Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Scorched earth

In Darfur, the survivors of genocide at the hands of the janjaweed militias are corralled in desperate refugee camps--which is just how the Sudanese government likes it.
By Monika Bauerlein
September/October 2005 Issue

This text accompanies a photo essay by Oliver Jobard/Sipa in the September/October 2005 issue of Mother Jones.

THERE ARE 10 MILLION REFUGEES IN THE WORLD -- or many, many more, depending on how you slice the statistics and whom you count. That's more than the populations of New Jersey and Maine combined fleeing war, torture, disaster, hunger; 10 million evicted from their homes, displaced, ethnically cleansed.

Which means that we've seen these photos before. We've seen them, and we're familiar with the feelings -- the anger, pity, and guilt toward a world where horror is doled out wholesale and at random: Why should that five-year-old have been raped and not my daughter? Why must that family march through the desert for two weeks without food and not mine? Why must we keep seeing these images? We hate the questions because there are no answers.

Except that there are. These wars, in East Africa or Southeast Asia or Central Europe, don't spring out of nowhere -- they proceed with cold, bloody logic from a handful of causes that aren't that hard to figure out. The war in Darfur, which has displaced at least 2 million and killed more than 70,000, is not a war over religion (victims and perpetrators are all Muslim) nor over race (while there is racist propaganda involved, decades of intermarriage have left Darfur's "Africans" and "Arabs" virtually indistinguishable), nor over "tribal animosities" (which do exist but didn't lead to war until two and a half years ago). It's a conflict that started, quite simply, because Sudan has a brutal, unpopular regime and rebel movements have sprung up in every corner of the country; because the civil war in the south (the one before Darfur, in which Muslim troops battled a Christian and animist uprising) was close to being settled, and so rebels in the west thought it a good moment to launch an offensive and the Sudanese government thought it a good strategy to let armed militias called janjaweed do its fighting. It's a war that is still going on because the government achieved what it wanted -- destruction of the villages that were feeding the opposition, confinement of the "displaced" in tightly controlled camps -- without paying much of a price. And it's going to stop the minute that strategy becomes politically untenable. International pressure -- specifically from American conservatives, who adopted the Christian cause in Sudan's south -- ended the country's other civil war; international pressure, from whomever chooses to step up, can end this one. We don't have to keep seeing these faces, the millions in Darfur, the millions more like them.
Monika Bauerlein is Senior Editor at

Never Forget. Save Darfur.

Up to 400,000 people have lost their lives in Darfur since the government-sponsored genocide began in 2003. More than 2.5 million people have been displaced; their livelihoods and villages destroyed by government forces and their proxy militias. These forces have raped many thousands of women and girls. The humanitarian crisis that forms part of the genocide continues, as a government-engineered famine begins to unfold.

As a people intimately acquainted with the horrors of genocide, it is our responsibility to never forget the Holocaust and to apply its lessons to our own time. The people of Darfur are asking us to never forget. As Jews, human beings, and global citizens: we must take action now. Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Eli Wiesel has said: "Now people know. And so they have no excuse for their passivity bordering on indifference."

Weinberg Tzedek Hillel, in tandem with local Hillels around the world, is working to alert students to the crisis and to encourage them to take action. Hillel has joined with mtvU, the American Jewish World Service, STAND (Students Taking Action Now: Darfur), the Save Darfur Coalition, the International Crisis Group and other organizations in this effort.

What Can You Do?

* Join STAND, mtvU and Hillel for Darfur Fast, October 6,
* Gather signatures for Texas Hillel's "White Rose Society" petition (PDF File 104Kb) on Darfur to encourage the U.S. government to take action against the genocide, download petition form (PDF File 19Kb)
* Bring the exhibit "Darfur: Witness to Genocide" to your campus, contact the current Weinberg Tzedek Hillel Fellow
* Work with the International Crisis Group (ICG) to plan a speaking tour for Sudanese refugees. Hillel will act as the lead convener on campuses, together with local STAND chapters, to build a coalition of organizations that will plan and publicize the speaking tour stops
Contact the current Weinberg Tzedek Hillel Fellow, for more information about what you can do to bring justice to the victims of violence in Darfur, and let us know what you're doing on campus.

Additional Resources

* Get informed: visit for an overview of the crisis and for daily news updates.
* Download poster to promote Darfur awareness (PDF File 310Kb)
* Download the Campus Organizer's Toolkit (PDF File 286Kb)
* Additional Programming Ideas
* Download the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's guidebook for student activists (PDF File 750Kb)
* Wear green wrist bands, which can be purchased from the Save Darfur Coalition
* Spread the word with Hillel's Save Darfur eCard
* Order video from Oxfam America about Sudan
* Learn more about what other Hillels are doing, Hillel Overview (PDF File 20Kb)
* Tell us about your program so that we can publicize on mtvU and in other media, contact the current Weinberg Tzedek Hillel Fellow.

N.Y. and Sudan

Editorial from Democrat and Chronicle

Economic pressure can help alleviate human rights crisis

(August 31, 2005) — New York state invests around $14 billion in companies that do business in Sudan, a country whose government has permitted, and by many accounts supported, militias that terrorize the black population in its Darfur region.

The U.S. Congress has called the situation genocide. Yet next to nothing has been done on a federal or international level.

New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi can and should help fight these human rights abuses by using his influence with these Sudan-active companies to bring about change. If that doesn't work, the state should divest its holdings in these companies.

Louisiana, Illinois, Arizona and New Jersey have already passed legislation that makes it illegal for their governments to invest in companies that do business with Sudan. Several universities, including Harvard and Stanford, have also divested.

Their actions will result in the loss of billions of dollars of investment for companies that enrich the Sudanese government. That sends a strong message.

State Senate Minority Leader David Paterson has proposed legislation that calls for New York to take similar action. Hevesi, who is responsible for managing the state investment funds, says that divestment ought to be a last resort because it would cost New York leverage in the companies it is trying to influence.

