Civil lawsuit on behalf of Sudanese victims of Khartoum’s atrocity crimes brought against BNP Paribas in U.S. Federal District Court (filed January 20, 2017)
By Eric Reeves
The civil suit brought yesterday on behalf of victims of atrocity crimes for which the NIF/NCP regime in Khartoum is responsible marks a moment of extraordinary revelation. French banking giant BNP Paribas is shown to be deeply complicit in these crimes, and we have a much clearer sense of why U.S. financial sanctions have proved ineffective in curtailing the atrocities of the regime. By virtue of criminal violations of U.S. financial law, to which BNP Paribas (“BNPP”) pled guilty in mid-2015, many tens of billions of dollars of were effectively “laundered” and made available to Khartoum, which thus encountered none of the restrictions on the sale of petroleum that would otherwise have been prohibitive. The Complaint, filed by the law firm of McKool Smith, P.C.?(Los Angeles), is a devastating indictment that goes far beyond the Statement of Facts to which BNPP agreed in its settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice; the “facts” as we can see them now extend to many times the $9 billion in forfeitures and fines that PNBB paid in acknowledging its criminal guilt.
This guilt extended to aiding Cuba and Iran, then on the U.S. State Department list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism,” as was Sudan. But it was the people of Sudan who suffered the consequences of what was the massive and shameless criminality associated with BNPP’s financial services to the Khartoum regime—72 percent of the overall total even in the inadequate Justice Department “Statement of Facts.” Reprehensibly, the Obama administration directed none of the billions in forfeiture money to the Sudanese victims of atrocity crimes, or to humanitarian efforts seeking to provide relief to the people who continue to suffer from military activity very substantially financed by BNPP.
[The first crucial 20 pages of this extraordinarily damning legal Complaint may be found at | http://sudanreeves.org/2017/01/21/7740; the entire 166-page document is available upon request.]
The recent, departing Executive Order by former President Barack Obama—essentially lifting sanctions on Khartoum—was a further despicable betrayal of the people of Sudan, and a gratuitous gift to a regime that continues to wage terrible war against the marginalized peoples of it peripheral regions. In her final interview as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power spoke of improvement in humanitarian access that amounted to a “sea change” (her incomprehensible phrase), failing to acknowledge that Khartoum continues to impose humanitarian embargoes on vast areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. As one extremely experienced and knowledgeable humanitarian—on the ground in South Kordofan—declared in an email to me:
“There’s been absolutely no change in humanitarian access [in the Nuba Mountains—suffering under Khartoum’s humanitarian embargo for over five and a half years]. Not a single grain of sorghum nor one tablet of medicine has entered Nuba from any of the usual humanitarian agencies.” (email received January 17, 2017)
And as has been true for many years, Khartoum continues to deny access to vast areas of Darfur and regularly expels humanitarians and humanitarian organizations without meaningful explanation. This not has changed, and Power’s claim to the contrary is terribly destructive mendacity, convincing Khartoum that in fact there is no reason to improve access. It is quite possible that tens of thousands of people will die because of this gross misrepresentation of humanitarian access.
The Obama administration’s policy toward Sudan, which reduces to an accommodation of Khartoum’s barbarism in exchange for putatively valuable counter-terrorism intelligence, remains guided by a willingness to forgive or turn a blind eye to the reality of genocidal counter-insurgencies—the preferred method of domestic control by this regime since it came to power by military coup in June 1989. Nor has it mattered to Obama administration officials that the regime has essentially destroyed the Sudanese economy and thereby imposed terrible hardship on the people of Sudan (see | http://sudanreeves.org/2015/12/09/7041/). Nor has it mattered that the regime is engaging in increasingly violent repression of human rights activists, newspapers, and civil society expressions of discontent. What has mattered is keeping the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime in power, a point emphasized by former special envoy for the Sudans Princeton Lyman, offered in an interview I have cited many times but that continues to demonstrate just how preposterous the Obama administration has been in characterizing the ruling junta in Khartoum:
“We [the Obama administration] do not want to see the ouster of the [Khartoum] regime, nor regime change. We want to see the regime carrying out reform via constitutional democratic measures.” (Interview with Asharq al-Awsat, December 3, 2011 | http://english.aawsat.com/2011/12/article55244147/asharq-al-awsat-talks-to-us-special-envoy-to-sudan-princeton-lyman)
Although perversely contemptuous of what is truly possible under the regime, this view nonetheless continues to guide the policies of the current special envoy, Donald Booth (who certainly must have or should have known about the effects of BNPP money laundering in shielding Khartoum from the effects of U.S. sanctions). Booth’s justification for lifting sanctions is based on a “look-back” period of 180 days, during which Khartoum is supposed to have shown, (in the words of Obama’s Executive Order) “positive actions.”
One must wonder: do these “positive actions” include arrest of some 20 people for daring to meeting with Ambassador Booth (August 2016), this in the wake of the vast campaign in Jebel Marra, during which Khartoum used chemical weapons against civilians? (See | http://sudanreeves.org/2017/01/19/7735/). Do they include the slaughter of civilians by regular army forces in Nertiti (Central Darfur) on the first day of this new year (see | http://wp.me/s45rOG-7710)? Does it include the refusal to rein in the epidemic of sexual violence throughout Darfur, regularly reported by Radio Dabanga if not by the spectacularly incompetent and corrupt UN/African Union force (UNAMID) deployed in the region? (See | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Rr). What of repeated reports of fighting initiated by SAF and militia forces in South Kordofan and Blue Nile? Much could be determined with the devotion of minimal satellite photographic resources, but the Obama administration proved in June 2011 that it wasn’t interested in what was visible on the ground during the beginning of massive violence in South Kordofan, including the building of mass graves (see http://wp.me/p45rOG-BU).
We can expect nothing encouraging on Sudan from the incoming “America First” administration of a racist Donald Trump. But Obama administration officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, have left office with nothing to show by way of removing the “stain on our soul,” a phrase that Obama so unctuously campaigned on in 2008, speaking about Darfur. Though promising not to “avert his eyes from human slaughter,” he has ended doing precisely that in Sudan—departing office with a contemptibly implausible claim of “positive actions” by the Khartoum regime. Sudanese who understand the implications of Obama’s actions and policies will not forgive him—and neither will history.
Eric Reeves, Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. www.sudanreeves.org