities
Center for Civilians in Conflict
Charity & Security Network
Darfur Network For Human Rights
Darfur Women Action Group
Franciscan Action Network
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
Human Rights Watch
Jews Against Genocide NYC
Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur
Never Again Coalition
New Sudan Council of Churches
NY Coalition for Sudan
Open Society Foundations
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Rights for Peace
Society For Threatened Peoples
Stop Genocide Now
The International Civil Society Action Network
Waging Peace (United Kingdom)
Win Without War
*The signatories have various mandates that may not cover the full scope of the recommendations
cc: Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken