'Sanctions on Sudan now'

Human Rights Watch's EU director Lotte Leicht says without international pressure the victims of Dar

Shortly after taking office, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown stood before the United Nations General Assembly and declared the situation in Darfur to be the “greatest humanitarian disaster” facing the world today. He sent a message to Darfur that “it is time for change”.

Brown pledged to place sanctions on the Sudanese government if the killings of civilians in Darfur did not stop. Nine months later, people are still dying and suffering - apparently, Khartoum did not get the message. It is time to send it with a new messenger – sanctions.

While Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy should be applauded for their efforts last year which resulted in the adoption of a United Nations resolution approving the deployment of a 26,000 strong peacekeeping force to Sudan, President Bashir has managed to obstruct and delay this deployment.

The UK and its EU partners have responded to Bashir’s continued stonewalling with only kid-gloves and toothless threats. Despite pledges to the contrary, the EU has still not imposed sanctions to encourage Bashir’s compliance. Without firmer pressure on Khartoum, the victims of Darfur will never see justice, and their persecutors will feel free to redouble their murderous ways.

Many in Europe have never heard of Ahmed Haroun, but for the villagers of Bindisi, Kodoom, Arawala and Mukjar, he is their worst nightmare. Four years ago, Haroun was State Minister of the Interior responsible for Darfur’s security during the time that Sudanese government forces and their allied Janjaweed militias carried out a brutal scorched-earth campaign of killings, rape, destruction and displacement.

Haroun and those under his watch are alleged to have murdered hundreds, raped women and young girls, destroyed property, and forcibly removed thousands from their homes. Some of the crimes were carried out by a militia leader named Ali Mohammed Ali, also known as “Ali Kosheib,” who received orders from Haroun.

Since then, the International Criminal Court has charged Ahmed Haroun and “Ali Kosheib” with 51 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, rape, persecution and forcible transfer of population.

Despite international arrest warrants issued almost one year ago, Haroun and Kosheib remain free men. Indeed, far from having arrested Haroun, the Sudanese government promoted him; he is currently Sudan’s sitting Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs. Then, to add insult to injury, Khartoum appointed Haroun co-chair of a committee that monitors security in Sudan and is authorized to hear complaints of victims of abuses, including those in Darfur. By virtue of his position, Haroun is also the intermediary between the government and the UN forces designated to protect civilians. The second ICC suspect, “Ali Kosheib,” was imprisoned at the time the arrests warrants were issued, but the Sudanese government has since released him.

Developments in Darfur over the past year have been bleak. Peace talks have stalled--again; ceasefires are violated on almost a daily basis; government-backed forces have shot at clearly marked UN convoys and have bombed civilians; and armed men in uniform have looted villages and raped women. The rate of atrocities committed and documented in the last three months alone is now reminiscent of the beginning of the scorched earth campaign in 2003-2004. Such is the “progress” that has been made in Darfur while the world and the EU sat back and adopted a “wait and see approach”.

One of the factors arguably contributing to this downward spiral is that the Sudanese government has not seen any real consequence for its continued repression in Darfur and its continued obstruction of international efforts to curb that repression. Khartoum has simply ignored UN resolutions and international arrests warrants with no repercussions.

Khartoum’s intransigence may be expected, but the lack of a firm EU response is deeply disappointing. The UK and the EU tout international justice as a priority, but it has left the ICC prosecutor empty-handed as he seeks pressure on Khartoum to surrender indicted suspects for trial. Until significant costs are imposed on it, Khartoum has no incentive to stop its current campaign of atrocities or to cooperate with the ICC.

Indeed, over the past year, Khartoum’s lack of cooperation has evolved into overt defiance, if not mockery. In January, for example, President Bashir created a special presidential advisory position for a notorious Janjaweed leader who is subject to UN sanctions. With alleged war criminals serving in political posts, Khartoum has clearly sent the world a message: it may have to allow a peacekeeping force in Darfur, but it does not have to give the victims any justice.

Three years ago, the UK was instrumental in securing the historic referral of the Darfur crimes to the ICC. At the time of the referral, the UN Security Council took the view that justice was an essential component of any effort to end the violence in Darfur. But since then, British and EU leaders have, by and large, turned their backs on the principle of justice.

When a government grants official posts to people accused of war crimes, it is long past time to transcend empty threats and apply meaningful pressure. Otherwise, the Sudanese government will only be reconfirmed in its view that it can continue to commit atrocities in Darfur with impunity.

In an EU declaration issued 31 March, the EU threatened punitive measures against those responsible for Sudan’s failure to cooperate with the ICC, including the failure to arrest and surrender those subject to international arrest warrants to the Court. It is up to the EU to ensure that this declaration will not be just the latest example in a long history of empty threats that the rulers in Khartoum have become so accustomed to ignoring with impunity.

