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Press Statement Preliminary observations and recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impacts of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights

Khartoum (30 November 2015) - The UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, Mr. Idriss Jazairy, after his eight-day visit to Khartoum, delivered the following statement:

“I have been entrusted by the Human Rights Council with monitoring, reporting and advising on the negative impact on the enjoyment of human rights of unilateral coercive measures departing from clearly legal multilateral sanctions taken by the UN Security Council pursuant to Article 41 of the UN Charter, to gather all relevant information, wherever it may occur, including from Governments, non-governmental organizations and any other parties relating to the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights.

I would like to express my appreciation to the Government of Sudan for the invitation to conduct this field visit, the first in my mandate, for its openness and readiness to facilitate every meeting necessary for the pursuit of my mission.  I would also like to thank the Office of the Resident Coordinator and the representatives of the UN agencies in Khartoum. 

The choice of Sudan for my first country visit since I took office was guided by the fact that it remains one of the few countries that are still under comprehensive unilateral coercive measures.
During my visit, I had the honour of being received by the following distinguished members of the Government: the Vice President of the Republic, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Finance and National Economy, the Minister of Industry, the Minister of Petroleum and Gas, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Culture, the Minister of Labour and Administrative Reform, the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport for Khartoum and the State Minister for Communications. I also met with senior officials of the following ministries: trade, transport, education and higher education, water resources, roads and bridges and social security.

I also had the honour to be received by the distinguish President of the National Assembly and by a number of leaders from different parties and social movements.

I also held meeting with the National Commission for Human Rights and with a number of heads of national institutions dealing with respectively: Aljazeera scheme, the Council of medicines and toxic materials, the Center for radiation and nuclear medicines, the Center for treatment of breast cancer as well as the Center for gum arabic.

I had also the opportunity to engage in discussions with the representatives of the National Commission for Human Rights and with a good thirty organizations of civil society active in the field of women’s rights, children, persons with disabilities, the elderly the youth and people active in a number of economic and social fields.

I engaged in exchanges with the chairman of the Sudanese employers group as well as with businessmen members of his Bureau, and with officials of the Sudanese American Business Council. 

This was an opportunity for me to exchange views with the head of the Sudanese trade union as well as with a large group of experts and university professors.

During my visit, the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Khartoum organized a meeting for me with the interested UN agencies in Khartoum.  

I was offered the opportunity of meeting with different representatives from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. Appointments were set up for me also with representatives of regional organizations in Sudan.

It became clear from my broad- based consultations with all Sudanese partners mentioned that they agree on the ineffectiveness of maintaining the UCMs targeting Sudan that have remained unchanged for nearly 20 years and on the necessity either to lift them or to review their content.

It is worth mentioning in this regard that the Security Council now avoids resorting to comprehensive sanctions in view of their negative unintended impact on important segments of the innocent populations of the targeted countries. In light of the experience acquired through comprehensive sanctions, the Council has come to resort to sanctions that have to be targeted on specific sectors or on specific persons “of concern”. Following on the footsteps of the Security Council, I consider that UCMs targeting Sudan, in view of their comprehensive nature, do not correspond with the trend of UN practice in this area.

The UCMs have been applied to Sudan for two decades without any adaptation to the sustained evolution of the internal context to recognize that the situation which prevailed in 1997 is completely different from the current one.

Despite this, these measures did not evolve even after the signature of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005. Nor did it evolve after the gradual improvement which accrued in the area of governance or after the start of the initiative of the national dialogue. In fact, the evolution of the impact of the measures only fluctuated subject to the whims of fate.

For instance the impact of these measures lightened after year 2000 as a result of the increasing resources of the government resulting from discovery of petroleum. Its impact then became heavier after the loss of 75 percent of oil income resulting from the secession followed by the drop in the prices of oil. Again, the measures became more biting after three European banks: Crédit Agricole, PNB Paris-bas, Commmerz Bank were charged penalties by the source country leading to a globalization of its restrictions.

This all resulted in a stifling embargo on the economy and on the financial transactions of the Sudan since 2013 as a result of the interruption of most financial relations of the outside world at the time when the management of the internal situation in Sudan was heading towards an improvement.  Thus, the signal given by compulsory measures was in contradiction with their proclaimed objectives.

The reality on the ground has proved that these measures do not have a negative impact on officials or on any elite group .Their full impact is on innocent citizens and on a deepening of the gap in income distribution within the Sudanese society and between provinces. It also resulted in broadening the black market and breaking away from the control of financial transactions. The latter came to avoid the official financial network. This encourages the emergence of a parallel economy which was exposed to a variety of possible illegal practices.

While it is possible to evaluate the negative impact of the UCMs on the enjoyment of human rights in the Sudan in some sectors such as health where this exercise can be straight-forward and unambiguous, it may be more difficult to identify this impact separately in other sectors where, this cause may merge with other contributory causes.

There may, therefore, be a need for clarification of the causes through additional studies and detailed observations.