As a first step, Hevesi should immediately start pressuring Sudan-active companies to tell the Sudanese government that human rights abuses are unacceptable. And that if changes aren't made, there will be serious financial consequences.

An estimated 2.5 million black Sudanese, who were chased from their homes by militias, now live in squalid refugee camps where they lack basic necessities and are constantly threatened with torture or death. The World Health Organization estimates that about 7,000 people die in Darfur each month. This crisis must be resolved.

International economic pressure helped force the South African government to do away with apartheid in the early '90s.

Similar pressure can help alleviate suffering in Sudan. New York should get involved.

Ideology in arms: The emergence of Darfur's Janjaweed

Julie Flint
The nomad encampment lay in the middle of a stony, trackless waste, three hour's drive from the district town of Kutum. Broad black tents were spread among the few thorn trees and in the distance was the great sweep of Wadi Kutum, its pale red sand ringed by date palms and vegetable gardens. Visitors waited on a fine Persian carpet while the sheikh was summoned. Even in his 80s, bedridden and almost blind, Sheikh Hilal Abdullah was a commanding figure. As the visitors entered his tent, he swung his tall frame upright and ordered his retainer to slaughter a sheep for dinner. He was courteous and imperious in equal measure. "Who are you?" he demanded. "You can't be British. All the British speak Koranic Arabic!" Then a servant served sweet tea on a silver platter while Hilal explained that the world was coming to an end.
Although settled in Aamo for more than a decade, Hilal kept to the old nomadic ways. Hung on the sides of his tent were only those things that could be packed on the back of a camel in an afternoon - water jars, saddles, spears, swords, an old Remington rifle, his silver tea set and well-worn rugs. "All the Um Jalul possess camels," he said. "You see that small boy?" He gestured at his grandson. "Even he has camels." He spoke about the traditions of mutual support among the Um Jalul, the most traditional of Darfur's Rizeigat Arab nomads. During the famine that had devastated the region over the previous 18 months, one of his nephews had donated more than a hundred camels to support hungry kinsmen. He himself had loaned many animals, from a herd that was shrinking faster than he knew.
"None of us will need to cultivate," he said. "None of us even need to collect wild foods like the Zaghawa. Camel nomadism is our way of life."
But just an hour's walk away was a small encampment of destitute nomads whose animals were dead and who were scraping away at infertile, sandy soils in a desperate attempt to grow enough millet to support their families. They pointed bitterly at the distant wadi and its fertile alluvium. "There's enough land here," said one, "but the Tunjur have registered every inch." Their cooking pots were filled not with millet but with wild foods, especially the mukheit berries, bitter and scarcely palatable, that had been the staple diet of most Darfurians during the famine months.
The proud old sheikh refused to talk about his people's poverty. Instead he spoke darkly of how the cosmic order was changing. In the old days, the nomads had been welcome guests of the Fur and Tunjur farmers. He himself had traveled south every year to Kargula on the slopes of Jebel Marra, where the Fur chief, Shartai Ibrahim Diraige, would welcome him with a feast and the nomads would assist the farmers by buying their grain, taking their goods to market and grazing their camels on the stubble of the harvest. On leaving, the sheikh would present the Shartai with two young camels. But now all this was changing: Fur farmers were barring the Arabs' migratory routes and forcing the camel herders to range further south in search of pastures.
In the far north, in Wadi Howar, the Um Jalul shared the pastures with other herders, the Zaghawa and Meidob. But this, too, was changing. The famous jizu desert pastures had bloomed that season E 1985 - for the first time in seven years. Hilal brooded on the ecological changes that were disturbing the region. But he would rather die than change. For him, the old ways were the only ways. Contemptuous of police procedures, he presided over swift customary justice at his tribal court in Aamo. He had no hesitation in tying a witness or a suspect to a tree in the midday sun, or smearing him with grease to attract biting insects, to extract a confession. Punishment - payment of blood money, or whipping - was immediate. But people from many different tribes, in Chad as well as Darfur, trekked to Aamo court. There was no appeal, but the sheikh was famously just. The fame of his son Moussa has spread even further: his name is first on a list of suspected genocidal criminals compiled by the U.S. State Department.
Moussa Hilal: A big sheikh
On February 27, 2004, hundreds of armed men mounted on camels and horses attacked the town of Tawila on the eastern slope of Jebel Marra, the heart of the Fur lands. By the time the attack was over, three days later, 75 people had been killed, 350 women and children abducted and more than 100 women raped. Overseeing this mayhem, moving between a temporary headquarters in a large canvas tent and a convoy of five Landcruisers protected by mounted men, was Moussa Hilal, 44, the most powerful leader of the government-supported militias that have come to be known as the Janjaweed. In the days before the attack, more than 500 Janjaweed had converged on Tawila from different directions and congregated, without interference from any of the government forces in the area, in a makeshift camp on a nearby hill. This was more than Arab raiders settling old scores. These Janjaweed had light and medium weapons, communication, internal structure - and impunity. The state capital, Al-Fasher, is only 64 kilometers miles away from Tawila and Governor Osman Youssef Kibir was fully informed of the attack while it was continuing. But it was only on the third day, after the Janjaweed withdrew, that the governor sent representatives to Tawila.
Confident of the impunity afforded him by the government, and of international community's refusal to match its bark with bite, Hilal has amused himself by playing word games while his men burn Darfur. He has never convincingly denied the crimes he stands accused of, nor shown any regret over the destruction of Darfur, its people and its multi-ethnic society. He has only protested at being called "Janjaweed" - a word customarily used to refer to outlaws and highwaymen from Chad. "The Janjaweed are bandits, like the mutineers. It is we who are fighting the Janjaweed." What Hilal does not deny, indeed relishes, is being a government agent. "A big sheikh. not a little sheikh." As the father in his desert tent took pride in his independence, so does the son in his Khartoum villa, many hundreds of kilometers away from Darfur, take pride in being the government's man, "appointed" by the government to fight against the rebels. "I answered my government's appeal, and I called my people to arms. I didn't take up arms personally. A tribal leader doesn't take up arms. I am a sheikh. I am not a soldier. I am soldiers!"
