Government accused of double standards on Sudan

Peer says UK businesses encouraged to trade with regime of a president wanted for war crimes

The Government was accused of "immoral" double standards last night, after it emerged that it is encouraging British businesses to do trade deals with Sudan, which means with the regime of a presid-ent who is wanted for war crimes.

As aid agencies and the UN warned that the humanitarian crisis caused by the Sudanese government was close to breaking point, UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), an agency of the Department for Business, co-operated with a trade mission to Khartoum last week.

UKTI has also produced a brochure for British firms entitled Doing Business in Sudan, a country that "offers profitable business opportunities" in industries including gold and copper mining, oil exploration and construction. The document explicitly promotes the Khartoum government's strategy of economic diversification after the loss of oil revenues – a major blow to President Omar al-Bashir's regime – caused by the breakaway of South Sudan a year ago.

Refugees continue to pour over Sudan's border with South Sudan and Ethiopia, the flood of fleeing people caused by government forces' aerial bombardment of the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states. Some 200,000 refugees have fled in recent months, and last week Oxfam warned that the crisis in refugee camps is rapidly worsening. President Bashir, the only sitting head of state to be indicted by the International Criminal Court in the Hague, is accused of genocide and war crimes.

While Britain has had a long-standing business relationship with Sudan that has been worth £2bn over the past decade, charities and parliamentarians last night said the continuing persecution by President Bashir of tribes in the south of the country meant the trade links should be cut.

The UK, like the rest of the EU, operates an arms embargo in Sudan, but continues to trade in non-military goods and services. However, the US has imposed full trade sanctions, and even some British banks refuse to do business there because of the humanitarian situation.

Lord Howell, a Foreign Office minister, has claimed in Parliament that the Government cannot help to bring President Bashir to justice because "there are real problems pinning these people down". Yet only last week the Middle East Association, a British business umbrella organisation, organised a trade mission to Khartoum, which the association said was in "close touch with UKTI".

Separately, the UKTI published its 16-page document Doing Business in Sudan on 15 June, which declares: "Interested in entering or expanding your activity in the Sudanese market? Then this guide is for you!" The document says there are incentives for British businesses investing in Sudan, including tax breaks, reduced tariffs on imports and guarantees against confiscation. UKTI promises firms it can "organise events for you to meet contacts". The brochure offers tips, such as having business cards translated into Arabic, yet it barely mentions the humanitarian crisis in Sudan.

Challenged by the cross-bench peer Lord Alton in the Lords recently that the Government's failure to take action against President Bashir showed it was "business as usual", Lord Howell said: "The indictments are out, but there are real problems pinning these people down … The problem of fulfilling an ICC charge against President Bashir is obviously a practical, physical one... He is not in reach unless he were to leave the country."

Lord Alton last night compared the Government's action against Libya and the rhetoric against Syria with "turning a blind eye" to Sudan.

He then asked: "Why is a life in Africa worth less than a life in any other country?" He added that the Government's desire to promote business in Sudan was "immoral", saying: "On the floor of the House, they will say they are aware of what is going on, but then they turn a blind eye and actively collaborate in the promotion of trade with Sudan."

Olivia Warham, director of Waging Peace, a charity campaigning against genocide and human rights abuses in Sudan, said: "The political and human rights situation [there] makes clear that it is not just trade deals that are at risk, it is the lives and livelihood of hundreds of thousands of Sudanese civilians. Surely HMG should be passing on this advice."

A spokesman for UKTI said a Doing Business document was "routine" where there was a UKTI presence, and that officials raised humanitarian concerns on a "very regular basis with the government of Sudan". The spokesman insisted that UKTI did not "actively promote trade with Sudan".

Suggested Topics
News
Jennifer Lawrence was among the stars allegedly hacked
peopleActress and 100 others on 'master list' after massive hack
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

PPC Co-Ordinator – Permanent - West Sussex – £24-£30k

£24000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Are you a Marketin...

Senior Asset Manager

£70000 - £75000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Katie Robinson +44 (...

Special Needs Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: Special needs teachers required! Sh...

EBD Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: EBD teachers re West Midlands

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor