Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Africa and the International Court

Eleven years ago when I opened the Rome conference that led to the founding of the International Criminal Court, I reminded the delegates that the eyes of the victims of past crimes and the potential victims of future ones were fixed firmly upon them. The delegates, many of whom were African, acted on that unique opportunity and created an institution to strengthen justice and the rule of law.

Now that important legacy rests once more in the hands of African leaders as they meet in Libya on Wednesday. The African Union summit meeting will be the first since the I.C.C. issued an arrest warrant for Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes for his alleged role in the atrocities in Darfur.

The African Union’s repeatedly stated commitment to battle impunity will be put to the test. On the agenda is an initiative by a few states to denounce and undermine the international court. In recent months, some African leaders have expressed the view that international justice as represented by the I.C.C. is an imposition, if not a plot, by the industrialized West.

In my view, this outcry against justice demeans the yearning for human dignity that resides in every African heart. It also represents a step backward in the battle against impunity.

Over the course of my 10 years as United Nations secretary general, the promise of justice and its potential as a deterrent came closer to reality. The atrocities committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia moved the Security Council to set up two ad hoc tribunals, building on the principles of post-World War II courts in Nuremberg and Tokyo.

These new tribunals showed that there is such a thing as effective international justice.

But these ad hoc tribunals were not enough. People the world over wanted to know that wherever and whenever the worst atrocities were committed — genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity — there would be a court to bring to justice anyone in a government hierarchy or military chain of command who was responsible. That principle would be applied without exception, whether to the lowliest soldier or the loftiest ruler.

Thus the International Criminal Court was formed. It now has 108 states, including 30 African countries, representing the largest regional bloc among the member states. Five of the court’s 18 judges are African. The I.C.C. reflects the demand of people everywhere for a court that can punish these serious crimes and deter others from committing them. Read more >>>>>>

Monday, June 22, 2009

Fast draws attention to ongoing Darfur tragedy

As I write this letter on Thursday, I am joining rabbis across the country in a fast of solidarity with the people of Darfur. Thousands of people, celebrities, politicians, activists, and clergy from 35 different countries have fasted in an ongoing chain since Mia Farrow started the fast on April 27. The goals of this ongoing fast are to command the world's attention to genocide in Darfur and demand the restoration of humanitarian aid to the people there.

It has been almost three months since humanitarian groups were expelled from Sudan. Communities are suffering without adequate food, sanitation or medical supplies. Rape and deadly violence continue to threaten any hope for stability. With the rainy season comes mass migration and water-borne disease, risking yet more millions of lives.

Fasting is a traditional part of Judaism, used to remember tragedy or express repentance, but this fast is different. This fast is an active response to ongoing tragedy. If we just stand by, the people of Darfur will die. Read more >>>>>>>>>>

Saturday, June 20, 2009

On the Re-writing of the Darfur Narrative

The historical narrative of the Darfur genocide is presently being re-written. Despite dozens of human rights reports that have established the basic realities of ethnically-targeted human destruction in Darfur and Eastern Chad over the past seven years, an effort is being made to minimise the scale of that destruction, elide the role of ethnicity in the conflict and downplay the responsibility of the Khartoum regime.

This large-scale revision has been taken up by those – particularly on the left – with an ideological aversion to humanitarian intervention. If the catastrophe can be portrayed as non-genocidal and essentially local in character, then advocacy efforts – initially for humanitarian intervention and currently for robust support of a weak and ineffectual UN/African Union peace operation – are misguided and misplaced.

The most conspicuous effort at re-writing history is Mahmood Mamdani’s “Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics and the War on Terror.” The book focuses on the purported misperceptions and distortions of the American-based Save Darfur Coalition, which Mamdani argues is an unwitting supporter of the “war on terror”. “Darfur [has become] not just an illustration of the grand narrative of the War on Terror but also a part of its justification,” Mamdani writes. He would have us believe that in turning the Darfur conflict into a moral rather than a political issue, Americans in SDC can “feel themselves to be what they are not in Iraq: powerful saviors.” “Darfur is a place of refuge. It is a surrogate shelter. It is a cause about which they can feel good.”

