FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Eric Cohen, 617 962 8660
Download the pdf of this press release here.
WASHINGTON, DC – October 1, 2015 – Today, amidst news of huge shortfalls in funding for critical humanitarian needs—such as food, water, and acute healthcare for millions of Sudanese refugees and internally displaced people—Sudanese diaspora leaders, human rights organizations, genocide scholars, and Sudan advocates from 33 states and 10 countries are asking the U. S. Justice Department to use part of the billions of dollars it has available from the recent BNP Paribas settlement for sanctions violations to help Sudanese who are increasingly in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.
On May 1, 2015, BNP Paribas S.A. (BNPP), was sentenced to pay $8.9 billion for violations of U.S. sanctions, mostly with regard to Sudan. The Justice Department announced it was “exploring ways to use these forfeited funds to compensate individuals harmed by the sanctioned regimes of Sudan, Cuba, and Iran.” Of the $8.9 billion penalty, the Justice Department stated that $3.8 was available for potential compensation to people who were harmed by BNPP’s sanctions violations.
The signatories are supporting the Sudan Community Compensation proposal that was presented to the Justice Department on September 2, 2015, and posted online at SudanCommunityCompensation.org. Mohamed Suleiman, President of the San Francisco Bay Area Darfur Coalition, states, “If the Justice Department establishes a Sudan Community Compensation Program it will set an important, if not historic, precedent that surely will save lives.”
Eric Reeves, a noted Sudan researcher and one of the authors of the proposal, states, “Because the humanitarian needs for Sudanese refugees and IDPs are so enormous and urgent, it is essential that the Department of Justice move as expeditiously as possible to initiate the Sudan Community Compensation Program; this will begin the flow of funds to existing aid agencies capable of helping with the most critical emergency aid requirements.”
Supporters hope that this demonstration of broad-based support for the proposal will prompt the Justice Department to move more quickly. The BNPP settlement was announced on June 30, 2014. Sentencing of BNPP was announced on May 1, 2015. So far, no funds have been provided to any Sudanese who were harmed by BNPP’s illegal support of Khartoum. The Justice Department has not indicated how long it expects to take to make a decision about how the available compensation funds may be used and what process it will follow before any funds are disbursed. Knowledgeable observers have warned that the Justice Department process may take years.
Reeves warns, “Failure to at least partially address the emergency requirements would allow more of the people from victimized communities to die or suffer gratuitously, which would be an unconscionable and perverse injustice, given that the Justice Department’s goal is to provide compensation for victims.”
In a similar effort during the Congressional recess, on September 1, 2015, nine Members of Congress sent a letter to Attorney General Lynch asking that BNPP settlement funds be used to supplement humanitarian assistance for Sudanese refugees and IDPs.
Other Sudanese supporters of the proposal are clear about its importance. (Additional statements are available at SudanCommunityCompensation.org.)
Abdelrahman Gasim, External Relations Secretary for the Darfur Bar Association, states: “The victims of this Government of Sudan have suffered for the last 26 years, the lifetime of a generation. I myself had to flee from Sudan to live in exile, penniless and with no support. This proposal could mean life to many hopeless Sudanese, unable to flee to safety and opportunity.”
Omer Abdelsawi, Board member of the Blue Nile Association For Peace and Development states: “Even those who made it to the refugees camps are still waiting in vain for humanitarian support like basic child vaccination, medicine, food and clean drinking water. That is why we have to push hard to allow BNP Paribas settlement funds go towards helping these desperate people.”
Mohamed Haroun Ebead, President of the Darfur People’s Association of New York, states: “As members of the largest Darfuri community organization in the United States of America that is comprised of relatives of the victims of genocide crimes in Darfur, we wholeheartedly concur with the proposal that calls for the distribution of the BNP Paribas settlement funds to be on community-basis.”
Komi Alaiaiser, President of the Nuba Mountains International Association USA, states: “We request U. S. authorities to release the BNPP funds with the main objective of helping the refugees and internally displaced people and to alleviate some of their suffering.”
The Sudan Community Compensation proposal focuses on the Sudan component of the BNPP settlement funds and documents the harm to Sudanese communities caused by BNPP’s billions of dollars of illegal financial transactions, illegal letters of credit, and custodianship for foreign currency assets on behalf of the Government of Sudan, from 2002 to 2008, enabling that government’s military purchases and wars against its own people. This timeframe includes the start of the Darfur genocide in 2003, which continues to this day. BNPP’s illegal financial support of Khartoum not only harmed communities in Darfur, but also in other regions of Sudan including Abyei, the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile, eastern Sudan, Nubia in the north, and also in present-day South Sudan, which until its independence in 2011 was part of Sudan.
The proposal asks that a substantial part of the available BNPP settlement funds be placed in trust for the Sudanese communities who were harmed as a result of BNPP’s illegal behavior. These funds would address the most critical emergency humanitarian aid shortfalls and offer resources for future reconstruction and redevelopment projects for the affected Sudanese communities.
Sudanese communities are suffering multiple severe humanitarian crises, particularly with regard to lack of food, lack of drinking water, adequate sanitation, and even rudimentary healthcare. For example, according to UN OCHA there is a huge funding shortfall for the identified humanitarian assistance programs for displaced people in Sudan: only 39% of the $1.04 billion requested has been received. However, the shortfall is actually much higher because the OCHA work plans do not include assistance for people in areas such as South Kordofan and Blue Nile states that are inaccessible because the Government of Sudan blocks access.
Act for Sudan is an alliance of American citizen activists and Sudanese U.S. residents who advocate for an end to genocide and mass atrocities in Sudan. Act for Sudan is dedicated to advocacy that is directly informed by the situation on the ground and by Sudanese people who urgently seek protection, justice, and peace. For more information please visit www.actforsudan.org.