Sunday, December 28, 2008

A New Chance for Darfur


If Barack Obama wants to help end the genocide in Darfur, he doesn’t have to look far for ideas of how to accomplish that. President Bush and his top aides have been given, and ignored, a menu of options for tough steps to squeeze Sudan — even destroy its air force — and those will soon be on the new president’s desk.
The State Department’s policy planning staff prepared the first set of possible responses back in 2004 (never pursued), and this year Ambassador Richard Williamson has privately pushed the White House to squeeze Sudan until it stops the killing.

Mr. Williamson, who is President Bush’s special envoy to Sudan, wrote a tough memo to Mr. Bush this fall outlining three particular steps the United States could take to press Sudan’s leader, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Read more >>>>>>

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Arab and Muslim Indifference Regarding the Suffering in Darfur

The Arab and Muslim Indifference Regarding the Suffering in Darfur

Muslims suffer in the hands of an Arab regime, then there is barely any condemnation of the violence and crimes in the Arab and Muslim world, notes Savo Heleta.

When Muslims suffer around the world in the hands of Americans, Russians, Serbs, or Israelis, the Arab and Muslim countries are very active in condemning the attacks and violence. Their governments complain and raise funds, diplomats protest, the media report, and the citizens demonstrate against "crusaders and infidels."

But when Muslims suffer in the hands of an Arab regime, then there is barely any condemnation of the violence and crimes in the Arab and Muslim world.

Since 2003, Sudan's western province of Darfur is an epicenter of a conflict between the mainly "African" rebels and the Arab-controlled Sudanese government and their proxy militias. It is estimated that about 200,000 people have died in the conflict from fighting, disease, and starvation. The UN and aid agencies estimate that over two million Darfurians, out of a population of about six million, are living in refugee camps in Darfur and neighboring countries.

The Sudan's ruling elite portrays itself as an "Arab" regime both at home and abroad. Some would say that this explains the lack of concern for the Darfur conflict in the Arab world. But things change when we consider the fact that both sides in the Darfur conflict are Muslim and that the Darfurians, both Arabs and Africans, are Sudan's most devout Muslims.

Even though Muslims are the victims in Darfur, the fact that they are the victims of an Arab regime prevents Arab and Muslim countries from acknowledging the humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur, let alone speaking against the horrendous crimes committed against innocent civilians in this Sudanese province.

Many people in the Arab world don't even know about the conflict and human suffering in Darfur as there is hardly any news about Darfur in the Arab media. The only exceptions are the Aljazeera and Alarabya news networks.

According to Lawrence Pintak, a journalist and Arab media expert, the Darfur conflict is not covered by the Arab media as "it does not fit the template of Arabs being the victims and other people the aggressors."

The involvement of many international humanitarian organizations in Darfur and the attention given to the conflict by the Western governments and media are "perceived by a large portion of Arab public opinion as yet another 'Western intervention' in an Arab country's affairs." Some Arab journalists even claim that the Darfur conflict is nothing but a "Zionist-American conspiracy to carve up Sudan and plunder its resources." Read more >>>>>>>

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The great Darfur singer ABDU KUKA

Kalma Outrage Victims Demand Investigation

Kalma Outrage Victims Demand Investigation
They say an ICC probe would deter further attacks on the internal refugee camp.

By Tajeldin Adam in Belgium and Katy Glassborow in The Hague (AR No. 196, 17-Dec-08)

Victims of a brutal attack on a Darfur camp for displaced people, in which over 30 civilians were killed and scores more injured, are calling on the International Criminal Court, ICC, to investigate the outrage.

In August, Sudanese government, GoS, forces and allied janjaweed militias are reported to have surrounded the Kalma camp near Nyala in south Darfur, before allegedly pounding it with machine-gun fire, in an apparent bid to root out rebels they believed to be stashing weapons there.

Kalma is one of the largest internal refugee camps in Darfur, housing about 90,000 displaced people, or IDPs. Those who survived the attack, like Mariam Ishak, want the ICC to launch a thorough investigation, and hold the perpetrators to account.

“I want the ICC to punish these criminals and stop their crimes so that we [can] live in peace like any human being,” said Ishak.

The woman described scenes of terror during the onslaught, which lasted for two hours.

“I looked outside and saw men in uniform with rifles shouting and shooting indiscriminately at people. They just wanted to kill people. A few metres from our shelter, I saw a very small child covered with blood and lying helpless; he was dying after being shot.

