Thursday, October 7, 2004
Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International, and William Schultz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, provide a briefing on the findings of their mission in Sudan, focusing on Darfur. They detail the human rights abuses ongoing in Darfur and how the international pressure, while it is inadequate, does make a difference. They also draw attention to the need for truth-telling from the Sudanese government regarding the facts on the ground and what can be done to improve the situation.
WILLIAMS PARSONS: It feels far too formal to be from the podium here right now. We should be in a classroom somewhere, or get in a big circle and really talk. My name is Bill Parsons. I am Chief of Staff here at the Museum, and I just want to take literally two minutes just to welcome you and to really welcome the folks from Amnesty who have come here today.
There is--I don’t need to tell you folks this--there is no shortage of hate, violence, and crimes against humanity in the world we live in today. We’ll listen to the news tonight. It will be there again. It doesn’t seem to go away. I think the purpose of this Museum and this institution is to try to be a bulwark against that, to provide a forum that somehow pushes back on the violence and the hatred in the world. You take the lid off, and there is a wealth of prejudice and misinformation just under the surface. We see it all the time with the hundreds of thousands of folks that we deal with here at the Museum and the hundreds of thousands of folks who deal with it in nooks and crannies all over this country, whether they are Eskimos from north of the Arctic Circle, or Amish villages, or German Catholic communities in Cleveland, Navajo reservations--folks who are coming to us from every nook and cranny in this country. There is a real starving for trying to understand what perpetuates hate, why hate can escalate to violence, and why the world seems to be able to be so good at standing by and letting things happen and then being really great at how we memorialize things.
We have had ongoing discussions with the State Department and other agencies in this town, and as Darfur began to unfold, Bridget, whom you’ll hear from in a minute, and Jerry Fowler and others on the Committee on Conscience here at the Museum sat and argued with lawyers at the State Department, and they are trying to figure out is it genocide or isn’t it genocide. The answer back to that is if you call it “genocide,” you might as well build your memorial, because you’re there.
What we’re trying to do is to get people to say it is imminent genocide, say it is a threat to genocide--say anything, but get some action going. And the history that you see upstairs in this Museum is really held up as a template for what happens when a world turns its back on crimes against humanity, and turned its back on European Jewry, turned its back on the disabled people behind killed, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the homosexuals, the Soviet POWs, and the list goes on. The agony of looking at Holocaust history for many of our visitors is that the bottom line is that individuals, groups and nations made decisions on a daily basis to allow this history to unfold in the way it did. And what we are trying to do is to use those lessons of the Holocaust history as a way to try to do something to improve the world that we live in today.
There are many things going on here at the Museum, and I don’t want to take time to do those now, but we are doing things that really, very few other agencies can do in this country. We are training, for example, all new FBI recruits; we are training Federal judges; we are training all the officers in the foreign office who go abroad for the State Department and serve in embassies in foreign countries. Chief Ramsey, the Chief of Police here in the District, wanted all 5,000 of house policeman to have coming here as part of their training. So it begins to raise questions--why--why are all these folks--why is Annapolis, all 1,200 of the freshman class, come here every year; and why did the Secretary of the Navy say, “We teach you to follow orders, but if you are ever given an order like that that is immoral, you are to stand up to it”?
These are the kinds of things that are really becoming central to the focus of the Museum. So we really welcome Amnesty. Nobody more than Amnesty knows what it means to stand up to crimes against humanity, hatred, violence, and inhuman acts. We are very proud to have you coming here today, and thank you very much for coming.
BRIDGET CONLEY: Thanks. I want to thank you all for coming, and if you have friends or colleagues who couldn’t make it, we will be making a transcript of this talk available. And you should also be considering questions, because there will be a unique chance after the formal presentation to speak directly with and engage with what is the international and U.S. leadership of one of the premier human rights organizations in the world--Amnesty International.
I just want to briefly introduce them, actually, starting with a quote from their own press release, because I think it rather succinctly sums up the situation in Darfur: “The picture in Darfur is one of distress, denial, and disappointment--distress of people whose lives and livelihood have been destroyed, denial of responsibility by the Sudanese Government, and disappointment at the slow progress to resolve this crisis.”
