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The European Union (E.U.) has been engaged in political dialogue with the government of Sudan, beginning with a meeting in November 1999. That dialogue was intended to lead to normalization of relations. Normalization included reestablishing development aid programs to Sudan, previously suspended because of the war—although in 1999 the war had not abated and has even escalated in the Muglad Basin oil region. The E.U. target date of year-end 2002 for making the normalization decision, however, was deferred in order for the E.U. to coordinate its efforts with the rest of the international community that was deeply involved in the IGAD peace negotiations.

The political dialogue with the Sudanese government was conducted through regular meetings between E.U. ambassadors in Khartoum and government officials. An African-Caribbean-Pacific-European Union (ACP-E.U.) Joint Parliamentary Assembly mission to Sudan in June-July 2001, however, reported disappointment with the government’s lack of cooperation in the dialogue since the end of 2000. It noted several areas of human rights concerns that were discussed but not addressed by the government, such as detention without charges, restrictions on press freedom, abduction and forced labor, and bombing. Notably, the government declared a state of emergency and suspended the National Assembly in December 1999, shortly after the commencement of the E.U. talks. The state of emergency was extended for several years [and continues to date of the writing of this report]. The National Assembly was recalled after the president’s group, headed by First Vice President Osman Ali Taha (a key decision-maker in the peace talks), effectively removed from power their former mentor Dr. Hassan al Turabi.

The E.U. economic assistance program called “humanitarian plus” of € 15 million was the subject of discussions beginning in 1999 and was to be implemented in 2001, focusing on food security, health, water, and education. This activity accompanied a surge in European commercial and investment interest in Sudan, which was never barred by any E.U. or individual country sanctions, except an E.U. ban on arms trade with Sudan.

The E.U. took the laboring oar in drafting human rights resolutions at the General Assembly and at the U.N. Commission on Human Rights when the U.S. dropped this effort in 1998 following the Al Shifa bombing. These E.U.-drafted resolutions, however, did not mirror the views of the successive special rapporteurs on human rights in Sudan appointed by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. The resolutions were progressively watered down but the rapporteurs found very little improvement in human rights.

E.U.-Sudan Political Dialogue

The E.U. suspended development aid to the Sudanese government in 1990 because of its concern about human rights, democracy, rule of law, and peace talks. There were no E.U. restrictions on its members’ investments in the Sudan oil industry, although an arms embargo was put in place. The E.U. funded the humanitarian efforts of NGOs in Sudan through the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO).

By 2001, the ECHO humanitarian financing for Sudan had amounted to some € 160 million since 1994, averaging about € 23 million a year, slightly half of which was spent in the rebel-controlled areas of the South, mostly to non-SPLM/A controlled areas after February 2000, when the E.U. suspended aid to SPLM/A areas in response to the SPLM/A position on the Memorandum of Understanding issue.1571 This meant that NGOs in receipt of E.U. funds were barred from working in SPLM/A-controlled areas, a policy the E.U. gradually moved away from as the peace talks progressed.

The E.U.’s political dialogue with the Sudanese government from November 1999 addressed five particular issues: human rights; democracy, the rule of law and good governance; the peace process; terrorism; and cooperation between the Sudan and neighboring countries. E.U. representatives said the November 1999 meeting was useful and had produced “very positive results.”1572

Significant progress was made in monthly meetings until the end of 2000, according to the report of the ACP-E.U. delegation that visited in June-July 2001. “Since then [December 2000] there was a discernible lessening of enthusiasm and engagement on the Sudanese side, which the EU Member States found most discouraging.”1573 This coincided with the continuation of the state of emergency and the split within the National Congress Party, with Dr. Turabi forming a new, separate Islamist political party; suspension of the National Assembly; the separate arrests of opposition National Democratic Alliance members and Dr. Turabi; and the time when the special rapporteur of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights noted deterioration in the movement toward human rights and democracy.

