IBAHRI urges UK government to apply Magnitsky Sanctions against Sudan coup leaders

Tuesday 14 June 2022

Amid reports of the killing of at least 100 protesters and allegations of sustained human rights violations in Sudan since the 25 October 2021 military coup, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) has called for the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Magnitsky Sanctions, to apply targeted sanctions against General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (widely known as ‘Hemedti’). General al-Burhan is the Commander-in-Chief of the Sudanese Armed Forces and de facto head of the caretaker government, while Hemedti is the head of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and de facto deputy head of the caretaker government. 

An IBAHRI briefing submitted to the APPG includes details of General al-Burhan’s dissolution of Sudan’s government, imposing a state of emergency and subsequent allegations that include:

  • giving blanket immunity to security forces in their use of force to deter protests;
  • widespread violence including the extrajudicial killings and torture of protesters;
  • rape of female protesters to deter their participation in protests;
  • arbitrary detentions;
  • thousands injured (including children) with ballistic and weapons prohibited under international law;
  • attacks on medical personnel and facilities; and
  • complete shutdowns of the internet.

The briefing also outlines the build-up to Sudan’s October 2021 coup, which saw the arrests of several high-level civilian political figures, including the then-Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, and several cabinet members. Commentators state the above allegations represent gross violations of international human rights law and indicate a systematic attempt by Sudan’s military forces to prevent meaningful democratic transfer, opposition, or dissent. This has led to a breakdown in the rule of law, fundamental rights and democratic principles in Sudan, as well as the derailment of the country’s transition to a civilian-led democracy as envisioned by the 2019 Constitutional document.

IBAHRI Co-Chair and Immediate Past Secretary General of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg Dr Jur hc commented: ‘The IBAHRI strongly urges the UK government through the APPG, and under the UK’s Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020, to impose targeted sanctions on individuals responsible for the coup and reported human rights violations. We also call for the establishment of a working group to monitor the situation and for the UK government to call for the lifting of the reported blanket immunity for security forces. It is necessary for a clear message to be sent to any perpetrators that impunity will not prevail and that they will be held accountable, but most importantly we must go beyond rhetoric in demonstrating our support to those exercising their right to self-determination.’

The UK government has also enacted The Sudan (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 – the aim of which is to promote peace, security and stability in Sudan, as well as democracy, the rule of law, and good governance particularly during the transitional period. The Regulations specifically mention the promotion of the right to life, freedom from torture, right to liberty, and the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, with special reference to journalists, human rights defenders, and civil society activists. Under these regulations, the UK Secretary of State can designate sanctions against an individual where appropriate, including rape and gender-based violence, deliberate targeting of civilians and enforced disappearances.

The IBAHRI is also concerned by reports that indicate close ties between the Russian and Sudanese authorities with the Wagner Group and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) working together. The former is a private military company run by a Kremlin-linked oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin who was sanctioned by the UK in March 2022. The latter was formerly the Janjaweed militia now morphed into the RSF. Reports state the RSF secured illicit gold in exchange for Russian weapons and political support. The Sudanese deny the allegations.

Russia reportedly smuggled around 30 tonnes of gold per year from Sudan over several years to prepare for the possibility of Western sanctions related to the ongoing situation in Ukraine. Hemedti, the former leader of the Janjaweed, accused of war crimes during the Darfur genocide, is now the Deputy Head of Sudan’s Transitional Military Council following the coup. He has been linked to the Kremlin with his RSF troops reportedly having received military training by the Wagner Group and visiting Russia shortly before the invasion of Ukraine.

IBAHRI Co-Chair Mark Stephens CBE stated: ‘The reported relationship between Sudan and Russia, as an unlawful war is waged by Russia against Ukraine, is concerning and provides further reason for supporting urgent targeted sanctions against Sudanese individuals. Furthermore, as Sudan’s pro-democracy nationals reject United Nations-facilitated post-coup crisis talks with the army we must be mindful of their distrust for doing so. As the military pushes for 2023 elections, the pro-democracy groups remain sceptical viewing them as a bid by the military to further cement its de facto power. The angst around potential violence against protestors and internet shutdowns, as well as thoughts that the elections are unlikely to be fair, democratic, and peaceful are not unwarranted.  With this in mind, the IBAHRI urges the UK government to act swiftly in introducing targeted sanctions. It is tragic that sincere democratic change in Sudan is being blocked by the country’s own military forces and that Sudanese citizens’ cries of human rights violations must be so deep and prolonged before action is taken.’

The coup has set the country on a backwards trajectory to the era of Sudan’s deposed head of state Omar al-Bashir, a fugitive indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Adding to the woes of Sudan’s anti-coup protestors are the dismantling of the agreements and investigative committees established in partnership between the military and civilian protest leaders immediately after the 2018-19 uprising that toppled al-Bashir. The release from prison of former Islamist government officials, the dropping of the charges against them and the restoration of their privileges and immunities has brought further unease. Some of these individuals underpinned al-Bashir’s three-decade repressive rule and were part of the movement that orchestrated the 1989 coup that brought al-Bashir to power.


Notes to the Editor

  1. Click here to download a PDF of the briefing to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Magnitsky Sanctions
  2. The APPG on Magnitsky Sanctions is responsible for raising the profile of human rights and anti-corruption sanctions within parliament, to examine specific situations where sanctions may be appropriate, and to consider changes to the operation of the UK’s Magnitsky Sanctions legislation to improve its efficiency and impact.
  3. The UK government enacted the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020 under the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 to establish a system to deter and hold accountable perpetrators of serious violations of specific human rights – namely, the rights to life; freedom from torture; and freedom from slavery.
  4. Related material:
  5. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), established in 1995 under Founding Honorary President Nelson Mandela, is an autonomous and financially independent entity, working to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
  6. Find the IBAHRI (@IBAHRI) on social media here:
  7. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.

    The IBA acts as a connector, enabler, and influencer, for the administration of justice, fair practice, and accountability worldwide. The IBA has collaborated on a broad range of ground-breaking, international projects with the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, The Commonwealth, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among others.
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For further information, please contact: the IBA Human Rights Institute at IBAHRI@int-bar.org​​​​​​​

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