Now I will introduce Ms. Irene Khan, who is the Secretary General of Amnesty International. She joined Amnesty International as the organization’s seventh Secretary General in August of 2001. She took the helm of Amnesty as the first woman, the first Asian, and the first Muslim to guide the world’s largest human rights organization. She came to Amnesty from a long and distinguished career at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, where she worked in a variety of positions, both in headquarters and in the field. And previously, she has been trained as a lawyer at University of Manchester and at Harvard Law.
Sitting immediately to her left is Dr. William Schultz, who is the Executive Director of Amnesty International U.S.A. He was appointed Executive Director of Amnesty International U.S.A. in March 1994. He is an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister and came to Amnesty after serving for 15 years with the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations--and the last eight of which he spent as President of the Association. Previously, he served on the Council of the International Association for Religious Freedom, and he has served on the board of People for the American Way, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Communitarian Network, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and several other organizations, and he is currently a member of the International Advisory Committee for the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.
I want to welcome both of them here, thank them for coming, and open the floor, then, for your comments on your delegation to Darfur.
WILLIAM SCHULTZ: Thank you so much. It is a real honor for us to be here. There could be no more appropriate venue than the Holocaust Museum in which to present these remarks and to report to you on our recent visit to Darfur. I am going to give a broad overview of our delegation to Darfur with particular concentration on the U.S. Role, and then Irene is going to give you a comprehensive set of recommendations that Amnesty International is making.
The ring tone on the Sudanese minister’s cell phone sounded familiar to me when it went off, but I couldn’t quite place it. This particular minister with whom we were meeting on a recent trip to Khartoum and to Darfur was one of the most hostile and aggressive whom we had encountered. He adamantly denied that the Government was responsible in any way for the carnage in Darfur. He attacked Amnesty vociferously.
But the ring tone on his cell phone was familiar to me, and then I finally placed it. It was “Mary had a Little Lamb.” And I thought to myself, how appropriate--leading the lambs to slaughter.
This mission took place September 13 through 21. Our Secretary General Irene Khan led it. It was the first mission by an international human rights NGO to visit Sudan and to meet with senior ministers of the Sudanese government since the Darfur crisis began. We also spent considerable time in Darfur itself, in the internally displaced persons or IDP camps, in conversation with human rights monitors and NGOs working in the region and in the national security prison in Nyala, the provincial capital of South Darfur.
The first thing to say is that this visit confirmed what Amnesty International and many others have been reporting--attacks on villages by government-supported militia, in some cases backed by the Sudanese armed forces. There is no doubt that ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and crimes against humanity have all occurred in Darfur. The delegation saw several sites where villages had been burned to the ground or abandoned and which were almost overgrown with vegetation. I myself talked with a woman who told me that so complete was the destruction of her village that she lacked even a tool with which to bury her husband. What we have been hearing is true, and despite denials by the Sudanese Government, there is no question but that it is true.
The second important point is that the international pressure appears to be having some impact, albeit limited, and for that, the U.S. government needs to be commended for its leadership. Amnesty International had been trying to get visas to visit Darfur to address this crisis since last spring, but we were only granted them three or four weeks ago, a result it seems obvious of the increased international attention to this crisis.
That attention and that pressure has obviously perplexed and divided the Sudanese government. On the one hand, the government is very wary of international intervention, worried that Darfur may seek the kind of autonomy that prevails now in the south of Sudan. At least half the officials with whom we met seemed utterly obdurate and could best be described as we did in the press release as living in a state of denial. They insisted that the conflict is a longstanding tribal conflict, that the number of people killed is greatly exaggerated, that very few rapes have taken place--not only, they said, is rape anathema to Muslim culture and hence extremely rare, but they also said that the women reporting the rapes confused the Arabic word for “rape” with its other meaning, “force,” and hence they will say they have been raped when they have only been robbed or “forced” to give up their possession. But then, as a prominent leader of the Women’s Commission was said to have opened her remarks in the town of Nyala by saying: “In Sudan, we know that women have no brains; it perhaps is not surprising that the government thinks that they cannot tell one word from another.”