An ACP-E.U. delegation noted in its September 2001 report that “a major issue was that of the use of oil revenue. . . . There seems to be a complete lack of transparency in this area. . . . At the EU-Sudan political dialogue meeting on 15 May, the Minister of Justice promised to provide figures to show how government oil revenues were being used.”1574 Otherwise, “Most time had been spent discussing human rights.”1575

By the time of this mid-2000 visit, the European Commission had begun implementing a new program, “Humanitarian Plus,” budgeted at € 15 million, financed in the form of a grant. This aid was to focus on re-establishing self-reliance in the sectors of food security, basic health, water, and sanitation—considered medium-term operations—to strengthen the delivery of basic services at the local community level.1576 It was not being implemented in the SPLM/A areas because the SPLM/A insisted on control of the programming.1577

In a November 2001 resolution on Sudan, the ACP-E.U. Joint Parliamentary Assembly stated that it was “aware of the currently destabilizing effects of oil production but also of its extremely valuable potential contribution to the country’s economic development.” It also stated, on the oil issue, that the assembly:

15. Believes that oil production has increased the stakes in the civil war;

16. Calls on the GoS [government of Sudan] to publish a clear statement of all its revenues and expenditures which would show the purposes to which oil money was being put;

17. Believes that the GoS would improve its own position, and increase the chances of a durable peace within the whole country, were it to ensure that oil revenues were used to a greater extent to alleviate hardship and strengthen the economy;

18. Feels it important that those oil companies operating in the Sudan should increase their employment of people from the oilfields region and expand their involvement in providing health services and basic education, as well as developing in-house training programs . . . .1578

Following the urging of the ACP-E.U. delegation, the European Union dispatched representatives of the E.U. “troika” (the governments of the current, outgoing, and incoming E.U. presidents) to visit Sudan in December 2001.1579 This marked the close of the second year of political dialogue. The troika, led by Ambassador Frank De Coninck, Director General in the Foreign Ministry of Belgium, representing the E.U. Presidency, met on December 8 and 9, 2001, in Khartoum with Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dr. Mutrif Siddiq. In a joint communiqué, they announced that the management unit for the Humanitarian Plus programme would start its activities in Khartoum in January 2002. They said that Sudan and the E.U. would strive for progressive normalization of relations1580 under article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement that regulates relations between the E.U. and ACP states, referring to political dialogue.1581 The E.U. termed it “possible resumption of development assistance,” contingent on reassessment of the progress in political dialogue at the end of 2002.

Within the framework of the Cotonou agreement, two grant allocations were envisaged for Sudan: € 135 million for the next five years (poverty reduction) and € 20 million potentially available for emergency assitance, debt relief, and mitigation of unstable export earnings. The amounts were indicative, not entitlements, and might be revised. Releasing Sudan’s unused allocations from previous funds would substantially increase these figures.1582

The Presidency on behalf of the European Union, however, joined in the chorus of condemnation of the government of Sudan helicopter gunship killings in February 20, 2002 in Bieh, Western Upper Nile/Unity State.1583

European civil society began to weigh in on Sudan policy, however. In May 2000, a broad coalition of European NGOs formed the European Campaign on Oil in Sudan (ECOS) to lobby the E.U., European governments, and European companies involved in the oil business in Sudan. ECOS urged these companies to pull out of Sudan because of the Sudanese government's gross human rights abuses.

In April 2002 ECOS published a report on continued displacements from Blocks 5A and 4, citing testimonies of people displaced in 2001 and up through the end of February 2002.1584

The Council of Ministers1585 met on June 17, 2002, and concluded that, as the continuation of the conflict and continuing human rights violations constituted the main obstacles to development, the European Union should make its contribution to the peace process a priority. It endorsed the continuation of existing E.U. policy toward Sudan, with the main priorities being: support for the IGAD peace process, the Declaration of Principles, and other international efforts; promotion of respect for human rights and humanitarian law; promotion of the rule of law; encouragement of the transition to democracy; and support for the process of economic and social development, subject to progress towards a peace settlement.