And not only "soldiers." According to documents obtained by the authors, Hilal is also leader - amid - of an Arab supremacist organization called the Tajamu al-Arabi, variously translated as the "Arab Gathering," "Arab Alliance," "Arab Congregation" and "Arab Congress." Little is known about the secret organization, which has roots in Moammar Gadhafi's Libya and active contact today, according to the documents, with "intelligence and security leaders" from other Arab countries. But its ultimate objective in Darfur was spelled out in an August 2004 directive from Hilal's headquarters. "Change the demography of Darfur and empty it of African tribes." Confirming the control of Military Intelligence over the Darfur file, the directive was addressed to no fewer than three intelligence services - the Intelligence and Security Department, Military Intelligence and National Security, and the ultra-secret "Constructive Security" or Amn al-Ijabi.
In the figure of Moussa Hilal, Arab supremacism has converged with criminal impunity, and the result has been cataclysm. Hilal's public position is that, at the request of the government, he raised a tribal militia to fight the rebellion in Darfur. This is true, as far as it goes. In December 2003, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir vowed publicly to "use the army, the police, the mujahideen, the fursan to get rid of the rebellion."
But there is more to Hilal's war than he acknowledges publicly. In the documents that we obtained, Hilal makes clear he is doing more than merely combatting a rebellion. He is waging jihad, "cleaning our land of agents, mercenaries, cowards and outlaws." He urges steadfastness despite the spotlight focused on Janjaweed activities. "We promise you that we are lions, we are the Swift and Fearsome Forces. We fear neither the media and the newspapers nor the foreign interlopers." He sends greetings to his supporters, a roll call of some of the most important men in national and regional government: "Major General Omar al-Bashir. Ustaz Ali Osman Mohammad Taha, vice president and the hero of Sudan. Brother Major General Adam Hamid Moussa, governor of South Darfur. Air Force General [Abdullah] Safi al-Nur. Brother Ustaz Osman Mohammad Youssef Kibir, governor of North Darfur" and the man who turned a blind eye to the rape of Tawila.
Hilal signs himself, "The Mujahid and Sheikh Moussa Hilal, emir of the Swift and Fearsome Forces," the main division of the Janjaweed forces based at Misteriha, the Janjaweed control center in North Darfur. He is not a common Janjaweed criminal. He is a holy warrior, tribal leader and commander in chief.
How did Moussa Hilal get from the tents of Aamo, where his father inspired such respect, to the paramilitary base that is Misteriha, where he commands such fear? The answer lies in a militarized ideology that fed off desperation and grievance.
Roots of the Northern Janjaweed
From the time of the sultans, the camel-herding, or Abbala Rizeigat, had been a headache to the rulers of Darfur. They refused to stay in the places allotted to them, and had no paramount chief to keep them in order. The British authorities tried to tidy up the tribal hierarchies, but never succeeded. Since the Rizeigat camel men were too few to qualify for their own nazir, or paramount chief, the first plan was to put them under the authority of one of Britain's staunchest allies: Ibrahim Moussa Madibu, nazir of the cattle-herding Baggara Rizeigat. But the Abbala were too far away from the nazir's headquarters in southeastern Darfur for that to be feasible. So the district officer proposed that the sheikhs of the Abbala Rizeigat elect their own deputy nazir.
The election, held at the annual horse fair in Al-Surfayya in December 1925, was anti-climactic. The most influential clans of the Mahamid, one of the main sections of the Abbala Rizeigat, boycotted the conference to protest against British support for Abdel-Nebi Abdel-Bagi Kiheil, a rival candidate. Abdel-Nebi, elected in their absence, turned out to be ill-suited for the post: he didn't have the wealth to provide the continual generosity expected of a leader; he quarreled with Ibrahim Madibu, and he preferred town life.
A few years after the conference, Abdel-Nebi left his headquarters and court at Girer and Mehdi Hassaballah Ajina, sheikh of the Mahariyya, became the most senior chief. But Mehdi never became nazir. His claim was disputed by the sheikh of the Mahamid, Issa Jalul, whose clan - the Um Jalul - was the richest and most numerous of the Abbala Rizeigat. No decision on the nazirate was possible without Issa Jalul's consent. Had Rizeigat camel-herders won their nazirate, a vast area of pastureland north of Kutum could have been allocated to them as a tribal homeland, ending their centuries-old search for land to call their own. Wells and reservoirs could have been dug to assist the herders in their annual trek northward to the desert, minimizing the risks of clashes with other nomads. But the status of the Abbala Rizeigat in Darfur's tribal hierarchy was never resolved, fuelling a cycle of tribal conflicts and economic grievances that culminated in the emergence of the Janjaweed.
In 1948, Issa Jalul died. None of his sons was considered worthy of succeeding him as sheikh of the Mahamid, and the clan leaders met to decide a successor. Hilal Mohammad Abdullah, then in his 40s, came from a humble background: he had most recently been a guard in Jalul's court. But Jalul on his deathbed endorsed him as his successor and he was elected by acclaim. Hilal spent the following half-century striving to become the first nazir of the Abbala Rizeigat.
Sheikh Hilal stayed at Aamo until his death in 1990. In his last years, he witnessed one momentous event beyond his control and was caught up in another for which he was partly responsible. The first event was the great drought and famine of 1984-85; the second, the arming of his tribe.
Death of the old order
Seeing the northern desert dying, and drawn increasingly to the savanna to the south, the Zaghawa say that "the world finishes south." The drying of the Sahara is an integral part of their cosmos. The same is true for the camel-herding Rizeigat. They, too, have drifted southward across the desert over the centuries. Speaking at the time of the great drought of 1984-85, Sheikh Hilal recounted this historic migration, and how it had been driven by drought, war and political rivalries: whenever two cousins disagreed, one could always move somewhere else. Unlike other Darfurian Arabs who claimed that their forefathers had always come across an empty land, Hilal didn't dispute that Darfur was always inhabited. Taking his stick, he drew a chessboard in the sand. One set of squares he allocated to the Fur and Tunjur farmers. The second set he labeled as pastureland, available for the use of the nomads. But Hilal brooded on how the drought was disrupting the age-old order: wind was blowing sand onto cultivated farms and huge rainstorms were carving gullies out of the wadis. Farmers were now barring the nomads' way by erecting fences or even burning off the grass.
