Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom applauds the landslide passage of the Sudan Peace Act in Congress. The Act passed on October 7, 359 in favor and 8 opposed in the House of Representatives; on October 9 by unanimous consent in the Senate.
"The Act's commitment to a new, tough foreign policy on a forgotten country at a time when we are in the midst of the war against terrorism and a national debate on Iraq is a monumental victory for human rights and religious freedom," said Nina Shea, director of Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom. "It was adopted, despite other pressing national priorities, because of broad grass-roots concern over Sudan among churches, religious organizations, and anti-slavery groups," Shea explained.
"This Act marks a change in the U.S. attitude to Khartoum," Shea asserted. "Until now, the U.S. has been resolutely neutral -- essentially saying that this is a civil war in which the U.S. has no stake, in which both sides are to blame, and that merely sitting at a negotiating table is a sufficient sign of the government's good faith," she added.
- Immediately authorizes aid to the south, with or without Khartoum's approval, in the amount of $300 million over the next three years, in order to "prepare the population for peace and democratic governance."
- Requires the President to certify every six months that Khartoum and the rebel SPLA are negotiating in good faith; or
- Specifies four sanctions against Khartoum if the President certifies that Khartoum is not negotiating in good faith, or has "unreasonably interfered with humanitarian efforts." The sanctions include opposing international loans and credits to Khartoum; downgrading diplomatic relations; denying Khartoum access to oil revenues; and seeking a UN Security Council Resolution to impose an arms embargo on Khartoum.
- Requires the administration to report on oil financing, acts of genocide, and on the obstruction of aid delivery by Khartoum.
Over the next six months, the Center vows to be vigilant in assessing Khartoum's "good faith." Shea asserted: "We will take as prima facie evidence of bad faith continued bombing of civilians, slave raids, and bans on relief flights. We will also look for results in the peace talks themselves; a just peace agreement must be reached in the six-month time frame agreed to by the parties. We will work with our partners in the Sudan Coalition to ensure the terms of the Act are met and that the United States ends its policy of indifference to Khartoum's acts of genocide."
If bad faith is determined, the Center and its Coalition partners will work in particular to enforce the oil revenue sanctions through boycotts and divestment campaigns and a renewal of the effort to obtain capital market sanctions - an effort that was recently dropped in a legislative compromise.
Over two million people from Sudan's largely Christian south have been killed in a 19-year civil war triggered over Khartoum's forcible imposition of Islamic sharia law.