Despite the gripping testimonies of deliberate displacement of civilians from the Block 5A concession where the European companies Lundin and OMV were invested, the Council of Ministers in its resolution did not refer once to the relationship between oil and war and human rights abuses in Sudan.1586

E.U. Leadership at the U.N. Commission on Human Rights

This movement toward resumption of normal relations despite Sudan’s worsening human rights record underscored the E.U. trend to separate itself from U.S. leadership with regard to Sudan policy. This trend had been growing at least since the August 1998 U.S. bombing of the pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum. Indeed, in some diplomatic arenas the U.S. no longer sought to lead its European allies regarding Sudan.

This was most remarkable from a human rights perspective when, in 1998, the U.S. mission to the U.N. did not, as in all previous years starting in 1993, draft and present the annual resolution by the General Assembly condemning human rights abuses in Sudan. The E.U. took no action, believing the U.S. would eventually shoulder the burden, but that did not happen. As a result, there was no General Assembly condemnation of human rights abuses in Sudan that year, despite the gross abuses associated with the 1998 famine and the continuing war.

At the March-April 1999 session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, the E.U., under the leadership of the German presidency, undertook to draft the resolution on Sudan, with an eye to continuing the mandate of the special rapporteur on human rights in Sudan, renewable yearly. The special rapporteur’s mandate was first approved in the 1993 session. The resolution had previously been drafted and backed by the U.S., and voted on by the commission.

The E.U. draft resolution for the U.N. Commission on Human Rights was different, however, in that the E.U. undertook to have the consent of the Sudanese government to the resolution. It believed that it could thereby gain the commitment of the Sudanese government to uphold human rights, particularly in the specific areas mentioned in the resolution. The Sudanese government negotiated the content of most of the resolution with the E.U., but did not finally agree to it until the E.U. threatened to withdraw its resolution and let a stronger U.S. alternative resolution proceed. Among other things, the U.S. resolution condemned Sudan for slavery, a charge the Sudanese government regarded as untrue and offensive. The E.U. draft did not use the word “slavery,” but referred instead to “abductions.”1587 This word change came despite the special rapporteur’s specific findings on “slavery.”

This consensual drafting process has since become the pattern at the U.N. human rights commission for Sudan and other countries as well. The E.U. continued to draft resolutions on Sudan, until the U.S. resurrected its diplomatic profile on Sudan. The mandate of the special rapporteur was continued—one of the primary objectives of the E.U. as well as the U.S.—but the condemnations of the Sudanese government were watered down, while those against the SPLM/A, which is not afforded participation in the consensual process, became sharper. For instance, in the 1999 resolution on human rights in Sudan, the government was not “condemned” for any human rights abuse, but the SPLM/A was, for the killing of four humanitarian workers near Pariang, Western Upper Nile/Unity State, in March 1999.1588 In 2000, neither was “condemned,” but the commission expressed its concern about the “conditions imposed by the [SPLM/A] on humanitarian organizations working in southern Sudan” and about the “murder of, attacks on and use of force against United Nations as well as humanitarian personnel, in particular by the [SPLM/A].”1589

The report of the special rapporteur on human rights in Sudan of April 19, 2000, specifically mentioned displacement of Nuer populations by the government “with the purpose of ensuring military control of oil industry operations in Upper Nile.” He expressed concern “at the use of oil industry airstrips for military purposes” and hindering relief assistance particularly in Western Upper Nile/Unity State mainly by restricting and denying flight access. He was convinced that the oil issue in Western Upper Nile/Unity State “lies at the heart of the conflict and believes that it is not fair for the civilian population to be once again the most affected target in this scenario. Oil exploitation has resulted in the exacerbation of the war.” He recommended that all efforts be made to facilitate the return of displaced people to their place of origin, and that the use of oil facilities for military purposes come to an end.1590

The commission, however, did not mention oil development specifically in its resolution of April 18, 2000 (adopted by 28 votes to none, with 24 abstentions).1591

The U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Sudan, Leonard Franco (of Argentina), resigned in late 2000 and was replaced on December 28, 2000, by Gerhart Baum (of Germany, an E.U. country), who visited Sudan in March 2001.