This being said my preliminary recommendations can be summaries as follows:

  1. The right to life and the right to health are affected by the impossibility to obtain spare parts for life saving drugs and equipments. Thus the Sudan has become one of the few countries where people still die from diabetes because of the impossibility to access the required drugs which are only produced by two countries which participate in the blockade.
  2. The right to development is affected by the impossibility to import spare parts for basic equipments such as locomotives for the rail-ways, airplanes and means of road transport such as transport for ordinary people and the case in the capital Khartoum which in 1997 had 40 thousands minibuses but only 12 thousands in 2014 because of the unavailability of spare parts. The situation is no different for tractors and pumps in the agricultural sector. This situation was made worse with the blockage of financial transfers which discouraged foreign investment.
  3. The right to potable water which is undermined because of the impossibility to meet the fundamental needs in the capitals as a result of the breakdown of pumps drawing water from boreholes and from the Nile river and because of the unavailability of the access to chemicals to purify water.
  4. The right to work which is undermined by the slowdown of the productive sectors for lack of spare parts and maintenance.
  5. The right to education which is affected by the freezing of exchanges of experience and impossibility of accessing to the range of software or modern technologies and by the impossibility to participate in training abroad or even in exchanges by the Internet. There is even an impossibility for teachers to subscribe to scientific magazines.
  6. The right of the elderly is affected because of the ban on the transfer of savings from the members of their families living abroad.
  7. The rights of people with disability which are affected by the substantial increase in the price of equipment indispensable to them because of the number of intermediaries which one must resort to access this equipment.
  8. Women’s rights which is affected in several fields including the increase percentage of death when women give birth because of the lack of medical requirements.
  9. The rights of the child which are affected because of the absence of incubators for premature infants.
  10. The right to food which is affected by the reduction in agricultural production and productivity and in animal resources as a result of the embargo on imported production requirements.

Therefore, the study of the dysfunction in the economic, social and educational areas in the Sudan which has an adverse impact on the citizens and on the enjoyment of human rights may have causes related to the UCMs in addition to internal causes. The study of the internal causes is within the mandate of my colleague, the UN Independent Expert in charge of the situation in the Sudan.

For these reasons, it is clear that the global assessment of the situation of the Sudan should be analyzed on the basis of a two-track approach, one of which focuses on internal causes and the other on external causes in order to assess the situation of human rights and to derive a complete picture of the situation prevailing in the Sudan.

A global evaluation of the impact of UCMs is not deprived of methodological difficulties and challenges in order to distinguish their effective impact on the enjoyment of human rights in a given sector.

Therefore, my preliminary report will only be a point of departure for a study of this important matter.

I will limit myself in this presentation to some preliminary recommendations:

  1. that the UCMs targeting Sudan be limited in time and that they be phased with time based checkpoints related to the fulfillment of clearly stated objectives in the country with the setting up of an appropriate mechanism to offer suggestions. This could make it possible to adapt the measures to the evolution of the situation.
  2. that action is taken to overcome the over-compliance syndrome in the implementation of the UCMs by commercial and financial institutions present in countries outside the source country. This might include the organization of a technical meeting to be held on the initiative of the Sudan in cooperation with the competent international institutions (IMF, BIS, SWIFT…) and the with presence of observers from the source country. The gathering would also associate with representatives of interested parties from the financial and commercial private sectors. Such an initiative would contribute to clarifying views and improving implementation.
  3. that the exceptions which were approved by the source country with respect to the trade in gum arabic, in agricultural production and in some lifesaving drugs as well as for the limited access to software that was approved be fully activated. This might be accompanied by a lifting of restrictions on shipping these goods and on related financial transfers.
  4. that the broadening of the list of exceptions be considered following the measures taken by the source country for the four products whose ban was lifted. Such a broadening could focus on products that preserve the basic rights of citizens including full and unabridged right to health and in other crucial sectors like agriculture, education and information technologies.
  5. that the ban be lifted on the transfer of savings of Sudanese residents abroad to their families in Sudan and also lift the ban on transfers of assistance of Sudanese people to members of their families who are pursuing their education abroad.This would be consistent with the decision of the source country to remove the Sudan from the watch list of the Financial Action Task Force.
  6. should this be unattainable in the short run, to consider an alternative solution in the form of the setting up of a temporary mechanism under the UN to ensure the channeling and payment of vital supplies in the field of health medicines, fighting against pandemics or for the supply of spare parts without delay and through agreement between the UN, the source country and the Sudan.
  7. that constraints be lifted on transfers related to commercial transactions.
  8. that the possibility to be considered to activate the international mechanisms for restructuring the external debt of the Sudan which has become unsustainable. This could even be in the form of symbolic reparation for the damage endured by the Sudan from the UCMs over two decades and whose global value would surely exceed the amount of Sudan’s external debt. In this context, the coordination of efforts between the state of Sudan and South Soudan would certainly contribute to the required objective as has been asserted by the resolution of the Council on Peace and Security n°539 adopted on 29 August 2015 and addressing dialogue and peace on the Sudan. Indeed this resolution recalls in its paragraph 28 " the support expressed by the Assembly of the Union and the endorsement by Council of the Joint Approach by Sudan, South Sudan and the AUHIP, for comprehensive debt relief, the lifting of sanctions against Sudan and development support for South Sudan".
  9. to consider the possibility of first concentrating on the lifting of the UCMs which were taken by executive order before moving to those which were adopted by the legislative body of the source country.
  10.  to consider promoting a technical cooperation endeavor under the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the interested UN agencies in the Sudan to develop parameters which will enable the assessment of the separate role of the UCMs and their impact on the enjoyment of the HR, even in cases where multiple causes are involved. This could give rise to the holding of a UN expert meeting to prepare a case study which could be helpful in developing a methodology on impact assessment in other targeted countries.
  11.  to consider carrying out an independent study on the causes of the drop in production and productivity of the vital Aljazeera scheme so as to bring out the internal causes and those that can be ascribed to unilateral measures in respect of this worrying trend which threatens the enjoyment of the right to food in the Sudan and beyond.


In order for the constraints resulting from the UCMs targeting the Sudan to be lifted durably and to unleash the creative human capacities which are abundant in this country, it is necessary that its voice becomes louder and one voice at the regional and the international level, so that there would be a favorable response to its legitimate requirement that the embargo be lifted. In order to achieve this goal it is necessary that the national dialogue initiated by the Government be pursued and that it is expanded to encompass all active Sudanese parties and movements without exception so as to engage in a serious and constructive dialogue that will take place inside of the Sudan and along the lines charted by the resolution 539 of the African Council on Peace and Security.