It is true that some advocacy efforts have been prone to oversimplification, naïveté and occasionally misguided policy initiatives. Some corrective is no doubt needed. But Mamdani’s points are tendentious and overstated, and should not distract from the substantial consensus about events that has been authoritatively established by human rights reporting, UN investigations and some excellent on-the-ground news reporting. Perversely, human rights reporting on Darfur is invisible in Mamdani’s text. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>

Obama's Darfur policy lacks clarity, advocates say


WASHINGTON (AP) — Human rights groups working to end the dying in Darfur fear for the survival of 2.5 million people huddled in refugee camps if the Obama administration doesn't put on record its plans to bring security to them.

The administration said Thursday it still considers the Darfur problem genocide. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley emphasized that to counter a comment by President Barack Obama's special envoy on Sudan, retired Air Force Gen. Scott Gration.

Gration said Wednesday from the same State Department podium that what is being seen in the vast Western Sudan region now are "the remnants of genocide" and "the consequences of genocide, the results of genocide."

Obama himself had spoken recently of "ongoing genocide" in Darfur, and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, a Cabinet-level official, repeated in a speech Monday that genocide is being waged.

Although Gration's comments caught leaders of Darfur advocacy groups by surprise, they are more worried about the lack of a clear-cut U.S. policy than a semantic mistake by the special envoy.

Alex Meixner, director of policy and government relations for the Save Darfur Coalition, said Obama considers the situation genocide, and "he's the decider."

Meixner said in an interview that he thinks the verbal contretemps probably were overblown.

"I don't think they are at odds where they want to get, but in terms of semantics, this is sort of a red herring," he said. Genocide or not, he said, "everybody in Darfur has been purposefully on the brink of death for years." Read more >>>>>>>>>>

Thursday, June 18, 2009

UN rights body votes to continue Sudan scrutiny

GENEVA -- The U.N. Human Rights Council has voted 20-18 to continue its close scrutiny of the situation in Sudan.

Western countries want the 47-member body to keep its independent expert who is probing abuses in Darfur and elsewhere in the African nation.

Thursday's vote, with nine abstentions, is a defeat for some African countries, who have argued that Sudan can protect its citizens without outside interference. Read more >>>>>>>

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sudan forces still attacking Darfur civilians -UN

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA - The U.N. human rights investigator for Sudan said on Tuesday that Khartoum's forces continue to carry out land and air attacks on civilians in Darfur, and arrest and torture activists and aid workers there.

Sima Samar, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Sudan, also voiced concern at "large scale killings" in the south, where several hundred civilians died in inter-tribal clashes in March and April amid growing violence in the region.

But diplomats said Sudan was trying at the United Nations Human Rights Council this week to win backing from African and Islamic states to block Western attempts to extend her mandate to report on violations in Sudan for a further year.

"I continue to receive reports of arbitrary arrests, detention, as well as allegations of ill-treatment and torture of human rights defenders and humanitarian workers by security forces," the former Afghan deputy prime minister told the 47-member forum.

Her latest report, covering from last August to her visit to Sudan earlier this month, was also issued on Tuesday. "Land and air attacks by government forces on civilians in Darfur took place during the reporting period," it said.

Air attacks in Darfur are banned under U.N. Security Council resolutions and failed ceasefires, but Khartoum has in the past reserved the right to attack the Justice and Equality Movement and other rebels who did not sign a 2006 Darfur peace deal. Read more >>>>>>>

ICC escalates pressure on Sudan

By Abayomi Azikiwe

International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has called for the immediate arrest of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Hague-based court indicted Al-Bashir in March in connection with the government’s efforts to halt rebel attacks in the western Darfur region of the central African state.