We were also told that the rebels, the Sudanese Liberation Army, and the Justice and Equality Movement, referred to collectively as “the Tora Bora,” are responsible for virtually all the crimes. A good example of this attitude was displayed by a high regional official in South Darfur who assured me that the nomadic or “Arabized” people had suffered just as many crimes as the sedentary or “Africanized” people, but that the reason it seemed as if the latter had been the greater victim was because the sedentary tribes had been content to take up refuge in the refugee and IDP camps since they were comfortable staying in a fixed location. Hence, they could more readily tell their stories to NGOs and the media; while the nomadic tribes, he said, who had suffered just as many crimes, were still on the move and hence inaccessible to tell their stories.
Well, I said to him, if the two groups have suffered an equal number of crimes, does that mean the nomadic are carrying around with them thousands of dead bodies as they travel? And after denying that there were mass killings of the Africanized people themselves, the official assured me that the nomads had had their camels killed. What did they do with their dead camels, I asked. Buried them, he said. So, I said, there are mass camel graves but no mass human graves? Yes, that’s right, he said. I told him that was the most breathtakingly original theory I had heard in years. And I thought to myself that perhaps Hannah Arendt was wrong to conclude that the most dangerous perpetrators of evil were the banal bureaucrats and not the clever ones.
Other Sudanese officials took a more balanced approach, however, and told us that they welcomed international assistance and that both sides, the rebel and the militia, the so-called Janjaweed, had committed crimes. The government’s decision to accede to the latest UN Security Resolution including an expansion of the African Union monitors reflects, I think, this more moderate approach. Sudan is worried about being labeled an international pariah. It may be worried about economic sanctions, and some officials worry about regime change and military intervention, especially, of course, by the United States.
Yet despite the presence of more moderate voices in the Sudanese government, the killing goes on. Just three days after we left Nyala, another village was burned in that vicinity. The response of the international community has been brave in its rhetoric but reticent in its delivery. Nothing is more critical than that the increased African Union presence called for in the latest UN Security Resolution be implemented as soon as possible and that the mandate of those forces be expanded to include protection and not just monitoring. There should be an AU presence in every district of Darfur, or else the 1.2 million people in the refugee and IDP camps will never feel safe returning to their villages.
Moreover, Amnesty has called for an arms embargo not just against the groups that are fighting on the ground in Darfur but against the Sudanese government itself until this crisis is behind us. We have said that the Commission of Inquiry endorsed by the Security Council should be able to investigate killings, including thorough forensic examination of alleged mass graves.
The role of the U.S. Government in all these respects is crucial both now and following the elections. The fact is that U.S. credibility in dealing with this enormous crisis has been dangerously impaired by our own human rights shortcomings. “You Americans committed terrible crimes at Abu Ghraib,” a high-ranking Sudanese government official told us two weeks ago when we were in Khartoum. “You have held your own citizens in prison without letting them see lawyers. You have ignored international law at Guantanamo Bay. Who is your government to tell ours what to do?” It was not a little ironic that a government that had given sanctuary to Osama Bin Laden was now using the United States’ own actions in the war on terror as an excuse for its own suborning of death and destruction in Darfur.
The United States has certainly made its share of mistakes, I said at one point, but none of them justifies forcing nearly 1.4 million people out of their homes and killing tens of thousands. The U.S., as you know, has taken the lead in pushing two resolutions on Darfur through the UN Security Council. It has labeled the killings genocide, even advocated sanctions on Sudanese oil. But what is less clear is whether the U.S. has any intention of backing its words with action to end this tragedy. To put Darfur right will take far more than resolutions or labels or even sanctions. It will take U.S. leadership in three areas--diplomacy, material support for the African Union, and a substantial contribution to the resettlement of the displaced.
For the past 21 years, Sudan has been engulfed in war between the government in the North and militant groups from the South. The conflict has cost 2 million lives. Just recently, it has been brought to at least a temporary halt, thanks in part to U.S. participation in peace talks. But the impending resolution of that crisis may have sparked the rebellion in Darfur at least in part, and only similar U.S. diplomacy can jump-start the talks between the parties to this conflict, now sputtering along, these talks, in Abudja, Nigeria.
