Sudanese human rights defenders are welcoming the U.S. Treasury Department’s imposition of sanctions against Sudan’s Central Reserve Police (CRP) for using excessive violence against peaceful protesters. But these activists say the U.S. and other nations should take further measures against the military regime that took power in Sudan last year.
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced Monday that “all property and interests in property of the CRP that are in or come within the United States, or that are in the possession or control of U.S. persons, are blocked and must be reported to OFAC.”
Mohamed Osman, a Human Rights Watch researcher in Khartoum, said the CRP has been accused of oppressing Sudanese protesters since the coup on October 25. He noted that the police unit has a well-documented record of abuse during the 2018 and 2019 protests that led to the overthrow of longtime president Omar al-Bashir and, before that, in conflict areas of Darfur and Kordofan.
“The move is long overdue,” Osman told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus. He said HRW’s own research found that the CRP also led post-coup crackdowns on protesters on Nov. 17, 2021, and January 17 of this year.
Osman appreciates the sanctions but believes they should be part of a larger package of punitive measures to be effective.
Repeated attempts to reach Sudan police spokesperson Brigadier General Hassan el-Tijani Ahmed for comment received no reply.
Sudan's military-led Sovereign Council issued a statement on December 31 condemning violence against protesters and directed “legal and security” authorities to address the issue. The Council also announced it had launched an investigation into allegations of rape and other abuses committed against civilians during protests on December 19 which were highlighted in a United Nations report. Results of any investigation have not been made public.
Human rights violations
The Central Reserve Police have carried out human rights violations against peaceful Sudanese protesters for years, according to Shadin Fadil, a human rights defender who has been active in the Sudanese pro-democracy movement.
“Once we see them in the streets, we know for sure that actually we are going to lose lives, people might be losing limbs, and that violations, especially against women, and humiliation to the people['s] dignity is coming on the way when they are seen in the streets,” Fadil said.
She said other Sudanese security forces are just as guilty as the Central Reserve Police of committing human rights abuses.
“While we welcome the step taken by the U.S. Treasury Department, we still think that there are other security forces that actually are as brutal and as violent as the CRP, including the security services and the Rapid Support Forces,” Fadil told VOA.
Salma Nour, a member of the Sudanese Professional Association, said she is pleased to hear about the new Treasury sanctions, but called on the U.S. to expand them to include leaders of Sudanese security forces, police commanders, national security leaders, and those that run the Rapid Support Forces who abused protesters.
“To sanction these forces, it’s not enough to stop the violence in Khartoum and in Sudan because leaders of those forces are still there, and there are no sanctions on them,” Nour told South Sudan in Focus.
Osman also called for a greater package of sanctions. “Such a package should clearly address the calculating nature of this repression. It should also target those on the top, be connected to benchmarks set by the demands of the movement, and ultimately should aim to influence the behavior of the security forces on the ground in a way that would provide a safe space for protesters,” he said.