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Lawmakers say Hemedti’s and the RSF’s activities and abuses make them deserving of sanctions from the United States.

United States senators have written an open letter to US President Joe Biden, calling on him to recognise Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and its leader, General Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemedti’ Dagalo, as violators of human rights.

The letter, dated Friday, follows the one-year anniversary of the war in Sudan between the RSF and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), two rival military factions fighting for control of the country after a coup in 2021.

The lawmakers cite the US’s Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act as a basis for sanctions, adding that the RSF and Hemedti’s activities include “gross violations of internationally recognized human rights committed against human rights defenders and persons seeking to expose illegal activity by government officials”.

The lawmakers have given Biden 120 days to act on the request.

The letter lists human rights abuses in Sudan, such as accounts of rape, extrajudicial killings, and targeting of journalists, including when Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Fadl and Rashid Gibril were detained and beaten up in Khartoum.

Additionally, it makes reference to a December 2023 statement from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the RSF had committed “war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing” since the outbreak of the war last April.

The lawmakers also called on Biden to investigate the activities of the RSF to determine further sanctions that may be warranted.

“We ask that you also examine the RSF’s financial networks and sources of revenue, such as gold smuggling, and relationships with the Russian Federation and Wagner Group, to assess whether they are also deserving of sanction under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act for acts of significant corruption by government officials.”

The US Department of the Treasury imposed similar penalties in September 2023, said the senators.

This includes sanctions against Hemedti’s brother and visa restrictions on RSF General Abdul Rahman Juma over the group’s violent activities, including “targeted abuses against human rights activists and defenders”, according to the US Department of State.

The letter was brought forward by US Senators Ben Cardin and Jim Risch, who serve, respectively, as chair and as a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; and by US Representatives Michael McCaul and Gregory Meeks, chair and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The RSF and SAF have both been accused of attacking civilians and blocking humanitarian aid access over the past year. Ceasefire agreements have collapsed several times and international mediators are still working to achieve conclusive peace talks.

Sudan has been left with a major humanitarian crisis while nearly eight million people are displaced and facing shortages of food, water, and medical supplies.

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