Baum in his oral remarks to the commission on April 27, 2001, noted that he had gathered further evidence that “oil exploitation leads to an exacerbation of the conflict with serious consequences on the civilians.” 1592 He detailed destruction of certain villages by name, and said, “It seems that, under the conditions of the on-going war, oil exploitation is often preceded and accompanied by human rights violations, particularly in terms of forced displacement. . . . Government officials . . . assured me that displaced individuals are compensated accordingly.”1593 Human Rights Watch knows of no such cases of individual compensation in the south.

Baum also appealed to the oil companies operating in Sudan “to fully comply with their corporate responsibilities with a view to minimizing any negative impact of their operations, particularly before planning new ones. The link between oil exploitation and human rights abuses should continue to be monitored intensively,” he stated.1594

The commission resolution of April 20, 2001, finally expressed “deep concern” at the “forced displacements of populations, in particular in areas surrounding the oilfields . . . .”1595 The resolution also expressed concern over the “widespread and indiscriminate aerial bombardments by the Government of the Sudan,”1596 in contrast to the 2000 resolution, which did not specifically mention the culpability of the Sudanese government in bombardment.

In the resolution-related press release of April 20, 2001, the commission highlighted its deep concern at forced displacements in oilfield regions.1597

The E.U. and the commission resolution, however, did not did not follow the lead of the special rapporteur with regard to his findings about the link between oil development and human rights abuses. The special rapporteur, however, did not relent. In his January 2002 report to the commission, he stated that “oil has seriously exacerbated the conflict while deteriorating the overall situation of human rights.” He also said that he had received information that “oil exploitation is continuing to cause widespread displacement . . . .” 1598

Again, the commission resolution in April 2002 mentioned oil development but did not link oil development with the increase in human rights abuses. Specifically, the resolution expressed the concern of the commission at the “ongoing plight of internally displaced persons in Sudan, in particular women and children, and their lack of access to protection and assistance, including in areas surrounding the oilfields.” 1599 The resolution, however, did reauthorize the mandate of the special rapporteur.

This Sudan resolution, weaker than the special rapporteurs’s report, in fact passed by only one vote at the commission.1600 This was the closest the commission had ever come to defeating a resolution on human rights in Sudan and to not renewing the mandate of the special rapporteur. In the 2002 session, African states bridled at the proliferation of special rapporteurs assigned to monitor human rights in African countries, and determined as a body to vote against extending their mandate—in the context of human rights criticism of Zimbabwe by the developed countries. The only African country at the commission to vote in favor of the Sudan human rights resolution was Uganda, with South Africa abstaining.1601

In the 2003 session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, the Sudanese government finally attained its goal of blocking any resolution on human rights in Sudan, by a vote of 24-26-3: twenty-four in favor of a resolution, twenty-six opposed, and abstentions. All E.U. members of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights voted in favor of the resolution, which the E.U. drafted. Uganda abstained; in 2002 Uganda voted in favor of the resolution. All the other African members of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights voted against the resolution, led by South Africa.1602 The mandate of the special rapporteur for human rights in Sudan, which had lasted ten years, was defeated by two votes—and the war was not over, nor had human rights conditions improved.

1571 ACP-E.U. Joint Parliamentary Assembly, “Report on the mission to the Sudan, 26 June – 2 July 2001,” September 28, 2001, CR\446637EN.doc, APP/3221.

1572 “Sudan Country Profile 2001” Economist Intelligence Unit, London, 2001, p. 13.

1573 ACP-E.U., “Report on the mission to the Sudan, 26 June – 2 July 2001.

1574 Ibid.

1575 Ibid. At the end of the first phase the parties decided that the political dialogue would continue with the discussion of the first three subjects, as there was no terrorism problem and relations with neighbors had improved.

1576 Ibid.

1577 Ibid.

1578ACP-E.U. Joint Parliamentary Assembly, Resolution on the situation in Sudan, ACP-EU/3227/fin, adopted November 1, 2001, in Brussels, Belgium, (accessed June 24, 2002).

1579 E.U.-Sudan Joint Communiqué, Press Release: Khartoum (9/12/2001) - Press: 467 Nr: 15216/01, (accessed June 24, 2002).

1580 E.U.-Sudan Joint Communiqé, Press Release: Khartoum (9/12/2001) - Press: 467 Nr: 15216/01, (accessed June 24, 2002).