In keeping with Brown’s commitment to redouble efforts to impose further sanctions if any party blocked progress or the killings continued in Darfur, the UK should assume the lead in demanding that EU leaders take the next step when they meet in June and adopt targeted individual sanctions against those officials who are responsible not only for Sudan’s serious human rights violations but also for its non-cooperation with the ICC. Such sanctions should include visa bans and travel restrictions, the freezing of assets, and the blocking of access to European banking systems.

Justice isn’t simply a moral luxury. The EU made a pledge to the victims of Darfur; it is high time that the EU delivered—that it moved from empty threats to action.

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The New Times: Brexit, globalisation, the crisis in Labour and the future of the left

With essays by David Miliband, Paul Mason, John Harris, Lisa Nandy, Vince Cable and more.

Once again the “new times” are associated with the ascendancy of the right. The financial crash of 2007-2008 – and the Great Recession and sovereign debt crises that were a consequence of it – were meant to have marked the end of an era of runaway “turbocapitalism”. It never came close to happening. The crash was a crisis of capitalism but not the crisis of capitalism. As Lenin observed, there is “no such thing as an absolutely hopeless situation” for capitalism, and so we discovered again. Instead, the greatest burden of the period of fiscal retrenchment that followed the crash was carried by the poorest in society, those most directly affected by austerity, and this in turn has contributed to a deepening distrust of elites and a wider crisis of governance.

Where are we now and in which direction are we heading?

Some of the contributors to this special issue believe that we have reached the end of the “neoliberal” era. I am more sceptical. In any event, the end of neoliberalism, however you define it, will not lead to a social-democratic revival: it looks as if, in many Western countries, we are entering an age in which centre-left parties cannot form ruling majorities, having leaked support to nationalists, populists and more radical alternatives.

Certainly the British Labour Party, riven by a war between its parliamentary representatives and much of its membership, is in a critical condition. At the same time, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has inspired a remarkable re-engagement with left-wing politics, even as his party slumps in the polls. His own views may seem frozen in time, but hundreds of thousands of people, many of them young graduates, have responded to his anti-austerity rhetoric, his candour and his shambolic, unspun style.

The EU referendum, in which as much as one-third of Labour supporters voted for Brexit, exposed another chasm in Labour – this time between educated metropolitan liberals and the more socially conservative white working class on whose loyalty the party has long depended. This no longer looks like a viable election-winning coalition, especially after the collapse of Labour in Scotland and the concomitant rise of nationalism in England.

In Marxism Today’s “New Times” issue of October 1988, Stuart Hall wrote: “The left seems not just displaced by Thatcherism, but disabled, flattened, becalmed by the very prospect of change; afraid of rooting itself in ‘the new’ and unable to make the leap of imagination required to engage the future.” Something similar could be said of the left today as it confronts Brexit, the disunities within the United Kingdom, and, in Theresa May, a prime minister who has indicated that she might be prepared to break with the orthodoxies of the past three decades.

The Labour leadership contest between Corbyn and Owen Smith was largely an exercise in nostalgia, both candidates seeking to revive policies that defined an era of mass production and working-class solidarity when Labour was strong. On matters such as immigration, digital disruption, the new gig economy or the power of networks, they had little to say. They proposed a politics of opposition – against austerity, against grammar schools. But what were they for? Neither man seemed capable of embracing the “leading edge of change” or of making the imaginative leap necessary to engage the future.

So is there a politics of the left that will allow us to ride with the currents of these turbulent “new times” and thus shape rather than be flattened by them? Over the next 34 pages 18 writers, offering many perspectives, attempt to answer this and related questions as they analyse the forces shaping a world in which power is shifting to the East, wars rage unchecked in the Middle East, refugees drown en masse in the Mediterranean, technology is outstripping our capacity to understand it, and globalisation begins to fragment.

— Jason Cowley, Editor 

Tom Kibasi on what the left fails to see

Philip Collins on why it's time for Labour to end its crisis

John Harris on why Labour is losing its heartland

Lisa Nandy on how Labour has been halted and hollowed out

David Runciman on networks and the digital revolution

John Gray on why the right, not the left, has grasped the new times

Mariana Mazzucato on why it's time for progressives to rethink capitalism

Robert Ford on why the left must reckon with the anger of those left behind

Ros Wynne-Jones on the people who need a Labour government most

Gary Gerstle on Corbyn, Sanders and the populist surge

Nick Pearce on why the left is haunted by the ghosts of the 1930s

Paul Mason on why the left must be ready to cause a commotion

Neal Lawson on what the new, 21st-century left needs now

Charles Leadbeater explains why we are all existentialists now

John Bew mourns the lost left

Marc Stears on why democracy is a long, hard, slow business

Vince Cable on how a financial crisis empowered the right

David Miliband on why the left needs to move forward, not back

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times