“The government of Sudan has the responsibility to arrest him [al-Bashir],” Moreno-Ocampo told the United Nations Security Council on June 5, citing legal obligations mandated by the U.N. Charter and resolutions.

In addition, the ICC prosecutor told the Security Council that the Sudanese government “has also the duty to arrest” Sudanese ex-minister Ahmad Haroun and Civil Defense Forces leader Ali Kushayb who were also cited by Moreno-Ocampo for alleged war crimes in the Darfur region of the country.

Moreno-Ocampo then accused the Sudanese government of violating U.N. resolutions by appointing Haroun as governor of South Kordofan province. “We are at a crossroads. There’s a chance to stop the violence. Crimes have to be stopped,” the ICC prosecutor said. Read more >>>>>>>>>>

Friday, June 12, 2009

'Desperate' al-Bashir cannot escape ICC: prosecutor

Johannesburg - Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir will eventually face justice, even if it takes six years to arrest him, the prosecutor who indicted him for war crimes said in Cape Town Friday. Speaking on South African radio on the last day of the World Economic Forum on Africa, International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo vowed: "Bashir will face justice," even if it took, "two months, two years ... even six years."

The ICC in March issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Western Sudanese province of Darfur, where hundreds of thousands of people have died since 2003 in an ethnic-based conflict. Read more >>>>>>>>

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Jolie calls for Darfur justice

calls for Darfur justice
Angelina Jolie said Sudanese president should face war crime chargesAngelina Jolie has called for international intervention to bring the Sudanese president to court over alleged war crimes in Darfur.

President Omar al Bashir has been indicted under the International Criminal Court to answer charges relating to the slaughter and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Darfurians, but the Sudanese government will not to cooperate.

Now Hollywood star Angelina has said UN countries should take action in a letter to Time magazine.

On Friday, prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo called on the UN Security Council for support and urged member states to abide by international treaties that compel them to arrest anyone indicted found travelling in their countries. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>

Friday, June 05, 2009

Darfur rape study finds lasting scars

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., May 31 (UPI) -- The widespread use of rape as a weapon against women from Sudan's Darfur region has left deep psychological and physical scars, a U.S. report says.

The study, released Sunday by Physicians for Human Rights, based in Cambridge, Mass., and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, indicated that continuing fear of rape among Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad has done nearly as much damage as the physical crimes themselves, The Boston Globe reported.

"What is striking is the extent of rape and fear of rape in Chad itself," said Susannah Sirkin, deputy director of Physicians for Human Rights. "So it's a two-fold revelation of real horror and shame and sorrow, and really of failure." Read more >>>>>>>>>>

ICC prosecutor urges Sudan to arrest Beshir

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo on Friday pressed the Sudanese government to arrest President Omar al-Beshir who stands accused of Darfur war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"The government of Sudan has the responsibility to arrest him (Beshir)," Moreno-Ocampo told the UN Security Council, citing a legal obligation stemming from the UN Charter and UN resolutions.

The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Beshir at Moreno-Ocampo's request last March but since then the defiant Sudanese leader has made at least seven trips outside Sudan.

Moreno-Ocampo further told the council that the Sudanese government "has also the duty to arrest" Sudanese ex-minister Ahmad Harun and Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb, both also accused by the ICC of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

He said the recent designation of Haroun as governor of the South Kordofan province "contravenes the resolutions of this council."

"We are at a crossroads," the prosecutor later told reporters. "There's a chance to stop the violence (in Darfur). Crimes have to be stopped."

But Sudan's UN Ambassador to the UN Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad once again made clear that "We are not going to cooperate with this politically-motivated court (the ICC)."

He lambasted Moreno-Ocampo as a "mercenary of destruction and death" and a "real threat to peace and stability in Darfur."

"The prosecutor has outlived his usefulness and has become a liability for his own promoters," the Sudanese envoy, with Moreno-Ocampo at his side, told reporters. Read more >>>>>>>>>