WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - Humanitarian groups are hailing President Trump's decision last week to delay permanent sanctions relief for Sudan.
Only hours before the penalties were scheduled to be lifted indefinitely on Wednesday, Trump opted to extend them for three months.
In January, during his final days in office, President Obama ordered the twenty-year-old embargo be temporary lifted, citing increasing Sudanese support of counterterrorist efforts.
Obama's order established a six-month compliance review process, after which, pending successful passage, Sudan would be rewarded with permanent sanctions relief.
But human rights advocates condemned Obama's move, arguing that Sudan had fallen short in providing humanitarian relief for civilians affected by fighting in the west and south of the country, and cutting off funding to Sudanese armed forces who have prevented humanitarian aid from reaching those in need.
Trump's executive order grants American officials extra time to analyze Sudan's progress toward compliance with terms laid down by President Obama. It acknowledges that Sudan has made "significant, substantial progress in many areas," but notes that more time is needed to verify "sustained sufficient positive actions across all areas listed... ."
According to the U.S. State Department, Sudan can still achieve permanent sanctions relief if it ends "hostilities in conflict areas," improves humanitarian access throughout the country, and cooperates with the United States on "addressing regional conflicts and the threat of terrorism."
Trump's decision angered the government of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who announced he was suspending talks with the United States over sanctions relief until the end of the 90-day period.
Al-Bashir is an indicted war criminal, wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for his role in fomenting ongoing genocide in the western Sudanese region of Darfur.
Since the outbreak of war in 2003, nearly half a million have been killed in Darfur. Mass atrocities have been committed against Christian civilians by government-armed and financed guerillas calling themselves the "Janjaweed," or "devils on horseback."
"The Janjaweed systematically destroy Darfurians," human rights group World Without Genocide observes, "by burning villages, looting economic resources, polluting water sources, and murdering, raping, and torturing civilians."
In a 2004 joint letter, Sudan's Catholic bishops denounced the Janjaweed atrocities, and called on the international community to act:
We, the Catholic Bishops of the Sudan, express our concerns regarding the tragic situation in Darfur. We are moved to do so in defense of the dignity of the people expressed in their God-given human rights. As shepherds and pastors, we cannot ignore the annihilation of an entire ethnic group whatever their creed, gender, or clan...The situation in Darfur has resulted in terror, rape, torture, murder, and slavery...We call upon the United Nations and the International community to exert pressure to bear on the Government of Sudan not only to halt arming the Janjaweed but also to immediately disarm them and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Currently, it is estimated that nearly half a million Darfurians have been killed, and more than 2.8 million displaced.