Editor's Note: In this Enough 101, Sudan and South Sudan Policy Analyst Akshaya Kumar answers 5 questions about the GHRAVITY Executive Order and how it can be expanded to allow the U.S. to target the middle men and enablers of atrocities in Sudan.
What's the problem?
It's incredibly challenging for the opposition or independent journalists to use the internet to communicate safely and securely within Sudan. In September 2013, when protesters took to the streets to demand change, the Sudanese government successfully shut down the Internet, making it harder for them to use social media to organize. Both Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders have confirmed that Sudan's national security services operate a "Cyber Jihadist Unit" dedicated to crushing online dissent. More troubling, the Sudan government uses American-made technology to track activists and suppress free expression. In a 2013 report, the Citizen Lab in Toronto found evidence that surveillance devices made by California-based Blue Coat technologies were being used in Sudan.
What's been done on this issue in other contexts?
In 2012, President Obama made an Executive Order 13606, also known as the Executive Order Blocking The Property And Suspending Entry into the United States of Certain Persons with Respect to Grave Human Rights Abuses by the Governments of Iran and Syria Via Information Technology or the GHRAVITY Executive Order.
This 2011 decision is specific to Syria and Iran. The Order authorizes the Department of Treasury to freeze the property of individuals and entities who have operated, directed operation of, sold, leased, or helped put in place, technology that facilitates computer or network disruption, tracking, or monitoring to enable the ongoing human rights violations in those two countries.
Aren't there already sanctions on Sudan that prevent these kinds of exports?
Sort of. But we can do more. The United States maintains a comprehensive embargo on Sudan. So, it's actually illegal for any American made products to be shipped there. However, the laws right now don't allow Treasury to go after the assets of those who help facilitate these kinds of transactions.
What more can be done?
The GHRAVITY Executive Order allows sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, to be applied to individuals and entities from other countries, as well. So this is not just about sanctioning Sudanese people. The language we like in the GHRAVITY Executive Order gives us more predicate offenses to go after the middle men and enablers of atrocities in Sudan. Being able to do this in Sudan would be great. Right now, asset blocking measures are limited to Darfur specific violations.
Expanding the list of predicate offenses will make it easier for Treasury to build cases against bad actors. Under the GHRAVITY Executive Order, even people normally outside of U.S. jurisdiction can be targeted for sanctions if they provide the targeted goods, technology, or services relating to the monitoring or disruption of internet or telephone communications to Syria and Iran.
What do we want?
We want a similar measure for Sudan, either through an expansion of the Executive Order by the President or else through a legislative vehicle by the Congress.
Specifically, we think the Treasury Department should be instructed to block the assets of both American and non-American individuals or entities who they find:
- to have sold, leased, or otherwise provided either directly or indirectly goods, services, or technology to the government of Sudan Sudan, that are “likely to be used to facilitate computer or network disruption, monitoring, or tracking that could assist in or enable serious human rights abuses” by or on behalf of the Sudanese Governments;
- to have “materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support” for, or “goods or services to or in support of,” such activities; or
- to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, either directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interest in property are blocked under the Order.