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U.N. rejects Sudan for Security Council

WASHINGTON (BP)–The United Nations General Assembly dealt a setback to possibly the world’s worst perpetrator of religious persecution Oct. 10 when it refused to approve Sudan for a seat in the U.N. Security Council.

The General Assembly selected the island democracy of Mauritius over Sudan in a 113-55 vote on the fourth round of a secret ballot. The United States government, with the urging of religious and human rights organizations, led the effort to prevent Sudan from gaining the African seat in this year’s election.

Religious freedom advocates have decried in recent years the militant Islamic regime ruling Sudan for its campaign against Christian and animist villages in the central and southern parts of the country. Troops supported by Khartoum have regularly raided such villages, massacring the men and capturing and enslaving women and children. Sudan also has become known as a host for terrorists and is under Security Council sanctions for its sponsorship of international terrorists.

“Yesterday’s vote in the United Nations was a triumph for decency, democracy and human rights,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Tragically, the government of Sudan would be an Olympic finalist in any listing of the worst abusers of human rights in the world.

“The U.N. membership’s recognition of Sudan’s outcast and rogue status as a nation is both confirmed and underscored by this vote. The next administration should take much stronger measures to rid the Sudanese people of the burden of this atrocity-laden dictatorship that currently is so atrociously persecuting its own people.”

Elliott Abrams, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, called the vote a “victory for religious freedom and human rights.”

“It would have been an intolerable mockery of the Security Council to have a sanctioned nation sitting on the body that sanctioned it. If those nations who voted together to elect Mauritius would now band together to press for peace and human rights in Sudan, perhaps we would see some real progress in ending genocidal levels of religious persecution there.”

In its first report in May, the commission described Sudan as “the world’s most violent abuser to the right to freedom of religion and belief.” Although the Clinton administration has been criticized for not taking action to aid victims of Khartoum’s campaign, Abrams commended it for rallying opposition to Sudan’s effort. The commission has proposed to the White House and Congress a one-year plan to reward Sudan if it improves its human rights record and to aid opposition groups if it does not.

In the last decade, about two million people have died in a civil war between the militant Islamic regime in Khartoum and the rebel forces of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army and as a result of war-related causes. The regime has conducted bombing campaigns against civilians, with hospitals and schools among the targets. At least 100,000 Sudanese are estimated to have died of starvation last year as a result of the regime’s intentional withholding of food aid to its people. From four to five million Sudanese have had to flee their homes during the unrest.