But even more urgent than talking about peace is putting peace in place on the ground. The African Union troops in Darfur are woefully under-resourced. In South Darfur Province, for example, where the fighting is still intense, the AU has just one helicopter to cover the entire province. The U.S. needs to help equip the AU forces adequately and insist that their role be one of protection and not just monitoring.
Perhaps the greatest challenge will come when peace is restored. Hundreds of thousands of people in refugee camps in Chad and IDP camps in Darfur have lost everything. Even were they to feel safe enough to return to their villages, they would require enormous amounts of assistance, well beyond the 280 million-some dollars that the U.S. has provided thus far just to keep the camps operating and the people alive. The people have missed the spring planting season. They have had their cattle and donkeys stolen. Their wells have been contaminated. They can’t rebuild their lives by themselves, and even if the government of Sudan were prepared to help them, it lacks sufficient resources to do the job alone.
Only the international community led by the United States can put Darfur back together again economically. Such help, of course, can’t come too soon to the people of Darfur, and it would pay enormous dividends in the form of enhanced American credibility as well.
But in the last analysis, we must not forget that the crisis in Darfur reflects the larger crisis of confidence of the people of Sudan in their own government. Other than visiting the camps in our recent mission--which was, of course, deeply moving--the most touching part of the trip for me was our interviews in the Nyala National Security Prison with two lawyers who had been taken into custody in July and not yet charged with a crime, not even allowed to see attorneys. The first lawyer was told that he was accused of having visited one of the IDP camps and of wanting to live there--as if anyone would truly choose to do that--as well as for having spoken negatively of the government at a meeting with the UN Development Program the afternoon he was arrested. He suspected that the real reason was that he had taken as a client a woman from one of the burned villages who was seeking legal redress for her loss of possessions and the death of her husband. The other lawyer had been told first that he had provided prosthetic devices to the rebels, and later that he was accused of incitement against the government. We learned of a man in Nyala who was taken hostage by the rebels, beaten severely, subsequently released, only to be taken into custody by the police in Nyala when he returned home and was charged with having contact with the rebels.
Well, these cases reflect the fact that the Darfur crisis is itself intimately related to the overall repression in Sudan and the inability of the people to have their grievances addressed through the government and the courts. But that just reminds us in conclusion why human rights are so important in the first place and why we are so grateful to the work of this Museum, which is so central to our work and to yours, in order that someday, the ring tones of every government around the world might lead the people not to slaughter but to freedom.
BRIDGET CONLEY: Thank you very much. Irene?
IRENE KHAN: Thank you. Let me also start by saying how honored we are to have the forum here, and let me start also with a few personal comments before I go on to talk about recommendations, because I think each one of us when we are confronted with despair and tragedy is affected by it in a very personal way.
What struck me was the sameness of the despair, and the sameness in a very personal sense of the word because I come from Bangladesh, and my thoughts went back to 1971, to another tragedy there in which over 250,000 people are estimated to have been killed, and no one ever found out whether that estimate was correct or not. When I saw what Bill has so vividly described, when I spoke to the women in the camps, I kept thinking back about the sameness of human atrocities, how little we seem to have learned. This is why in the opening remarks, the whole approach to prevention is so important.
We drove through the countryside, where we saw village after village abandoned. We saw places where villages had existed only one season before, the grass was coming out, the cattle were grazing.
But I think what I remember most is the voices of the people, and there are a few snapshots that I would like to share with you. One is the story of one woman, sitting on a sand in Riyadh camp outside Al-Geneina, and she talked about how the village had been attacked by armed men on the ground, by bombs from the air, and then she said so many men had been killed in the village that there were no men left to bury them, and the women had to bury them. She had buried seven men.
Another woman kept repeating two words in Arabic, and I couldn’t understand what they were, so I turned to the interpreter and asked what is she saying. She was saying “hunger and thirst,” “hunger and thirst,” because they had walked 60 days from their destroyed villages to get to the camps.