Even worse, although the old sheikh was too proud to admit it, the Um Jalul were losing their beloved camels. Many were becoming farmers or laborers in towns such as Kebkabiyya and Birka Saira, and the villages in between such as Misterih. The failed nomads of Aamo and Birka Saira, seeking a route out of poverty, were ready conscripts to rapacious militias. Along with the other peoples of Darfur, the Um Jalul were eating or selling their precious assets in order to stay alive. Darfurians were astonishingly resilient in the face of the worst threat to their lives and livelihoods since the famine of 1913. Thanks to their hardiness and skill, and especially to their ability to gather wild foods, far fewer died than aid agencies predicted. But survival came at a price which was only apparent later: they exhausted their land, their assets and their hospitality. The fabric of rural life never recovered.
Sheikh Hilal was less innocent of the second change that killed the old order: guns. Just as the rains failed, semi-automatic firearms began to flood Darfur.
Then-President Jaafar Nimeiri had allowed Sudan's famine to develop unchecked and in April 1985 popular protests brought him down. Relief aid at last began to reach Darfur and, with a new regime in Khartoum ready to deal with Libya, the trans-Saharan road to the Kufra oasis in Libya was opened, transforming Darfur. The desert road allowed impoverished Darfurians to migrate to oil-rich Libya and send money back to their families. It also allowed the Ansar, the military wing of the Umma Party (see below), and Islamist exiles to return to Sudan. Having trained in Gadhafi's camps, alongside the Failaq al-Islamiyya (Islamic Legion) or as part of the Arab Gathering, they arrived infused with a supremacist agenda. They also came with weapons: huge convoys of military trucks rolled across the desert to set up rear bases in Darfur.
Gadhafi's designs on Chad needed an intermediary in North Darfur. He chose the Mahamid, the largest section of the northern Rizeigat and the best represented in Chad. Sheikh Hilal, endeavoring to boost his clan's power, had long been in close touch with his brethren in Chad, and the Um Jalul's camps had been used for storing Libyan arms destined for the Burkan ("Volcano") Brigade headed by Ahmat Acyl Aghbash. But Hilal never saw the automatic weapons that changed the face of Darfur. Incapacitated from early 1986, the old sheikh lost his sight, rarely rose from his bed, and withdrew from worldly affairs. Moussa Hilal, the only one of Sheikh Hilal's sons who had attended secondary school, took over the leadership of the Mahamid before his father's death. As clashes with the Fur grew more frequent, it was he who organized the Mahamid's new arms supplies from Libya.
Arab Gathering
As significant as lack of rain and an abundance of guns was a new political ideology in Darfur: Arab supremacism. Sheikh Hilal, for all his stature and ambition, was a parochial and traditional man; neither he nor his courtiers had ideological sophistication. But by the end of the 1980s, the old bedouin intrigues became caught up in national and international currents far stronger than they. The origins of those currents lay in the Libya of Gadhafi in the 1970s. The roots of Arab supremacism in Darfur do not lie in the Arabized elite ruling in Khartoum. They lie in the politics of the Sahara.
In Sudan in the 1960s, the Umma Party and the Muslim Brotherhood had supported the Arab factions who led the Chadian opposition with arms, money and rear bases, believing that they were fighting for the rights of Muslims against the Chadian government's Christian, "African" agenda. But Nimeiri normalized relations with Chad upon coming to power in 1969 and the axis of Sahelian Arabism shifted to Libya, where Gadhafi was dreaming of an Arab state straddling the desert and where, thanks to oil money, he was busy fashioning his instruments. These included the Islamic Legion, which recruited bedouins from Mauritania to Sudan; the Munazamat al-Daawa al-Islamiyya (Organization of the Islamic Call), which fostered Islamic philanthropy and evangelization; and sponsorship of the Sudanese opposition National Front including the Muslim Brotherhood and the Ansar. In addition, Gadhafi was hosting a raft of Arab opposition movements, known popularly as the "Arab Gathering," and giving them military training in Kufra in the southeast of the country.
In Darfur, the first signs of an Arab racist ideology emerged in the early 1980s. At the time of regional elections in 1981, candidatures had taken on ethnic dimensions and the Arabs had been hopelessly split, allowing the Fur politician Ahmed Diraige to sweep to power. Darfurian Arabs argued that if they were united, and drew the Zaghawa and Fellata into their constituency, they could command an absolute majority. All that was needed was an "Arab alliance." Around this time, leaflets and cassette recordings purporting to come from a group calling itself the Arab Gathering began to be distributed anonymously, proclaiming that the zurga (a derogatory term for blacks) had ruled Darfur long enough and it was time for Arabs to have their turn. The speakers claimed that Arabs constituted a majority in Darfur. They called upon them to prepare themselves to take over the regional government - by force if necessary - and to change the name from Darfur, the "homeland of the Fur," to reflect the new reality.
A directive, published during the "critical stage" of 1998-99, laid out the aims and strategies of the movement in greater detail, and set a "target date" of 2020 for completion of its project. Invoking, for the first time, the name of the tribe of the Prophet Mohammad, this directive was entitled "Qoreish 2." The crux of Qoreishi ideology, a convergence of Arab supremacy and Islamic extremism, is that that those who trace their lineage to the Prophet are the true custodians of Islam and therefore entitled to rule Muslim lands. Adherents regard Sudan's riverine elite as "half-caste" Nubian-Egyptians and believe the country's only authentic Arabs are the Juhayna, the direct descendents of the Qoreish, who crossed the Sahara from Libya in the Middle Ages. They claim that these immigrants found an empty land stretching from the Nile to Lake Chad, and say this land should now be governed by their descendents - the present-day Abbala and Baggara Arabs.
The Qoreishi idea became an ideology in arms. No sooner had it been published than Darfur was engulfed in a civil war that was stoked by the spillover from Chad. For the first time, Darfurians heard of a militia called the Janjaweed.
Julie Flint and Alex de Waal are authors of "Darfur: A Short History of a Long War," from which this commentary is excerpted for THE DAILY STAR. The book is published by Zed Books, and will be available in October 2005.© 2005 The Daily Star

