Parliamentary question by Marco Cappato (NI) to to the Council and answer

Parliamentary questions
by Marco Cappato (NI) to the Council
(13 January 2003)

Subject: Death penalty in Sudan

On 3 January 2003 the EU Presidency condemned the death sentences and barbarous practices imposed on five Sudanese nationals, which it described as totally inconsistent with international law and the obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Sudan has ratified, in relation to torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment. In the same statement the Union urged the Government of Sudan to commute these five sentences by presidential pardon and avoid sentences involving hanging and amputation.

On 6 January 2003, Mr Ali Mohamed Osman Yassin, Sudanese Minister of Justice, replied to this request by stating that the Islamic sentences had been passed by a court and could not be altered by any other authority as they were based on provisions of the Koran.

Given that three of the five death sentences have now been carried out:

What relations does the Union intend to have with a state which considers that its acts are justified by provisions of the Koran, showing utter contempt for international conventions in spite of having ratified them?

Does the Union intend to make the implementation of the agreement signed on 10 December 2002 with the Sudanese Government - providing for the use of a fund intended for the technical preparation of cooperation programmes, with payments being made following the signing of a definitive peace agreement - conditional on the suspension of the death-by-hanging sentences and punishments involving amputation?

What role does the Union intend to play in the peace process, given that the Sudanese Government is placing obstacles in the way of the opening of the third phase of negotiations which were about to begin in Machakos?

Joint answer to Written Questions target=_top>E-3892/02 and target=_top>E-0077/03
(13 May 2003)

Following the European Union's decision to initiate a renewed political dialogue with the Government of Sudan (GoS) in 1999, annual high-level meetings have taken place in Khartoum. The objective of the annual meetings is to assess the progress in the areas of the dialogue (human rights, democracy, the rule of law and the peace process). The outcome of these discussions is reflected in a joint communiqué of 10 December 2002.

The Council conclusions of 17 June 2002 clearly state that achieving progress in the peace process remains the priority for the EU. However, the GoS will have to demonstrate progress on all benchmarks of the political dialogue as a condition for the normalisation of relations with Sudan. On that basis and against the benchmarks established in 2001, the EU troika in December 2002 assessed the progress made during 2002.

The resumption of development cooperation with support worth EUR 155 million as mentioned by the Honourable Member of Parliament refers to the EU commitment undertaken in 2001, in particular to notify to Sudan in 2002 of the preparation of the Country Strategy Paper (CSP) with the indicated volume of aid. However, the signature of the CSP will only take place when a peace agreement is signed. Hence, none of that money has been disbursed so far. The Commission will pursue the procedures for a final decision (together with Member States in the EDF Committee) on the disbursement of that amount when this requirement has been met.

The EU takes advantage of any occasion to urge Sudan to improve its human rights record, in particular regarding the death penalty and torture. It continues to put pressure on the GoS to finalise the ratification procedure of the Convention Against Torture. Unfortunately, the issues of corporal punishment and the death sentence remain difficult in the dialogue with the GoS. Given the wider implications of these specific issues, the EU, at this stage, is also trying to put pressure on Sudan within the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva.

The EU continues to support the peace process and is convinced that the peace agreement would facilitate further progress in respect for human rights. The latest round of talks ended on 5 February and the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by both sides indicate agreement on some important issues. The next round will address details on power and wealth-sharing, amongst other issues.