These were very depressing scenes, obviously, people in great despair--and yet I think there was also hope there, and the hope came from very strange ways. We visited one village about 37 kilometers outside Al-Geneina. This was a village where the original inhabitants had been pushed out, attacked, and they had fled to neighboring Chad where they were now refugees. Others from surrounding villages who had been attacked had been moved into this village, so they were displaced people living in someone else’s village. And the day we came, there was a little village market going on, and then, suddenly, one of the villages said to me, “Oh, look--the Arab women have come to shop here.” And that was very interesting, that even in the middle of their tragedy and conflict and stress, the two communities were trying to find a way to live together. We did speak to the Arab women, who seemed to think it was quite normal for them to come and shop there.
So that somehow, I think from that tragedy, there is hope for the future of Darfur, for people, the two communities, the nomads and the sedentary populations, to live together again, because they do have a lot in common, including their shared history. But in order to do that, I think there has to be a lot of other things that need to take place right now.
First, there must be truth and there must then be action based on that truth. And this truth-telling is what struck us most, as Bill said, when there was total denial on the side of the government, when the Minister of Interior looked me in the eye and said, “There is no rape, because Muslim men don’t rape.” And I had to remind him that I found that totally offensive as a Muslim woman because what he meant, what he was implying, was that Muslim women who are reporting rape are then lying about it. These women have been abandoned by their families. Girls have become pregnant. I myself spoke to a 15-year-old girl who is now three months’ pregnant because of her by these militia. Are they all making it up?
In telling the truth, there are a number of things that have to be clarified. I think one important point that is being made is about the collusion, the participation, and the cooperation of the government in the atrocities. One international eyewitness, an international humanitarian worker, said that it is important to blow the myth of the Janjaweed as a wild band of armed Arab horsemen. He said that from March to June--he had just arrived in March--in those early months, he had seen not just dozens but hundreds of well-armed men, some on horseback, but many also with vehicles, in uniforms, together with the Sudanese army, roaming the countryside with total impunity. To call them “Janjaweed” creates a distance between this group and the government. It is very easy then to put the responsibility out there and for the government to say that it can’t do anything about it.
In terms of labels also, it is important to do away with the idea that the Sudanese government is creating safe areas. It has reached an agreement with the UN earlier by which it identified areas that it would make safe. These areas are not safe, and that is why they cannot be called safe areas. Men are afraid to venture out of these areas, and these safe areas are in effect the displaced persons camps and the large towns. Most of the men that I met told me that they didn’t dare go further than a kilometer or two. The women did go out to collect wood, and many of them have been attacked. We spoke to a number of these women who had been victims of attacks.
Rape and sexual assault are a particular feature of this conflict, and in July, Amnesty produced a report in which we took testimony of 100 women in the refugee camps in Chad and were able to document 250 cases of rape. So clearly, this is a whole area where there needs to be a lot more truth-telling.
The other important point I think to make is the forgotten people. Even in the midst of that large crisis, there are groups of people who are forgotten. These are people who are in very remote villages. They are people who are living in areas near where the militia is operating, sometimes under their so-called protection. So there are layers and layers to this conflict that need to be unpeeled.
There are mixed patterns of displacement where people have moved out of their own village to another village, and they have moved across the border to Chad. Some people are coming back because conditions in Chad are not very good, and they are coming back into danger. There were some stories about people being forced by the authorities to also go back to their villages in conditions of unsafety.
Underlying it all is the fragility of the humanitarian operation. The Government has given full and free access to humanitarian organizations. They give full and free access to us as well. As Bill said, he was even able to speak to people in the detention centers. But it is still extremely difficult to access Darfur. Al-Geneina, which is the capital of Western Darfur, did not have one inch of tarmac, not even at the airport where the plane landed on a dirt strip. So the logistics--we had to drive down a dry river bed for 37 kilometers. It took us three hours to get there.
So to maintain a large-scale humanitarian operation--feeding, taking care of 1.2 million people under those conditions--is going to be a nightmare. We must realize also that the people have not been able to plant this season and therefore will not be able to harvest next year.
A very important point that came through to us very, very strongly is that the people do not trust the government, and there is no reason to do so. So protection strategies that focus on the government providing protection are not going to work, because people simply don’t trust them.
Under an agreement with the UN, the Sudanese government is putting 8,000 policemen into Darfur. We met some of the policemen. The ones that we met, at least, seemed willing, hardworking, had come from Eastern Sudan and did not have any particular partisan links in Darfur. But the people simply did not trust them, because in the past, the police have stood by and watched their villages burn. So why would they now trust these policemen?