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Petition Africa Action

In commemoration of the 400,000 people who have died so far in the genocide in Darfur, Africa Action launched a petition drive to raise 400,000 voices of conscience across the country demanding that the U.S. government do everything necessary through the United Nations (UN) to ensure an urgent multinational intervention to protect civilians in Darfur.

Please give a hand by helping to get 400,000 signatures on a petition demanding action to stop genocide in Sudan that has killed over 400,000 people. Please view the following link, sign and forward!

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Hague Takes On the Sudanese Blood Bath [26.08.2005]

The Hague Takes On the Sudanese Blood Bath

By Thomas Darnstaedt and Helene Zuber

The dream of using international law to impose world peace is not a new one. But the International Criminal Court is now trying to make it happen. With its eye firmly on Sudan -- and with Security Council backing -- the court is tackling a bloodbath of massive proportions. But with only a handful of investigators, can it really succeed?

The International Criminal Court in The Hague is set to challenge the world's worst.

The white monstrosity with its facade tilting forward looks a little like the superstructure of some fantasy ship on a pleasure cruise. But what's going on inside the building is being taken very seriously indeed.

One can already imagine the scenario: Armed guards in black uniforms are deployed to secure the side entrance to the white fortress on the outskirts of The Hague. A gate fortified with barbed wire is raised to allow passage through a steel-lined, electrified enclosure. Several vehicles carrying prisoners roll down the ramp into the basement.

The vehicles' occupants, top officials of the government of Sudan and leaders of their gangs of hired assassins are taken to room K 127, where they empty their pockets and pass their belongings through a scanner. The walls are painted blue and purple and the floor light green. Thick concrete separates the prisoners from the rest of the world. They sit down, these presumed criminal violators of human rights, on chairs bolted to the floors of their basement cells. There are eight cells here, just enough for a small selection of the very worst of the bunch.

Upstairs, on the second floor of the ICC, the spectators to the first regular international law case in world history sit in red Cassina chairs, waiting for the proceedings to begin. The rest of the world is waiting with them, waiting for the trial of those considered principally responsible for crimes against humanity in the Darfur region of Sudan. The proceedings will center on the deaths of at least 300,000 people, and on a barbaric civil war in Sudan that experts believe is the most gruesome ongoing war in the world. Five judges in dark blue robes will be called upon to issue a ruling on the slaughter in Darfur.

This vision though of using the courts to impose peace -- close as it may be to becoming reality -- is still a dream. But most of the details are already reality. The cells are ready, though still empty, the electrified wire has been charged, and the Cassina chairs are in place. Only one thing is missing: the miracle. "Have some patience," says the Canadian president of the ICC, Philippe Kirsch, "the court is prepared for everything."

The dream of a world court

Most of the roughly 300 men and women who work in this 15-story stronghold of international criminal law are no dreamers. In fact, most are lawyers. And the court where they work, which has been in existence for the past two years, bears the unadorned and direct name "International Criminal Court." Without much fanfare, Judge Rene Blattmann, a Bolivian with a thorough understanding of German legal history, a jovial man who likes to serve strong coffee to his guests in cups decorated with a floral motif, discusses his and his colleagues' views on their court. "This," he says, "is a step in the direction of realizing mankind's age-old dream of a world court."

The conflict in Darfur has left tens of thousands dead and has created hundreds of thousands of refugees.


The conflict in Darfur has left tens of thousands dead and has created hundreds of thousands of refugees.

This court could very well prove right a principle that has repeatedly been tested, with moderate success, ever since the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals at the end of World War II: that justice can not only establish internal security, but can also create the framework for peace. And everyone at the world court knows that this principle -- with all its implications for global human rights law -- could be decided by this one case which has been sitting on the desk of Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo for all of two months: the Sudan case.

So far, the case includes a list of 51 possible defendants -- leading politicians and military officials charged with committing horrific crimes in the war-torn country of Sudan -- handed over to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in January.

Antonio Cassese, a short, combative professor of international law from Florence, Italy compiled the list. The Italian, responsible for assembling the Yugoslavia tribunal -- likewise located in The Hague -- to try former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosovic, is an important personality in the milieu of international criminal law. And given his experience, he was for the UN the obvious choice to dispatch to the Darfur region in western Sudan last autumn when the conflict there suddenly escalated.

It is a conflict that fits well into the International Criminal Court's vision of bringing war criminals and major human rights violators to justice. Raging since 2003, then US Secretary of State Colin Powell referred to the situation in Darfur as genocide, partly in response to the gruesome tactics the mounted Janjaweed militias and government troops had been using to fight rebel groups -- tactics that have been used with abhorrent results against civilians as well.

Routine massacres

Since then, massacres in Darfur have become routine. In a region the size of France, the Sudanese military and militias alike appear to be conducting a war of extermination. They have attacked and destroyed entire cities, like Khor Abeche in April where very few of the town's 20,000 inhabitants escaped with their lives. Women, men and children -- even helpless patients in the local hospital -- were massacred.

British experts estimate that the slaughter has claimed between 180,000 and 400,000 lives so far, and that about two million Sudanese in Darfur are now refugees -- and virtually unprotected. Although the African Union has sent about 2,200 soldiers and police officers to Darfur, they often arrive at the scenes of these crimes when it's already too late. Furthermore, they are met with distrust in the region because they are viewed as collaborators with the government.