“I approached to help him, but my husband didn't let me; afraid that I could become another victim. The shooting was so intense; flying bullets filled the air. It was hell. When the armed men left, the child was already dead.

“We buried him with the other victims the same day. I [will] never forget that horror for the rest of [my] life.” Read more >>>>>>>>>

'Thousands made slaves' in Darfur

Strong evidence has emerged of children and adults being used as slaves in Sudan's Darfur region, a study says.

Kidnapped men have been forced to work on farmland controlled by Janjaweed militias, a coalition of African charities says.

Eyewitnesses also say the Sudanese army has been involved in abducting women and children to be sex slaves and domestic staff for troops in Khartoum.

But Khartoum said the report was "very naive" and called the authors ignorant.

"The government does not condone abductions and it is not government policy," a government spokesman told the BBC.

"We are working hard to stop such violations. The rebel factions are mostly to blame for abductions in Darfur."
Up to 300,000 people have died since conflict began in Darfur in 2003 and at least 2.7 million people have fled their homes. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bush urges Obama to keep Darfur pressure on Sudan

WASHINGTON (AFP) — US President George W. Bush, in a message seemingly aimed at successor Barack Obama, said Wednesday the United States must keep pressure on Sudan's government over its war-torn Darfur region.

Bush, meeting in his Oval Office with a leading activist for suffering Darfuris, also said he was "frustrated" with the sluggish pace of deployment of a hybrid UN-African Union peacekeeping force.

"I am frustrated with the pace of activities," Bush said as he met in his Oval Office with Halima Bashir, adding "the United Nations must expedite on sending troops, peacekeepers to provide security."

"The United States must continue to rally the international community to put pressure on the government as well," the US president, who leaves office January 20, told reporters.

Bashir, a doctor and co-author of "Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur," peered out from behind a striking red, white and black head-to-toe covering that White House aides said she put on just before journalists entered the room, as protection from possible reprisals.

"We do not need to wait any more. We need UN action," she said in a soft, muffled voice. Read more >>>>>>>>>>

ICC prosecutor: Sudan leader ‘inciting violence‘

Luis Moreno-Ocampo said President Omar al-Bashir has been "inciting violence" over the court‘s charges by threatening civilians and peacekeepers in the joint U.N.-African Union force.

The prosecutor‘s briefing to the Security Council was his last before the court decides whether to issue a warrant for al-Bashir. There have been no rulings on the warrant yet; a court decision is expected by early next year.

Up to 300,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been forced from their homes in five years of fighting. The ICC last year issued arrest warrants for a Sudanese government minister and for a commander in the government-backed janjaweed militia, which has been blamed for the worst atrocities in Darfur.

The court is not part of the United Nations, but the 107 nations that ratified the 1998 treaty creating it, along with the U.N., are responsible for responding to the ICC‘s requests for cooperation. The U.S. was opposed to its creation, but is now a strident supporter of bringing al-Bashir before the court on genocide charges.

He accused the rebels of committing war crimes, including murder, pillaging and deliberately attacking peacekeepers.

Both China and Russia are accused of arming Sudan, but both also approved the council‘s 2005 resolution ordering Moreno-Ocampo to investigate crimes in Darfur.

"We are not lawyers, we are not prosecutors," Kumalo added. "We sit here having to make decisions ... to balance the two things between the maintenance of international security and for fighting impunity." Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>

Crimes of humanity in Darfur

Bashir's day of reckoning may soon be near
Nat Hentoff

A hero of this young century, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, is coming closer to arresting the president of Sudan, Lt. Gen. Omar Bashir, and bringing him to be tried at The Hague for genocide, among other crimes against humanity in Darfur.

In July, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo asked the ICC to issue arrest warrants for Gen. Bashir on three counts of genocide, five counts of crimes against humanity and two of murder. The legal definition of genocide is the "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethinic, racial or religious group." The prosecutor accuses Gen. Bashir of a campaign to eliminate African Darfur tribes (Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa).

After the ICC asked for more supporting material to justify arrest warrants, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo submitted more than 700 pages of documented evidence, including witness statements. All of his previous requests for arrest warrants in other cases have been successful.

Adding to Gen. Bashir's fears is the prospect of national elections next year - which have been demanded by foreign donor governments and supported by the United Nations and many in Sudan. The Economist reports

that the dictator and his henchmen "know that if even vaguely free and fair ballots were to take place throughout Sudan, they would lose heavily." If Gen. Bashir is subject to actual arrest by the ICC, he would find it exceedingly hard to rig the elections.

