Friends Committee on National Legislation – 2004-07-23 09:21:20
(July 22, 2003) — Congress will adjourn for summer recess on Friday, July 23 and will not return to Washington until after Labor Day. Unfortunately, when Congress goes on recess the rest of the world does not. In Darfur, Western Sudan, 1,000 people die every day, and that number is rising.
More than 1 million Darfurians have been bombed and burnt out of their villages, their crops and water supplies destroyed. Actions taken by the US and the international community have not yielded satisfactory results. However, additional urgent action by governments and the United Nations to address this crisis CAN stop this genocide.
Concurrent resolutions introduced in the House and Senate declare that the atrocities unfolding in Darfur, Sudan, are genocide (H Con Res 467/S Con Res 124). The resolutions call on the US to lead the international community in an effort to prevent further genocide.
By labeling the situation genocide, the US would be required by law under the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide to take appropriate action to prevent further killing and bring the perpetrators to justice. We expect the House to pass this resolution later today (Thursday, July 22).
The Bush Administration must not wait on Senate action. The Administration should immediately call the situation in Darfur genocide and lead the international community to take urgent action.
It must call upon the Security Council to urgently adopt a resolution on Sudan that would authorize initiatives to halt the killing, provide humanitarian aid to those in need, and create safe political space so that dialogue between the parties can commence.
Those states which have ratified the 1948 Genocide Convention have the moral and legal obligation to take action in Darfur, and to do it now. The people of the Sudan cannot wait until after Labor Day.
The situation in Sudan’s western region of Darfur is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today. Currently, 1,000 people are dying every day, and that number is rising. More than 1 million Darfurians have been bombed and burnt out of their villages, and their crops and water supplies destroyed. Over 1 million people are internally displaced and another 110,000 have fled to neighboring Chad. The United Nations has estimated that 2 million people will require assistance during the remaining months of 2004.
According to Human Rights Watch, the root of this humanitarian crisis is the Sudanese government’s campaign of ethnic cleansing against civilians of three ethnic groups. This conflict has historical roots but escalated in February 2003, when two rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), drawn from members of the black African Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa ethnic groups, sought power-sharing within the Arab-ruled Sudanese state. On April 8, 2004, the Sudanese government signed a cease-fire agreement with SLA/M and JEM.
However, the cease-fire has not stopped attacks against civilians of the ethnic groups that comprised the SLA/M and JEM.
Reportedly, the government in Khartoum has armed, trained, and deployed militias known as Janjaweed, an Arab militia made up of pastoral people who have been hard hit by desertification and drought. Although the Janjaweed militia members reportedly number only a few thousand, they are well armed with automatic weapons and are well trained by the Khartoum government. Reportedly, militias have burned entire villages, stolen and killed livestock, poisoned water supplies, raped women and girls, and killed civilians.
Despite international and US condemnation of the crisis in Darfur, the Sudanese government has made only nominal gestures with little impact. In June, US Secretary of State Colin Powell and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan visited Sudan to talk with the Khartoum government. Both have reportedly received promises from Khartoum to “contain” the Janjaweed.
Yet, according to State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, “The things that we think need to be done have not been done. Not enough is being done to break the hold of the Janjaweed, rapes are still occurring, people don’t feel safe leaving the camps to go out and forage for food. The situation is very, very serious.”
The African Union (AU) has also been active in the situation by serving as a forum for negotiations. However, talks collapsed after rebels set six preconditions for dialogue, including the disarming of Janjaweed Arab militias and prosecution of those suspected of genocide and ethnic cleansing in Darfur. The rebels walked out after the government rejected the demands.
It is past time for the United Nations Security Council to act assertively. As the legitimate body empowered to address threats to peace and security in the world, it has an obligation to address the issues in Darfur.
The Security Council should urgently adopt a resolution on Sudan that would create safe political space so that dialogue between parties can commence. More specifically the resolution should:
• 1) authorize actions to protect civilians under attack in Darfur, ensure humanitarian aid access for those internally displaced and in neighboring Chad, and disarm the militias;
• 2) speed the deployment of AU human rights monitors to investigate human rights violations in Darfur and monitor the protection of civilians;
• 3) enact an arms embargo on Sudan; and
• 4) call for the integration of the situation in Darfur into the existing north-south peace process.
Ten years ago, the international community failed to prevent the Rwandan genocide. The US and the world stood by while 800,000 Rwandans were raped, mutilated, and slaughtered. On the 10th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, the world must remember the victims of Rwanda and never again let mass slaughter occur while the world stands idle.
As a party to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the US has an obligation to act to prevent future genocides before they happen. The US and the international community can help peacefully end the humanitarian nightmare in Darfur and save thousands of lives. The world must act now.
Contact your members of Congress. Urge them to thank the President for seeking a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Darfur. Ask them to pressure the Administration to call the situation in Darfur by its rightful name: a genocide. Urge your members of Congress to keep the pressure on the President while they are on recess. The situation in Darfur is dire; international action must be taken now.
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