Cassese headed for Darfur with a 30-member team, and returned to New York with nine crates packed with evidence: witness testimony about rapes, torture, looting and bloodbaths of unspeakable proportions. Cassese concludes that more than 2,000 villages and towns have already been burned to the ground -- and the slaughter continues. Officials at the UN are calling Darfur "currently the world's worst humanitarian catastrophe."

But the experienced international law expert Cassese didn't just hand over the evidence and leave it at that. He also had a proposal, which sounded harmless enough, but which quickly proved to be explosive. As he handed the list of possible defendants to Annan, Cassese suggested that the matter be referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The Hague versus Washington

Cassese's suggestion was about the last thing the Bush administration, which had actually triggered the case with its warnings of genocide, could have wanted. The USA has long been fighting against the creation of the ICC, and Washington has turned some of its most powerful diplomatic guns on the small court in faraway The Hague.

Why the worry? The US fears a scenario in which a GI fighting in a war or serving as part of a peacekeeping mission could be arrested and locked up in one of the court's basement cells in The Hague. US President George W. Bush even withdrew America's ratification of the Rome Statute, the document that establishes the framework for the ICC under international law -- a pact which former President Bill Clinton had already signed. It was a far-sighted move for Bush, as the Abu Ghraib prison abuse case soon demonstrated. If Iraq or the United States had ratified the statute, the American torturers in Iraq and their Washington bosses would certainly have qualified to be put on trial for war crimes in The Hague.

Genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes: Because the Rome Statute stipulates that the ICC can also prosecute presumed criminals from non-signatory states if they have committed their crimes in the territory of a state that has ratified the statute, it is still possible that US citizens could be hauled before the court for participating in an ill-advised military campaign. To avert such an outcome, the United States has enacted a law that prohibits any cooperation with the court, and even authorizes the president to use military force to free any US citizens imprisoned in The Hague.

Jurists in The Hague derisively refer to the law as the "Hague Invasion Act," and say they are waiting -- half-amused, half-irritated -- for the day when US Marines land on the beaches of the Dutch seaside resort of Scheveningen.

But the superpower lacks a sense of humor when it comes to these matters. The White House has promised to put up "active resistance" against anything coming out The Hague. In the Sudan case, this means: "We will not support efforts by the international community to use the Security Council as a way of legitimizing the ICC" -- said Pierre Prosper, US Ambassador at Large for War Crimes, in January. But the Security Council was precisely the target of Cassese's proposal. Because Sudan has signed but not ratified the Rome court statute, the ICC can only act if the case is referred to it by the UN Security Council.

But then came the miracle. The United States decided not to veto the resolution. In return, the Security Council assured that if any US soldier were truly challenged during a peacekeeping mission in Sudan, he could not be summoned before the ICC in The Hague.

The United States is opposed to the International Criminal Court. The torture scandal of Abu Ghraib would almost certainly have been a case for the court.


The United States is opposed to the International Criminal Court. The torture scandal of Abu Ghraib would almost certainly have been a case for the court.

In this manner, UN Security Council resolution 1593, dated March 31, 2005, became a sort of birth certificate for the world court. Claus Kress, a professor of international criminal law in Cologne, optimistically sees the incident as "proof" that even superpower America "cannot survive a confrontation with the ICC -- the moral convictions of most Americans would make that impossible." Kress represented the German government when the Rome Statute was being fleshed out, and today he is a key advisor to the court.

Time for miracles

Following the Council resolution, UN envoy Cassese and ICC Chief Prosecutor Moreno Ocampo met in Ocampo's office on an afternoon in April. In the presence of his two deputies, the prosecutor opened Cassese's sealed brown envelope and the three prosecutors carefully read through the document. No copies were made, no notes were taken and the list was promptly locked up again in Ocampo's safe. The prosecutor's conclusion? It is now the court's turn to work a few miracles.

But then, Moreno Ocampo is the right man for miracles. In truth, the world ought to be shaking in its books -- at least that part of it with something to hide -- when it encounters this man, this grand inquisitor for global justice. And it's not as if Sudan were his only concern. Since last year, Ocampo has been investigating the civil wars in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Indeed, the governments of both countries even approached Moreno Ocampo in the hopes that his justice could end up being their peace. "Such enormous trust," he says, appearing completely exhausted.

It's not easy to set up an appointment with Ocampo, busy as he is with an almost uninterrupted schedule of conferences, and interviews with the press mean skipping out on one of these important meetings. He is tired, but talkative. The sleeves of his striped red shirt are rolled up, his glasses dangle from a chain, and his small-patterned tie hangs loosely around his neck. First he tries to conceal a yawn, then gives up and yawns heartily. "What can I do for you?" he says.

Moreno Ocampo sinks into one of the tall, black armchairs in his office and rests his legs on another. He sighs and tells the story of his involvement -- 20 years ago, when he was the assistant to Public Prosecutor Julio Cesar Strassera -- in the investigation of former Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla, a man who had shown a complete disregard for human rights. "Mama was furious with me," he says.

In those days, Mama lived in the same neighborhood and went to the same church as the accused dictator. But two weeks of public hearings against the former despot, says Ocampo, were enough even for his mother. One day, he says, Mama called him to say: "I still like Videla, but you're right. He belongs behind bars."

The idea of peace through justice is something the Argentine's great predecessor, Robert H. Jackson, the US chief prosecutor in the Nuremberg trials, had promised the world 60 years ago: "A world order based on the principles of law." Ocampo, the world court's current criminal prosecutor, says that this order is something formed in people's heads, as a consequence of the idea of justice, even justice in the form of deterrence. Security and peace, he adds, are "of course mainly the business of the military and the police." But that's just the hardware, the lifeless technology of it all. "We are responsible for the software," says Moreno Ocampo. Justice, he adds, is "the soft side of security."

