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EU official questions Sudan committee over September protests

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February 21, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The head of the Political and Information section at the European Union (EU) mission to Sudan, Bogdan Batic, held talks with members of the parliamentary subcommittee on legislation, justice and human rights to inquire about media freedom and the human rights situation following last year’s protests which claimed more than 100 lives.

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People look at burning cars during protests over fuel subsidy cuts in Khartoum September 25, 2013. (Reuters)

The legislation subcommittee has referred the EU official to the testimony of Sudan’s justice minister Mohamed Bushara Dousa before the parliament. The head of the legislation subcommittee Tahani Tour al-Daba, told Batic that the minister’s response on the issue was “convincing”.

“We told him that we questioned the justice minister about the deaths and trials of the detained protestors”, al-Daba said.

Last September, violent clashes erupted between the demonstrators and security forces in different parts of the Sudan following the government’s decision to remove fuel subsidies leading to at least 70 deaths, according to official figures and more than a 200 according to human rights organisations, activists, and opposition. More than 800 people have also been detained.

She told reporters following the meeting that the EU official asked about human rights, laws, freedoms, and the peace process, saying he affirmed the EU cannot assist with lifting the US economic sanctions imposed on Sudan.

Batic said the EU is making arrangements for cancelling Sudan’s foreign debts, acknowledging the adverse impact arising from foreign debt on the Sudanese economy.

Al-Daba for her part said the EU is not contributing to cancelation of Sudan’s foreign debt and lifting of sanctions imposed upon it by the United States.

Sudan’s external debt is estimated to have grown by 27% since 2008 from $32.6 billion to $41.4 billion in 2011. The IMF forecasted the debt level to reach $43.7 billion in 2012 and $45.6 billion in 2013. The latter represents 83% of Sudan’s 2011 GDP, which was $55.1 billion.

Around three quarters of Sudan’s external debt are owed to the Paris Club of creditor nations and other non-member states. The remaining balance is equally divided between commercial banks as well as international and regional financial bodies.

Sudan has been on the US blacklist of states sponsoring terrorism since 1993 on allegations of harboring Islamist militants despite reports of Sudan being a cooperative intelligence partner of Washington in the "war on terror".

Sudan is also subject to comprehensive economic sanctions since 1997 over terrorism charges as well as human right abuses. Further sanctions, particularly on weapons, have been imposed since the 2003 outbreak of violence in the western Darfur region.

Al-Daba also said the EU official enquired about legislations relating to human rights such as asylum and press laws.

She further revealed that her committee furnished the EU official with details of the recent protests, announcing the formation of a follow-up committee to work closely with the ministry of justice on this issue.

(ST)

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