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‘Genocide’ taking place in Sudan, Congress declares in resolution; 30,000 ‘murdered’

WASHINGTON (BP)–Genocide is taking place in Sudan in violation of international law, both houses of Congress declared in a joint resolution July 22.

The joint resolution declares that “the atrocities unfolding in Darfur, Sudan, are genocide” in violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, signed in Paris on Dec. 9, 1948.

The joint resolution cited the Paris accord as holding that “genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law….”

The resolution notes that “an estimated 30,000 innocent civilians have been brutally murdered, more than 130,000 people have been forced from their homes and have fled to neighboring Chad, and more than 1,000,000 people have been internally displaced” in the western region of Sudan known as Darfur.

The government of Sudan has been accused by U.S. officials, United Nations workers and human rights advocates of orchestrating attacks by Arab militias known as “Janjaweed” against the African populace of the Darfur region.

In addition to declaring the crisis in Sudan to be a case of genocide, Senate Concurrent Resolution 133:

— “deplores the failure of the United Nations Human Rights Commission to take appropriate action with respect to the crisis … particularly the failure by the Commission to support United States-sponsored efforts to strongly condemn gross human rights violations committed in Darfur.”

— “calls upon the United Nations and the United Nations Secretary General to assert leadership by calling the atrocities being committed in Darfur by their rightful name: genocide.”

— “calls on the member states of the United Nations, particularly member states from the African Union, the Arab League, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, to undertake measures to prevent the genocide … from escalating further, including the imposition of targeted means against those responsible for the atrocities.”

— “commends the [Bush] Administration’s leadership in seeking a peaceful resolution to the conflict … and in addressing the ensuing humanitarian crisis, including the visit of Secretary of State Colin Powell to Darfur in June 2004 to engage directly in efforts to end the genocide and the provision of nearly $140,000,000 to date in bilateral humanitarian assistance through the United States Agency for International Development.”

— “commends the President for appointing former Senator John Danforth as Envoy for Peace in Sudan on September 6, 2001, and further commends the appointment of Senator Danforth as United States Ambassador to the United Nations.”

— “calls on the Administration to continue to lead an international effort to stop [the] genocide.”

— “calls on the Administration to impose targeted means, including visa bans and the freezing of assets, against officials and other individuals of the government of Sudan, as well as Janjaweed militia commanders, who are responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

— “calls on the United States Agency for International Development to establish a Darfur Resettlement, Rehabilitation, and Reconstruction Fund so that those individuals driven off their land may return and begin to rebuild their communities.”

According to the joint resolution’s citation of the Paris accord, genocide and “conspiracy to commit genocide,” “direct and public incitement to commit genocide,” “attempt to commit genocide” and being “complicit in genocide” are punishable under international law.

The chief sponsor of the joint resolution in the Senate was Kansas Republican Sam Brownback; in the House, New Jersey Democrat Donald Payne.

The resolution was passed by Congress the same day that Secretary of State Colin Powell met with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan at the U.N. headquarters in New York.

Neither Powell nor Annan, who visited Sudan in June, used the word “genocide” in a joint news conference.

Since their visit with Sudanese officials in Khartoum, Powell said, “… we’ve seen some modest improvement in access, opening the lines of communication. It’s now important for the international community, the NGOs [non-governmental organizations] and humanitarian organizations of the world to provide the supplies necessary and to take advantage of this modestly increased access.”

But Powell said the United States remains dissatisfied with “the security situation. It will do us no good to get the humanitarian situation on the mend but to find it comes a cropper because it is not a secure area, either for the people to return to their homes or for the camps to be kept safe or for the humanitarian workers to be safe.

“And the burden for this, for providing security, rests fully on the Sudanese government. They have the responsibility,” Powell said.

The Sudanese government, he said, has been “supporting and sustaining some of these janjaweed elements. This has to end. We have made this clear to the Sudanese leadership. We still know that there are bombings that take place, there are helicopter gunships in Darfur region. I don’t know why Darfur region needs helicopter gunships and believe they should be removed in order to help remove the specter of fear, of danger from the skies that affects the people in Darfur.”

The Sudanese are not permitting healthcare workers to enter the region, Powell also complained, noting that they are as important as “those who can deliver food and build camps and dig wells.”

The U.N. Security Council has passed no resolution on the Sudanese crisis.

Annan said in the news conference, “We will continue to insist that the [Sudanese] government performs. The [Security] Council is fully seized of the matter, and, as you know, a resolution has been tabled, which the members are discussing very seriously.”

On July 20, Human Rights Watch issued a report stating that it had obtained confidential documents from Sudanese civilian officials in Darfur that “incontrovertibly show that government officials directed recruitment, arming and other support” for the Janjaweed militias.

Human Rights Watch stated in a news release, “In a series of official Arabic-language documents from government authorities in North and South Darfur dating from February and March 2004, officials call for recruitment and military support, including ‘provisions and ammunition’ to be delivered to known Janjaweed militia leaders, camps and ‘loyalist tribes.’

“A particularly damning February directive orders ‘all security units’ in the area to tolerate the activities of known Janjaweed leader Musa Hilal in North Darfur. The document ‘highlights the importance of non-interference so as not to question their authority’ and authorizes security units in a North Darfur province to ‘overlook minor offenses by the fighters against civilians who are suspected members of the rebellion….’”

Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman responded July 21 that the documents obtained by Human Rights Watch are false, the Voice of America reported.

Osman accused Human Rights Watch of releasing “fake” documents to pressure the U.N. Security Council to take action against Sudan.

Brownback visited the Darfur region June 26-29 with Rep. Frank Wolf, R.-Va.

In a July 13 statement after the visit, Brownback said, “We saw conditions there that indicated to us the seeds of genocide were being sown. We drove by and walked through burnt and pillaged villages. We heard the stories of the victims who had been shot, raped and beaten….

“Reports I received as late as yesterday indicated that the government of Sudan not only continues to deny that ethnic cleansing is going on in Darfur, but as late as this weekend, according to reliable sources on the ground, more than 30 villages had been destroyed by the Janjaweed since our departure. IDPs [internally displaced persons] continue to be hassled and foreign aid workers are still being denied access.

“And while the world debates about what it should do, people continue to die in Darfur. It is time to end this debate and start saving lives.”