No one is willing to share responsibility with Ocampo, the responsibility for imparting a sense of justice to a destroyed people, surrounded by mountains of corpses, in a destroyed Darfur. It would be tempting to draw comparisons between the situation in Sudan and the genocide of Auschwitz, but it's a dangerous comparison -- nevertheless, the Security Council did exactly that in a debate a few weeks ago. However, there is one crucial difference between the two: When the Allies liberated Auschwitz in 1945, they had used all the hardware of war to achieve peace. It wasn't until Nuremberg that the lawyers showed up with the software.

Complicated conflicts

But in Sudan the war gets worse every day. The prosecutor suddenly flashes his half-shut eyes, as if to say that this is exactly his point: "The real challenge is that justice and peace are mutually dependent." Anyone waiting for peace can wait a long time, he says. "The peace negotiations in Uganda have been going on for almost 20 years now."

Ever since his fellow prosecutor, Jackson, announced in Nuremberg, for the first time, that wars are waged by people and not states (and, therefore, that people are the ones who must be punished for waging war), the world's wars have changed fundamentally. The new wars are rarely wars between states. What the ICC's international law experts see in Africa, Latin America or the Balkans are explosions of violence that are so difficult to control precisely because they are not ordinary disputes between ordinary states -- disputes that, in the worst case, come to an end when one state emerges victorious over the other.

The new wars are conflicts with no end, because they are controlled by corrupt governments, their accomplices and half-starved rebels, like in Sudan, power-hungry drug barons and organized criminal gangs, like in Latin America, or insane preachers, like in Uganda. There is no victory in these wars, because these wars have no objectives. The desperados of the new wars have only one goal: to make sure their wars continue indefinitely, so that they, or their bosses, cannot some day be taken to account for the massacres they have caused.

Herfried Münkler, Professor of Political Science at Humboldt University in Berlin and an expert on the history of war, calls these aimless conflicts "wars without the shadow of the future." In a war without a shadow, there is nothing to fear but death.

The purpose of Moreno Ocampo's work, in part, is to cast a shadow on Africa's wars -- albeit an artificial shadow, the black shadow of the prosecutor in The Hague. Indeed, Ocampo's fellow jurists in their offices in that white fortress in The Hague have registered, with great enthusiasm, that they are beginning to throw their first shadows far away in Africa. The phrase "You'll be sent to The Hague," says an employee in the office of ICC President Kirsch, is already being perceived as a threat in parts of an Africa ravaged by violence. Kirsch, clearly pleased, calls the fact that African nations are coming to The Hague to ask for help an "unforeseen but interesting development." It is "one of the biggest challenges" for the court, he says, that "we are in the middle of conflict everywhere -- our job is to determine how we can master these situations."

A court with no police officers

Things become even tougher for the investigators from the faraway court when a government -- like Sudan's -- refuses to cooperate. Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir has already sworn "before Allah three times" that he will never extradite a Sudanese citizen to a foreign court.

Ironically, the Sudan case, tried before the eyes of the Security Council and the entire world, could end up demonstrating the Hague court's powerlessness. The big question remains how Moreno Ocampo's bailiffs will go about arresting people? The chief prosecutor leans back in his chair, looks completely relaxed and, clearly enjoying himself, reveals what sounds like a secret: "I don't have a single police officer."

So what does he propose to do? "I have my method," he replies. It's the Argentine method, put to the test two decades ago in that country's investigation of more than 10,000 cases of human rights violations by the military junta. Nine officers were eventually charged, and five were sentenced. It was the successful outcome of a rational approach -- aside from one minor detail: The five were later pardoned.

In The Hague they call this concept "focused investigations." Only the "relevant case groups" are selected from a series of massacres like those occurring in Sudan. Investigators then focus on the worst cases, pick one that is easiest to prove and then devote their full efforts to searching for the principal perpetrator in that case. The idea behind this approach is that once a prosecutor manages to identify someone who essentially embodies every injustice, it is no longer difficult to gain the cooperation of authorities worldwide in capturing the suspect and bringing him to The Hague. Ninety-nine states have already ratified the treaty Moreno Ocampo uses as the basis for his work. The 100th, Mexico, is expected to ratify in the coming days. "They'll have to help us then," says Moreno.

This pragmatic approach to justice must be deeply offensive to most prosecutors who are obliged by law to devote the same amount of effort to prosecuting any offence, no matter how minor. The software of national systems of justice is simply programmed to pursue a principle that says "We'll get every one of you." But that doesn't help the jurists working in The Hague. Moreno Ocampo has all of 16 investigators at his disposal to address the most important case in its history, the Sudan issue.

Serge Brammertz, head of Moreno Ocampo's investigation department, was previously a public prosecutor in Belgium, and it's because of this experience that he knows exactly what happens in the justice system when a high-profile crime -- a child abduction, for example -- has been committed: "That's when they suddenly start assembling special commissions of 50 people." Brammertz says he'll have to "get used to the fact" that the ICC operates completely differently. In Uganda, Brammertz is investigating a case in which up to 30,000 children have been victimized -- kidnapped, abused and sometimes killed -- by the Lord's Resistance Army of insane rebel leader Joseph Kony. Brammertz was able to muster barely over ten investigators for the case.

Keeping a low profile

In the beginning, Brammertz's people had to drive from village to village in old, rented cars, sleeping in tents. No one wants to risk arming the investigators from The Hague or even giving them official ID cards and extra authority. To conduct their work in Africa, they ask discreet questions about genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, then secretly type the information into their laptops.

"If we take a more aggressive approach, all we do is increase the risk to us and our witnesses," says Brammertz. Indeed, Kony's people have given hundreds of bloody demonstrations of how they feel about traitors, using machetes to hack off their lips, limbs and sometimes heads. Occasionally, in meetings at the stronghold of justice in The Hague, someone mentions an unspeakable fear at the back of everyone's mind: What do you do when you open a package from Africa, and it's filled with the blood-encrusted evidence of this crude justice?

