U.S. religious freedom commission urges stronger action in Sudan
March 30, 2001
By Kenny Byrd
WASHINGTON (ABP) — Amid reports of worsening religious-freedom abuses in the Sudan, a United States commission is urging the Bush administration to mount a comprehensive and sustained campaign to pressure the Muslim-dominated government to improve its record on human rights.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom issued a new report repeating an earlier assessment calling Sudan “the world’s most violent abuser of the right to freedom of religion and belief.” The report asks the administration to step up efforts to end the country’s 18-year civil war, which has resulted in 2 million Sudanese deaths and displacement of 4 million.
The commission said last year that religion is a major factor in the ongoing civil war. The report said religious-freedom violations were intertwined with other abuses of human rights in Sudan.
While the Clinton administration implemented some sanctions recommended by the panel last year, the new report says actions by the U.S. “while mixed, have not been commensurate with the appalling violations of religious freedom and other human rights by that government.”
While the Clinton administration worked successfully to prevent Sudan from taking a seat in the United Nations Security Council and earmarking aid to the Sudanese government’s opposition, the report says Sudan for the most part remained “on the back burner of U.S. policy.”
The Clinton administration’s actions ” fell well short of the comprehensive, sustained campaign that the commission believes is commensurate with the Sudanese government’s abuses,” the new report says, urging the new administration to mount such a campaign.
The commission says Sudan continues to suppress any political opposition and commits grave human-rights abuses. The government has intensified deliberate bombing of civilian and humanitarian targets, such as hospitals, schools, churches, markets and relief-organization compounds, the report continues.
“Religious groups must be registered by the government to operate legally, and approval can be difficult to obtain,” the report states. Unregistered groups cannot build places of worship or meet in public and even registered groups face difficulties.
“The Sudanese government has continued its assault on the religious freedom of non-Muslims as well as some Muslims (particularly those associated with the political opposition),” the report states.
In September 2000, the U.S. State Department named Sudan as a “country of particular concern” for the second straight year pursuant to the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act.
Specific recommendations of the nine-member commission include appointing a prominent individual to bring about a just settlement of Sudan’s civil war and to end religious-freedom abuses and other atrocities but not to appoint an ambassador at this time.
The panel urges increasing both humanitarian assistance to Sudan and support for the government’s political opposition. The report also calls for strengthening economic sanctions, including the banning of foreign companies that invest in oil and gas fields in Sudan from raising capital or listing securities in U.S. markets.
Associated Baptist Press. Used with Permission.