U.N. Report Says Darfur Violence Is Not Genocide - The commission´s study details human rights violations and war crimes, and says some may have acted with a ´genocidal intention.´ (LA TIMES) By Maggie Farley UNITED NATIONS 01/29/05)
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UNITED NATIONS ó A U.N. commission on Sudan has concluded that
systematic, government-backed violence in the western region of
Darfur was not genocide, but that there was evidence of crimes
against humanity with an ethnic dimension.
The report documents violations of international human rights law,
incidents of war crimes by militias and the rebels fighting them, and
names individuals who may have acted with a "genocidal intention."
But there was not sufficient evidence to indicate that Khartoum had a
state policy intended to exterminate a particular racial or ethnic
group, said diplomats familiar with the report.
It recommends referring the cases to the International Criminal
Court, but leaves other options open. The United States, which
opposes the court, has proposed a war crimes tribunal in Tanzania to
prosecute atrocities committed in Darfur.
The report was submitted Thursday to United Nations Secretary-General
Kofi Annan by a five-member independent commission he assigned in
October to investigate violations of human rights in Darfur,
determine whether acts of genocide occurred and identify the
perpetrators. It is not expected to be made public until Sudan has a
chance to review the assessment, and until it has been presented to
the Security Council, expected next week.
The commission, headed by Antonio Cassese, an Italian judge, had to
reconvene after the report was completed because of disagreements
over whether to identify implicated government officials who may be
in charge of implementing Sudan´s new peace plan with its southern
rebels, said diplomats familiar with the discussions. Sudan´s
ambassador to Washington, Khidir Haroun Ahmed, said he understood
that the names would not be disclosed until a court had concluded
that there was evidence for prosecution.
"It would not be in the benefit of peacemaking to jump to hasty
conclusions and blame the government without 100% evidence because
that will weaken the government as a partner for peace," he said.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in Darfur and nearly 2
million have been displaced since rebel groups took up arms against
government forces in early 2003. Militias linked to the government
are accused of numerous killings and rapes in the rebels´ region.
The U.S. State Department concluded in September that genocide had
occurred in Darfur based on interviews with about 1,800 refugees in
neighboring Chad. Their accounts indicated a pattern of targeted
violence coordinated by the Sudanese government and state-backed
militias, the State Department said.
But the designation appeared to put more pressure on the U.S. to act
than on Sudan. The Security Council has declined to place sanctions
on Sudan, instead offering rewards for cementing a peace agreement in
a separate conflict between the north and south that they hope would
shore up a settlement in Darfur.
That peace agreement was signed this month, but the move has yet to
halt the conflict in Darfur. A rise in violence has displaced
thousands of civilians and obstructed access for aid workers. Cease-
fire monitors from the African Union reported an aerial bombing by
government planes in South Darfur as recently as Wednesday.
With the fighting continuing despite international censure, diplomats
and human rights groups are seeking an effective deterrent. For many
European and African countries, the answer seems to be prosecutions
by the International Criminal Court.
"This is a watershed moment for the ICC," Human Rights Watch
Executive Director Kenneth Roth said. "It is an opportunity for the
court to show what it was made for."
But the Bush administration is torn between its desire to bring
killers in Khartoum to justice and its opposition to the ICC, Roth
said. Washington is afraid that the court will be used for
politicized prosecutions of Americans. As an alternative, the U.S.
has proposed that the U.N. and the African Union establish a court in
Arusha, Tanzania, the headquarters of the Rwanda tribunal, for the
prosecution of Darfur´s war crimes, U.S. officials said.
Russia and China, which have been the main opponents of sanctions on
Sudan, have voiced tentative support for sending the case to the ICC.
Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya said his country would help Sudan
progress toward peace. Asked whether that included a referral to the
ICC, he said China would defer to the African Union´s decision. "They
know what is best for Sudan better than we do," he said.
Sudan last week completed its own inquiry on allegations of genocide
and human rights abuse, with results that on the surface, are similar
to the U.N. commission´s.
The Sudanese inquiry concluded that massive human rights violations
by the military, rebel groups and warring tribes occurred, but that
the violence did not constitute genocide. The report draws a
comparison with genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia, and says
that unlike those mass exterminations, there was no state policy with
the goal of eradicating a particular group. They found evidence that
government forces had bombed areas hosting armed opposition, and had
The committee also recommended a redistribution of land and water
rights in Darfur to balance the needs of farmers and nomad grazers
that have been at the root of tribal clashes.
The decision on whether or how to prosecute was left to a legal
committee, which has not yet reached a conclusion, the report said.
But Ahmed, the ambassador in Washington, said that if the
international community acknowledged that rebels also had committed
war crimes, not just the government and militias, then it would
be "very logical" to send all the cases to the ICC. "Justice should
apply to all people," Ahmed said. (Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times
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