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Politics Quebec lobbying firm may have broken Sudan sanctions with deal ‘striving’ to supply equipment for military

Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (C), known as Himediti, deputy head of Sudan's ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) and commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitaries, waves a baton to supporters on a vehicle as he arrives for a rally in the village of Abraq, about 60 kilometers northwest of Khartoum, on June 22, 2019.

YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images

A Montreal lobbying firm working for a notorious Sudanese military leader to procure equipment for the African country’s armed forces could run afoul of Canadian sanctions as well as new arms-brokering controls that come into effect this September, experts say.

As The Globe and Mail reported this week, Dickens & Madson (Canada) Inc. has signed a US$6-million deal to seek government funds and diplomatic recognition for General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, whose forces have been accused of massacring protesters in Khartoum, U.S. documents show. The deal includes “striving to obtain funding and equipment for the Sudanese military.”

Dickens & Madson is headed by Ari Ben-Menashe, a former Israeli intelligence officer whose firm has previously served as a paid lobbyist for ousted Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe and powerful Libyan militia commander Khalifa Haftar. The firm’s contract with Sudan was signed with Gen. Dagalo, the deputy leader of Sudan’s military council. He is the commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group formerly known as the Janjaweed when it allegedly committed atrocities and massacres against rebels in Darfur.

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Mr. Ben-Menashe could not be reached for comment in Montreal Friday.

Across Sudan and in the Sudanese diaspora, many people voiced outrage at The Globe’s report about the military regime’s payment to the Canadian lobbying firm. On social media, many Sudanese complained that military rulers were trying to whitewash their misdeeds, and that the money could have been better spent on schools and hospitals.

The United Nations Security Council has agreed to economic sanctions and trade restrictions to limit sales of arms and related materials to Sudan. Canada has implemented those UN sanctions against Sudan into domestic law and, as a result, Canadian individuals and corporate entities are prohibited from supplying arms and related materials including weapons, ammunition, military vehicles or paramilitary equipment and parts to persons in Sudan.

Toronto trade lawyer Cyndee Todgham Cherniak said that depending on what exactly is being sold to persons in Sudan, Dickens & Madson could be acting contrary to prohibitions in the UN sanctions if they supply arms or technical assistance. There are exceptions though for non-lethal military gear intended for protective use, such as bulletproof vests.

John Boscariol, a Toronto-based lawyer with McCarthy Tétrault, said he couldn’t comment on a particular case but that the UN sanctions against Sudan include more than just an embargo on arms trade.

He said it’s also a breach of the UN sanctions under Canadian law if a Canadian or Canadian company provides technical assistance related to arms and associated materials and this assistance hasn’t been preapproved by the UN Security Council.

“If someone were to be providing consulting services that related to the provision of military equipment to a person in Sudan, on its face, that’s prohibited,” Mr. Boscariol said.

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Helping the Sudanese military acquire arms could also breach Canada’s new arms-brokering controls that take effect Sept. 1. Canada recently passed a law that requires Canadians, regardless of where they are located in the world, to acquire a brokering permit from Ottawa if they are arranging arms transactions from one foreign country to another foreign country.

A Canadian government official, speaking on background because they were not authorized to talk to the news media, said if Dickens & Madson facilitates an arms sale then Ottawa would expect the firm to apply for a brokering permit.

The official also said that facilitating a sale of equipment for the Sudanese military comes very close to technical assistance, which is prohibited under the UN sanctions.

When Canada’s Department of Global Affairs receives an application for an arms-brokering permit, it is now required to assess whether the transaction would lead to a serious violation of international human-rights law, among other factors. Ottawa could deny such a brokering permit.

Any alleged violation of the sanctions on Sudan would be investigated by the RCMP.

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