Amnesty International says it is “deeply disturbing” that a Canadian lobbying firm has signed a US$6-million contract to promote the interests of the military regime that has imprisoned and killed protesters after seizing power in Sudan.
The human-rights group, in a letter to two cabinet ministers, is calling on the federal government to “investigate this contract closely” to find out whether it violates Canadian arms-control regulations or contributes to human-rights abuses in Sudan.
The lobbying contract, first reported by The Globe and Mail last week, has stirred up anger and outrage among many of the pro-democracy protesters in Sudan who have faced gunfire and tear gas as they march for a civilian government.
Dickens & Madson (Canada) Inc., a lobbying company based in Montreal, signed the multimillion-dollar contract with Sudan’s military regime in early May, less than a month after the military took power in a coup.
A few weeks later, security forces killed more than 100 protesters who were camped outside the military headquarters in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. But hundreds of thousands of protesters returned to the streets of Sudan’s cities on Sunday, refusing to abandon their quest for civilian rule.
Under the contract, the Canadian lobbying firm has promised to polish the image of the military regime, obtain favourable media coverage, seek funds and equipment for Sudan’s military and other security forces, and search for possible oil investors. In addition, it would work to improve relations with Russia and Saudi Arabia, seek a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump and explore possible alliances or business deals between Sudan, Libya and South Sudan.
“It is deeply concerning that this contractual arrangement proposes alliances which would potentially link and deepen the human-rights crises in both Sudan and Libya,” Amnesty International says in the letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Justice Minister David Lametti.
“The contract involves or contemplates business dealings with three countries – Sudan, Libya and South Sudan – that are currently subject to sanctions imposed by the federal government under the United Nations Act and/or Special Economic Measures Act,” says the letter, obtained by The Globe and Mail on Sunday.
The contract with the Canadian lobbying company was signed by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy leader of the Transitional Military Council (TMC) that has ruled Sudan since seizing power in April. He is also the commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a powerful paramilitary group that was known as the Janjaweed when it committed a series of massacres and other alleged atrocities against rebels and civilians in the Darfur region. Members of the RSF reportedly led the June 3 attack that killed more than 100 protesters in Khartoum.
The lobbying firm is headed by a former Israeli intelligence officer, Ari Ben-Menashe, who has previously served as a lobbyist for toppled Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe and Libyan militia commander Khalifa Haftar.
“It is deeply disturbing to learn that a Canadian citizen, heading a Canadian-based agency, entered into a contractual relationship with the TMC on May 7,” the Amnesty letter says.
The Globe has tried repeatedly to contact Mr. Ben-Menashe since last week, but was told that he was travelling and could not be reached.
In a telephone interview with BBC Radio on Monday night, however, he confirmed that his company had signed the lobbying contract with Sudan’s military regime. He said his company will seek to remove the international sanctions against Sudan and any arms sales to Sudan would be after the removal of sanctions.
“Nobody is supplying arms to anybody,” he told BBC. “We’re not talking about now. We’re talking about after a government is set up.”
The military rulers are planning to give way to a civilian government at some point, he said. “They aren’t here to stay, I promise you.”
In its letter to the federal cabinet ministers, Amnesty noted that the military regime is accused of storming a hospital in Khartoum, firing live ammunition at patients and medical staff, dumping the dead bodies of protesters into the Nile River, committing war crimes in Darfur and shutting down the Internet to prevent the protesters from communicating.
“A sense of fear and terror prevails in the country,” the letter said.
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