1581 Partnership Agreement between the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), of the one part, and the European Community and its Members States, of the other part, signed in Cotonou, Benin, on 23 June 2000 (notification by Sudan, October 29, 2001); Official Journal of the European Communities, L. 317/ 8 EN, 15.12.2000, article 8 (“Political Dialogue”). (accessed June 24, 2002).

1582 European Commission, “EU-Sudan relations: EU prepares for the possible resumption of development assistance,” January 31, 2002, MEMO02-001EN, (accessed June 20, 2002).

1583 Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union on bombings of civilian targets in Sudan, press release 6773/02 (Presse 58-G), P 27/02, Brussels, Belgium, February 28, 2002.

1584 “Depopulating Sudan’s Oil Regions.”

1585 The Council of Ministers is responsible for defining and implementing the common foreign policy of the European Union.

1586 “General Affairs,” 2437th Council meeting, Luxembourg, June 17, 2002, 9717/02 (Presse 178), items approved without debate, p. III-V,

(accessed June 20, 2002).

1587 Ralph-Joseph Taraf, counselor, German Foreign Ministry, Human Rights Watch interview, Bonn, Germany, May 13, 1999.

1588 U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Commission on Human Rights adopts resolutions on situation of human rights in Nigeria, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq and Sudan,” Geneva, HR/CN/99/55, April 23, 1999 (“Ibrahim Ibrahim (Sudan) said it noted with great appreciation that the draft resolution was the product of work between Germany on behalf of the European Union and Sudan.”); “Situation of human rights in the Sudan,” E/CN.4/RES/1999/15, April 23, 1999, (accessed July 18, 2002).

1589 U.N. Commission on Human Rights, 56th session, Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the Sudan, E/CN.4/RES/2000/27, April 18, 2000, (accessed July 18, 2002).

1590 U.N. Commission on Human Rights, “Situation of human rights in the Sudan, summary of the draft report of special rapporteur,” Geneva, E/CN.4/2000/36, April 19, 2000, (accessed June 21, 2002).

1591 U.N. Commission on Human Rights, 58th session, “Situation of human rights in the Sudan, Commission on Human Rights resolution 2000/27,” E/CN.4/RES/2000/27, Geneva, April 18, 2002, (accessed June 21, 2002).

1592 Gerhart Baum, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, oral statement at the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, 57th session, 19 March – 27 April 2001, (accessed July 18, 2002).

1593 Ibid.

1594 Ibid.

1595 U.N. Commission on Human Rights, 57th session, “Situation of human rights in the Sudan, Commission on Human Rights resolution 2001/18,” Geneva, Operative Clause 2(a)(viii). E/CN.4/RES/2001/18, April 20, 2001, (accessed June 20, 2002).

1596 U.N. Commission on Human Rights, 57th session, “Situation of human rights in the Sudan, Commission on Human Rights resolution 2001/18,” Geneva, E/CN.4/RES/2001/18, April 20, 2001, (accessed June 20, 2002).

1597 U.N. press release, Geneva, April 20, 2001.

1598 Report of the special rapporteur, Gerhart Baum, to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, 58th session, “Situation of human rights in the Sudan,” E/CN.4/2002/46, January 23, 2002, Geneva, (June 20, 2002).

1599 U.N. Commission on Human Rights, 58th session, “Situation of human rights in the Sudan,” Geneva, E/CN.4/RES/2002/16, April 19, 2002,, (accessed July 18, 2002), p. 3.

1600 Ibid.: “adopted by a recorded vote of 25 votes to 24, with 4 abstentions.”

1601 “UN rights body narrowly adopts motion condemning Sudan,” AFP, Geneva, April 19, 2002.

1602 U.N. press release, “Commission On Human Rights Adopts Measures On Situations In North Korea, Turkmenistan, Myanmar; Member States Reject Draft Resolution on Situation in the Sudan,” Geneva, April 16, 2003; U.N. Commission on Human Rights draft resolution E/CN.4/2003/L.35, on human rights in the Sudan, was rejected. (accessed August 14, 2003).

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November 2003