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Canadian firm's lobbying contract with Sudan military rulers may face police probe

Amnesty International has called for investigation into $6m deal between Montreal firm and Sudanese army council
Sudan's military has carried out deadly crackdown on opposition protesters (AFP/File photo)

Canada's government has referred a lobbying contract between a Montreal-based firm and Sudan's ruling military council to federal police to determine whether the deal violates Canadian sanctions on the country.

A spokeswoman for the Canadian foreign ministry, Global Affairs Canada, told Middle East Eye in an email on Thursday that "Canada has fully prohibited the provision of arms or related technical assistance to Sudan".

The department "has referred the situation to the RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police]", said spokeswoman Amy Mills.

"All persons in Canada and Canadians abroad must comply with Canada's strict sanctions measures. This includes individuals and entities. Contravening Canadian sanctions is a criminal offence," Mills said.

Dickens & Madson, a Montreal-based agency headed by former Israeli intelligence officer Ari Ben-Menashe, was hired to lobby on behalf of Sudan's Transitional Military Council (TMC) last month, the Globe and Mail first reported.

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The contract is valued at $6m, the Canadian newspaper said, and it includes helping Sudan's military leaders acquire funding, equipment and training, among other things.

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The TMC has been in power in Sudan since the country's longtime leader Omar al-Bashir was deposed in a military coup in April, following months of widespread protests against his rule.

The council has since been accused of carrying out a crackdown on the Sudanese opposition, including the deadly dispersal of a protest sit-in in the capital Khartoum in early June.

More than 100 people were killed in that incident and subsequent days of violence, and eyewitnesses described seeing dead bodies being thrown into the Nile River.

In an email to MEE on Thursday, the RCMP echoed Global Affairs, saying that "contravening Canadian sanctions is a criminal offence".

"Offences are investigated and enforced by the Canadian Border Services Agency and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police," an RCMP spokeswoman said.

"If the RCMP determined that an investigation is warranted, one would be initiated."

'Deeply disturbing' contract

On 30 June, Amnesty International Canada wrote an open letter to Canadian ministers Chrystia Freeland and David Lametti, asking for Ottawa to investigate the lobbying contract.

In the context of recent deadly violence in Sudan, the rights group said "it is deeply disturbing to learn that a Canadian citizen, heading a Canadian-based agency, entered into a contractual relationship with the TMC".

Among other things, the agreement includes a pledge to lobby the United Nations, as well as the US, Saudi, Russian and other governments, on behalf of the TMC, said Amnesty, which reviewed the contract.

The rights group said the deal also includes promises to:

  • Gain recognition of the TMC as the "legitimate transitional leadership" in Sudan
  • Arrange for the TMC to meet with "senior personalities" in the US, including setting up "a public meeting" between President Donald Trump and the TMC
  • Lobby for funding and equipment for the Sudanese military
  • "Provide military training and security equipment to [Sudanese] military forces"
  • Obtain favourable media coverage for the TMC

"It is vital that the Canadian government ensure that no action under this contract breaches Canadian arms control laws and regulations," Amnesty said.

Canada recently ratified the UN Arms Trade Treaty, which regulates international weapons sales.

The Canadian government also maintains a series of sanctions on Sudan, which prohibit "the export of arms and related material to any person in Sudan".

'It is vital that the Canadian government ensure that no action under this contract breaches Canadian arms control laws and regulations'

- Amnesty International

"The provision, to any person in Sudan, of technical assistance related to arms and related material" is also barred under the Canadian sanctions regime.

Since Bashir was ousted earlier this year, the Sudanese opposition has pushed for a civilian-led government to take over from the TMC.

Still, talks between the two sides have repeatedly broken down.

On Wednesday, opposition and military leaders returned to the negotiating table to try to chart the country's political transition.

The two parties met at the request of African Union and Ethiopian mediators.

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