Darfur killings not genocide, says UN group (INDEPENDENT UK) By Rupert Cornwell in Washington 01/31/05)
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A special United Nations commission has decided that two years of
violence in the western Sudan region of Darfur was not genocide
but "crimes against humanity with ethnic dimensions", according to
leaks of the report in the US.
The commission, led by the Italian judge Antonio Cassese, documents
breaches of international human rights law and other war crimes, and
names individuals who may have acted with "genocidal intent". But it
failed to find evidence that the government in Khartoum, widely
accused of backing the militias, had a specific policy of
exterminating a particular ethnic group, the Los Angeles Times
The report is to be made public this week, after it goes to the
Security Council. But it could set off a new dispute between the US
and its key allies. In September, the State Department said the
murder of tens of thousands of people in Darfur, and the forced
uprooting of 1.8 million more, did constitute genocide. It spoke of a
pattern of targeted violence, co-ordinated by the government and
committed by state-backed militias.
Even more problematic however than semantics could be the report´s
leaked recommendation that war crimes and human rights violations
should be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC), an
institution backed by Europe and most African countries, but
strenuously opposed by the US.
As a result, the Bush administration is caught in a tug-of-war,
between its desire to punish those responsible for what it has
declared a genocide, and its dislike of the ICC, which it believes
will turn into a vehicle for anti-Americanism, and politically
motivated prosecutions of US troops and officials.
Instead, Washington has proposed a special court, akin to the war
crimes tribunal that prosecuted the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. But
Europe, Africa and Russia and China, which opposed sanctions on the
Sudanese government, have indicated they favour the ICC.
Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, said
Darfur represented a "watershed moment" for the new international
court. But there are concerns about whether Britain will temper its
support for the ICC.
Yesterday Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, insisted that despite
the reluctance of Russia and China, the Security Council should still
consider sanctions against Sudan. "Serious violations of
international humanitarian law, and gross violations of human rights
have taken place," Mr Annan told reporters during an African Union
summit in Nigeria. "Action will have to be taken. The council had
considered sanctions and had not been able to move forward because of
some divisions, but I believe sanctions should still be on the table."
This month, a peace agreement was signed in the 21- year-old civil
war between north and south in Sudan but African Union ceasefire
monitors said 100 people were killed by bombs dropped by Sudanese
government aircraft in southern Darfur only last Wednesday.
Lord Alton of Liverpool, who visited Darfur last October, said: "The
long-awaited UN commission on events in Darfur has, in effect, given
the government of Sudan permission to continue killing its black
African population with impunity." (© 2005 Independent Digital (UK)
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