There were stories also that among these police were now the so-called Janjaweed militia that had been recruited by the government. So the perpetrators had become the protectors. Yet policing of course is badly needed.
There was anger against government officials, so much anger that one humanitarian worker has actually been killed by the displaced persons because they claimed he was linked to the government. Another one was attacked. So people are angry because they see no progress on security and implementing it--while, at the same time, the government remains in denial, although there are elements in the government, as Bill said, who are beginning to recognize that it is important to give in on some of these issues to international pressure.
In terms of recommendations, what do we do? I think the first important thing is to recognize the importance of the political situation and the need for a political situation. Darfur is still a conflict zone. There is still fighting going on in parts of Darfur, and there were fresh displacements even while we were there. Much of this fighting is the result of the breakdown of ceasefire between the rebel insurgent groups attacking the government.
There was also, of course, the government, both with and without the militia, responding, and in some cases, the militia attacking civilian villages. And there is now also a breakdown of traditional tribal agreements that have operated in that area for a long time, and there are new tribal conflicts that are emerging--tribes that were not involved in the conflict until now seem to be subject to attacks now, which indicates that there is a risk that the conflict could actually spread. Therefore, it is extremely important that the political process continue in Abuja, where the rebels and the government have to come to a clear agreement not only on ceasefire but also on protection of civilians.
This political process has to be seen in the larger context of Sudan. In Sudan, if you look back over the last 20 years, the international community has been fighting one crisis after another, and that has to stop. This is why it is so important to focus on an overall political solution. This is why the agreement in the South, which is an agreement that recognizes the diversity of Sudan, is important because through that agreement can also come a solution for Darfur and power-sharing and recognition of the needs of the people of Darfur in the same way as there are proposals now for recognition of the needs of the people in the South under the auspices of the international community. So in a sense, the South and Darfur are linked, and we must not forget that important link.
For Amnesty, of course, it is very important that these political processes must focus on human rights. There is no point talking about ceasefire if you do not also talk about protection of civilians. There is no point talking about sharing of power--the sharing of power does not make a difference to the human rights of the people of Sudan. The criminal justice system in Sudan is a system of security, basically--security--there is really no justice as such. There is no freedom of expression. People have been arrested for speaking to foreigners, foreign aid workers and foreign visitors in the camps. While we were there, there were arrests in Khartoum and Omdurman of people suspected of being political opponents of the Government, of trying to overthrow the government. Two people have died in custody. Amnesty has taken up the cases of the others, because we fear that they are also at risk of torture and possibly death. These are issues that have to be brought into the political discussion because we cannot expect to create peace and security and protect people in Darfur while leaving the system as a whole one that violates human rights.
That is the political process, but there is also an immediate necessity now to look at the protection situation on the ground right away. And in looking at the protection situation, it is important to remember that what we are talking about here is ethnic cleansing--that is, the forcible removal of people from territory in order that someone else can occupy that territory. And that makes the issue of return extremely important. Conditions have to be created for safe return. This is another reason why safe areas need to be rejected. Safety has to be created in the whole of Darfur so that people can go back home to their own villages.
The first step in that process must be to stop the current atrocities. How do we do that? I think international presence is key here. The African Union is absolutely critical. The government has not only accepted a large increase of the African Union members from 350 to 3,500, but the government apparently has now also accepted an expansion of their mandate to include protection. That is a very positive thing, and we must jump on this and make this happen.
Of course, the question is does the African Union have the capacity and the ability to do it? That is a good question. They will need lots of help, lots of help in terms of logistics and military support. But we have to remember that this is not only a conflict between two fighting parties, and we are not talking about peacekeeping, we are talking about policing, and the African Union needs to be supported in order to be able to carry out these policing functions. And this is something that is troubling because there have been other international operations where the policing experience has not been very good.
On the other hand, there are some positive lessons to be learned, for example, of the way in which the German government has supported policing in Afghanistan. There are proposals of the Jordanian government providing police support; they have a very good arrangement in Jordan now on protection of women, rape survivors. So there are things to be learned from there.