In order to prevent attempts to take the dictator into custody by the ICC, there is a concerted, insistent attempt to get the United Nations to exercise its authority to defer any further action by the ICC. Ostensibly to assure "stability in the area," this Praetorian Guard protecting Al-Bashir includes the Arab states, some members of the African Union - and of course China and Russia. Read more >>>>

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

ICC Prosecutor: States must gear up for arrests

Today, in his briefing to the United Nations Security Council on the situation in Darfur, ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo called on States to prepare themselves “sooner rather than later” for the decision of the Judges on President Omar Hassan Al Bashir of the Sudan.

“Massive crimes are being committed in Darfur now; they are taking place because President Bashir wills them to take place” said the Prosecutor.

“What can UNAMID do when those controlling its deployment are the same people ordering the crimes? How long are we going to just tally the casualties, the displacements and the rapes?” he asked.

“If Security Council members can act together, the crimes will stop and millions of lives will be saved. If different interests prevent a strong and consistent position in support of the Court’s decisions, if they give room to false promises, rapes will continue, destruction will continue. An opportunity is coming. A united Security Council can make a difference” said the Prosecutor.

Last June, Presidential Statement 21 was a strong message that the UNSC is united in its efforts to bring justice to the people of Darfur. The future of the Darfuris depends on the ability of the Council to move forward together. Members must as a matter of urgency agree on a course of action. Read more >>>>>>>

Rape as genocide

'In this society if you rape one woman, you have raped the entire tribe" - so said one observer of the mass rape occurring in Darfur.

People hear the word genocide and think of six million victims of the Holocaust or an estimated 800,000 dead in Rwanda. They do not imagine that mass rape can be so well planned and targeted that it wipes out a substantial part of an ethnic group as thoroughly, though more slowly, than widespread killings. Yet three judges sitting on the International Criminal Court will decide soon whether to confirm an arrest warrant against a head of state, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan, on grounds that he masterminded rape as genocide against three ethnic groups in Darfur that have challenged his power.

The ICC's prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, has filed war crimes and crimes against humanity charges against Bashir. But the centerpiece of Moreno-Ocampo's application is the charge of rape as genocide "causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group" and "deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part." Such acts of genocide arising from rape rather than from murder can be prosecuted as stand-alone crimes before the International Criminal Court. Read more >>>>>>>>

Rights Groups: Sudan Lying About Improvements in Darfur

By VOA News

15 human rights organizations said in a joint report released Tuesday, the Sudanese government is lying about improvements in the situation in Darfur.

Human Rights Watch, Save Darfur Coalition and 13 other rights organizations said the Sudanese government continues to conduct large-scale military attacks against populated areas, harass aid workers, and allow impunity for the worst crimes committed in Darfur.

Sudan wants the U.N. Security Council to suspend the International Criminal Court's consideration of an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

The new human rights report said Sudanese officials have been lobbying Security Council members to order the suspension of the ICC investigation of Mr. Bashir.

The ICC prosecutor is scheduled to brief the Security Council Wednesday about the progress of his investigation. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>

Monday, December 01, 2008

Obama Pick for UN Envoy May Face Resistance Over Darfur

By Patrick Goodenough, International Editor

While much attention will be focused Monday on President-elect Obama’s announcement that former rival Sen. Hillary Clinton will assume the top diplomatic post in his administration, his nominee for ambassador to the United Nations will also draw scrutiny in foreign capitals.

Susan Rice, a foreign policy advisor to Obama who was assistant secretary of state for African Affairs in the second Clinton administration, is expected to be named as envoy to the U.N.

Since Obama’s election, advocates of closer U.S. cooperation with the world body have been urging him to appoint an ambassador who will reflect a determination to renew American global leadership by re-engaging with the U.N.

Rice, a 44-year-old African-American – no relation to outgoing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice – has been a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, where she has been an advocate for tougher action to end the humanitarian catastrophe in Sudan’s Darfur region and a critic of Bush administration’s response to the crisis.

If the U.S. was serious about stopping the genocide there, she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2007, it would take a series of steps to back up its earlier pledge of harsh consequences should the Sudanese government not accept peacekeepers and stop killing innocent civilians. Read more >>>>>>>>>>