The ICC finally has its Sudan team assembled. They'll be trained in investigation methods, briefed on the specifics of the Rome Statute and given a crash course in the local culture. Finally, they'll be given sleeping bags and field equipment and sent on their way.

These kinds of positions are advertised on the court's website -- at a starting salary of about €3,000 per month -- and usually attract people like district attorneys, lawyers, human rights activists and social workers. In teams of three or four people each, they spend two to three weeks on site and then return to The Hague to deliver their reports.

Morten Bergsmo is responsible for programming the laptops the investigators carry with them. From his sixth-floor office, Bergsmo, a gaunt Norwegian, manages the investigators' secret weapon, specially developed for the Sudan case. "Case Matrix" is software -- customized to reflect Moreno Ocampo's investigation methods -- that's intended to generate fear among the world's cruel despots.

At the other end of the city, former dictator Milosevic has been putting on a show for the global public in his trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. While Milosevic faces an understaffed court, drowning in a sea of documents, legions of witness testimony and a confusingly vast array of charges of war crimes in the Balkans, Bergsmo has invented a system for streamlining the process and pinpointing precisely the right information.

"Case Matrix" organizes the world's offences into a user-friendly system of green, red and blue boxes. Blue represents the facts of the case at issue. And then -- "You click," says Bergsmo, clearly pleased with himself, and a list of criminals who have been found guilty of this offence in the past appears on the screen. And then, "You click" again. What kind of evidence does one need to prove this offence? The answer appears in purple. For murder, it's fairly straightforward: "corpse not needed as evidence."

You click. Each item in the program is accompanied by empty boxes, into which the Sudan team members type the information the system requires as evidence. Once a box is full, the investigator can move on to the next item. You click. What could the defense bring up as a counter-argument, and is it something the court would take seriously?

A trap laid by Washington?

In some cases the investigator may be required to fill out additional boxes, perhaps for additional witness statements. You click, and that's that. The catastrophe in Sudan, the 300,000 lives it has claimed, the two million refugees, burning villages, starving victims -- there's a box for everything in "Case Matrix."

It may sound cynical, but it works. A team of interns constantly enters new information, updated daily, about genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, wars of aggression, and the legal volunteers' assessments of what they observe. Bergsmo was recently in Cambodia. The Cambodians want the system to help them process Pol Pot and their Khmer Rouge past. Peace through justice? Perhaps it could work after all.

Perhaps. Some of the judges at the ICC can't shake the feeling that Washington may have led them into a trap. Is it possible that the only reason the Americans were so willing to give up their veto against the referral of the Sudan issue to the ICC is that they were already convinced that the hated court would fail in this effort? Wouldn't this serve as ample evidence that the peacemakers housed in that white building in The Hague have the wrong idea?

"The Security Council referred this case to us, which already constitutes a great deal of recognition for the court," says Kirsch. No one at the ICC would put it any differently. But German judge Hans-Peter Kaul, who will be ruling in the Sudan case, is constantly warning the overly optimistic: "We mustn't forget how difficult the investigations are. The suspected crime sites are hardly accessible, and fighting is still going on."

"Our conviction and our commitment will give us the strength we need," says Kaul's colleague, Bolivian judge Blattmann. And he needs the strength. For the past two years, a convinced and committed Rene Blattmann has shown up to work on time every morning, and each time, just like any other visitor, he has first had to endure being scanned from head to toe by polite but deliberate security guards. But he remains undaunted in his enthusiasm for the task of pursuing mankind's dream of a world court. Like his colleagues, Blattmann spends his days working out the details of procedural law, coming up with rules for compensating victims, and discussing whether perpetrators' confessions should be evaluated under Anglo-Saxon or continental criminal law.

And everything is done for that moment when the heavy gate to the prison basement slowly opens and Blattmann, for the first time in his life, puts on the dark blue robe with light-blue lettering. Peace through justice? "Ideals," the Bolivians says, citing a saying from his native country, and glancing at The Hague's overcast skies, "are like unreachable stars. They point the way."

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

Source: The Hague Takes On the Sudanese Blood Bath

26.08.2005 von mt

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

No one will force you to return

Fuente: UN (United Nations)
"No one will force you to return," UN refugee chief tells Darfur’s displaced
/ 24 August 2005 – United Nations refugee agency chief António Guterres today told a camp housing some 10,000 displaced people in strife-riven Darfur that despite pressure from the Sudanese Government, they would never be forced to go back to the villages they fled under armed attack over the last two years."The UN is independent from the Government, so nobody can force you to return. That's why the troops of the African Union are here," Mr. Guterres assured the leaders at Riyad camp, who told him that rape and burning of villages were still continuing in Darfur, the western region of Sudan that attracted worldwide concern last year, but has since slipped from the front pages.The two-year conflict between the Khartoum Government, allied militia and rebels in the region has killed at least 180,000 people and sparked a wave of displacement, with nearly 2 million people crowded into Sudanese camps, and 200,000 others living in 12 refugee camps in neighbouring Chad. The UN estimates that some 3.2 million people in Darfur need humanitarian assistanceMr. Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) is on the second day of a 10-day mission that will also include stops in Chad, and Kenya. While promoting an end to the Darfur conflict, he will also be reviewing UN operations and drawing attention to the financial needs of the many relief agencies working on behalf of Sudanese refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs). He heads to Chad tomorrow.Frustrated leaders at the Riyad camp told Mr. Guterres that security for the inhabitants was a bigger issue than food, which was also scarce. Displaced women told him they face murder or rape if they venture outside the confines of the camp to search for firewood."There is still rape going on. Genocide is still going on and burning of villages is going on," the chief leader of the camp told him. "We have no security in this camp. Our situation is not living. It is as if we are in prison."Mr. Guterres said UNHCR has worked with the African Union to increase peacekeeping patrols and to create a civilian police post inside the camp. "We need them to make sure the Sudanese police abide by the rules, respect and protect people and do not attack the people. With their post in the camp, they will be able to see what the government does," he said.