There is also, of course, the whole issue of how long it will take to get the African Union on the ground. It will take some time. Then the question is whether there is a need for some kind of a bridging facility to others with more capacity--can they come in and provide some safety and support.
The important thing to remember here is how do we make the government agree to it. In Afghanistan, there was no government when the international community moved in. Here, we do have a government that is strong, a government that is a military government and that is very sensitive about its authority, and therefore, African Union is one way of getting it. I think the UN is another very important organization here that needs to be supported and needs to be encouraged and prodded to continue to play a very key role here.
This is where I would encourage the U.S. government to look at ways in which the UN operation on the ground can be supported--the UN observers, for example, through a stronger UN humanitarian operation, a stronger UN refugee operation, looking at the situation of the displaced persons in the camps. There are real dilemmas on the ground. You can protect people and keep them in the camps. The longer they stay in the camps, the less likely it is that they will go home. If you send them home too soon, they will be killed there. So you need to create both safety in the camps as well as safety in their own villages. At the end of the day, what we really need is an international presence in every district, because without that, there is no way that the people will trust the Sudanese police, and there is no way that the Sudanese police are going to really try to make an effort as well. That is a tall order. Darfur is the size of France, so it’s a huge piece of country there. It can be done, but it will need a lot of help from others in the international community.
One issue here in terms of building confidence and creating security is also the proliferation of arms. Darfur is awash--the Minister of Interior told us that Darfur is awash with uniforms because everyone is wearing uniforms of the soldiers, so of course, he wanted to distance the Sudanese army from the atrocities and say the rebels are also wearing Sudanese army uniforms--but then he also acknowledged that Darfur was also awash with arms.
Now, there is a UN arms embargo, but interestingly enough, the arms embargo is only against the rebels and the Janjaweed. Now, who provides the Janjaweed with arms? We would like to see an arms embargo against the Sudanese government as well, because it will be a strong political message if nothing else that the Sudanese government is involved with the Janjaweed and has a responsibility not to pass its arms on to them.
The second important step that needs to be taken is to tackle impunity. Very serious crimes have been committed--war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide. It is not enough simply to label these incidents as crimes. There must be a way in which those who have committed these crimes can be identified and then brought to justice. The UN Security Council has adopted a resolution establishing an International Commission of Inquiry. We think it is a good step. The Commission should start its work soon, and as soon as possible, it should undertake forensic investigations, dig up those mass graves--of camels or humans as the case may be--and establish responsibility--find a way to actually prosecute those who are responsible.
Now, here, there is an interesting role for the International Criminal Court to play. The UN Security Council can refer Darfur to the International Criminal Court. The Sudanese government is not going to prosecute those who have committed these crimes. It is fairly clear. They haven’t done so so far; why would they do so in the future?
If the International Commission of Inquiry identifies people and says yes, there have been war crimes, crimes against humanity, possibly genocide, then how will they be brought to justice? Well, there is a machinery that the United Nations has created, the International Criminal Court. The UN Security Council could refer those cases there, but the question would be whether it is possible for the UN Security Council to use this machinery, a machinery that at the moment is investigating war crimes in the Congo--why should it not also investigate war crimes in Sudan? But can the UN Security Council do that when leading members of the UN Security Council are not parties to their own statute of the Court itself? That is an important question I think to confront here in Washington.
In looking at the International Commission of Inquiry, I think it is also important to look at reparations for victims, with special focus on rape survivors. A lot of assistance is needed there.
Finally, I would say it is important to take a long-term view of what has happened in Darfur. The conflict in Darfur has been fueled by the government, but the roots lie in the environmental degradation of that area, of the pressure, the conflicts, between the nomads and the sedentary population. It is a region that has been neglected, marginalized, underdeveloped, extremely poor. I have traveled a lot in Africa. I come from a poor country. I have seen poverty. But I have rarely seen the lack of infrastructure, that kind of total--nothing--people have nothing. The city had nothing. The government had nothing. There is nothing there in Darfur. And that will require a lot of investment.
It is a long-term engagement that we are calling for, but that long-term engagement must start with its focus on protection and prevention of further atrocities. That is why it is so important that we are talking about that here now. So, thank you.