House Passes Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act of 2007

The House has passed the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act of 2007 by a vote of 411-0, which passed the Senate by unanimous consent earlier this week. The bill protects states’ and investment firms’ rights to divest from companies with connections to the government of Sudan. SADA also prohibits federal contracts with such companies. A similar piece of legislation, the Darfur Accountability and Divestment Authorization Act, passed the House earlier this year; this final bill will be sent to the President. The White House has opposed the measure.

US Justice Department opposes Sudan divestment law
Sudan Tribune – November 3, 2007

The Justice Department is increasing Bush administration pressure on Congress not to pass legislation designed to slash U.S. and foreign investment in Sudan because of the Darfur violence.

A letter to the Senate Democratic and Republican leaders even suggested the courts might be involved in knocking down a provision of the proposed Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act that would give congressional authorization for state and local governments' divestment schemes.

Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-09), the primary sponsor of the Darfur Accountability and Divestment Authorization Act, speaks in favor during debate on the rule:

Rep. Lee: “Thirteen years ago, the world stood by as nearly one million people were slaughtered in the genocide of Rwanda, and the best our country could do, the best we could do, was apologize, and that was after the fact. Today, the people of Darfur who are suffering and dying need this bill. They need it because another genocide is occurring….this is the moment of truth. Let’s stop the rhetoric and do something now that we have declared for three years genocide is taking place…let’s say no to the Sudanese government and yes to ending this genocide.”

US Congress passes Sudan divestment bill
Susan Corn, Reuters – December 18, 2007

The U.S. Congress pressed for an end to the violence in the Darfur region by passing legislation on Tuesday to help investors who want to shed their holdings in companies doing business in Sudan.

The House of Representatives voted 411-0 to back the measure that aims to shield state and local governments, mutual funds and private pension funds from investor lawsuits if they divest shares of companies active in Sudan’s oil, mining, power and military equipment industries.

It also denies federal contracts to companies involved in Sudan’s oil, mining, power, and military equipment industries.

The bill has already passed the Senate and now goes to President George W. Bush. But his administration has criticized the legislation for interfering with foreign policy-making and it was unclear whether he would sign it into law. A U.S. State Department spokesman said the administration had some concerns about legal issues raised by the bill.

Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat, said the United States had a moral responsibility to use every tool to stop the genocide in Darfur.

“It’s time we put the United States, not just with rhetoric, but with action, on the right side of history,” said Lee before the vote.

Experts estimate 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million uprooted in the Sudanese region’s conflict, which started in 2003 and pits mostly non-Arab rebel groups against the Khartoum government and Arab militias.