My life and my thoughts - on faith, culture, politics, whatever comes to my mind

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Genocide, human rights violations, politics and the ICC

More than 2 million people have lost their homes, their land, their livelihood. Driven away by armed forces and a militia who burn the huts, kill the people, rape the women. As we celebrate the end of the Nazi regime sixty years ago, in other countries evil is on the rampage again. One of those countries is Sudan, in a state of civil war for the last twenty-one years.

The Sudanese armed forces and the government supported, trained and armed Arab militia, the Janjaweed, ruthlessly push an agenda of ethnic cleansing in the Western region Darfur. This has lead by the end of 2004 to hundreds of burned villages, 70.000 dead people and there are more than 2 million internally displaced persons. (IDPs are people fleeing from one part of their country into another; refugees are people who flee into another country. The international protection of refugees is far more advanced than the protection of IDPs.). Therefore Sudan’s internally displaced persons population grew from 4 million (from the civil war in Southern Sudan) to 6 million. Most of the IDPs, especially from Darfur, are still at high physical risk. Sudan is facing a major famine because of drought, looting and a missed planting season. Diseases are spreading due to lack of sanitation and health services. Although under international obligations the Sudanese Islamic Military Government has not followed up on disarming the Janjaweed and prosecuting them for their crimes or on improving the humanitarian situation of the people from Darfur.

The government-planned ethnic cleansing has been declared as amounting to genocide by some. There can at least be no doubt that the Darfur region is the stage for major serious and widespread human rights violations. For a full report, check out the report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur (over 170 pages).

Notwithstanding the involvement of the international community has not been as high or effective as one might expect. The UN Security Council has strongly condemned Sudan for not keeping its international obligation from the N’Djamena Ceasefire Agreement and a Joint Communiqué and has taking binding measure under Chapter VII of the UN-Charta. However, those sanctions are directed against support from third states. The Council is still rather weak on sanctions against Sudan itself.
In May 2004 Sudan was reelected into the UN Commission on Human Rights, having a seat until 2007.

Fortunately though, the Security Council has referred the situation of Sudan to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC). This is the first situation referred by the Security Council. The Prosecutor of the ICC will now examine the material for evidence of international crimes (genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes) and then decide if he will prosecute individual members of the armed forces or the Janjaweed. Although this might be a lengthy process and is unfortunately not of help right-away to the people in Darfur, it is to be welcomed that there will be accountability for the atrocities committed in Darfur. And maybe this investigation will lead to action by the Sudanese government that has a positive outcome on the Darfur people.

But for now, as States tarry in taking action, we should try to take any action to help the people in Darfur. And this starts with raising awareness of their situation. Let us not let the crisis in Darfur go unnoticed or be forgotten easily.
Catez at allthings2all has a call for papers on Darfur. Go, read her contribution and the others as they are coming in, and join the call.