April 7, 2004
UNITED STATES HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM EMPHASIZES THREAT OF GENOCIDE IN SUDAN
The Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum today strongly reiterated its “genocide warning” for Sudan, focusing on massive violence against and displacement of civilians in the western provinces of Darfur. The United Nations estimates that thousands of civilians have been killed and close to a million displaced. The victims are largely members of the Fur, Zaghawa, and Masaalit groups, considered in Darfur to be “Africans”; the attacks are largely by a government-supported “Arab” militia, known as “janjaweed.”
Committee Chairman Tom A. Bernstein pointed to new estimates by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that 100,000 civilians may die over the coming months as a result of the displacement.
“USAID’s prediction that 100,000 civilians may soon die underscores the increasing threat of genocide in Sudan,” Bernstein said. “If there is anything that we can learn from the history of the Holocaust, and from the history of genocide since the Holocaust, it is that we cannot ignore widespread and systematic, government-sponsored attacks on civilians of specific racial and ethnic groups.”
Under the United Nations Genocide Convention, adopted in 1948, nations promise to “undertake to prevent” genocide. Bernstein noted that this April marks the 60th anniversary of the deportation and murder of the Jewish population of Hungary, as well as the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Rwanda genocide.
“These are the same tactics that the government used in the southern part of Sudan, with devastating effects on civilians,” said Jerry Fowler, staff director of the Committee on Conscience. “Khartoum pits ethnic groups against each other, in this case by arming and supporting the janjaweed. It restricts international humanitarian access, which threatens mass starvation. And it bombs civilian targets with its planes.”
Although the Sudanese government has restricted access to the region, international organizations and observers have obtained chilling testimonies from refugees fleeing to neighboring Chad. They report that government-allied militias are torching villages, murdering civilians, raping women and girls, burning food supplies and destroying water sources. According to a European Union delegate, the government-supported militias are “running riot in the countryside.” Roger Winter, a top USAID official, says that “what feeds into the ethnic cleansing scenario is that the government does not seem interested in protecting the Darfur people against the [militia] raids.”
The Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Committee on Conscience first issued a genocide warning for Sudan in Fall 2000, based on government actions in the southern part of the country. Intensive diplomatic efforts by the United States and other countries resulted in an end to attacks on civilians and access for international relief efforts, and have brought that conflict close to a resolution. The conflict in Darfur began in early 2003, and the situation has deteriorated rapidly in the past three months.
Created by a unanimous act of Congress, the Holocaust Memorial Museum is America’s national institution for Holocaust education and remembrance. As a public-private partnership, the Museum brings the history and lessons of the Holocaust to Americans from all walks of life through educational outreach, teacher training, traveling exhibitions, and scholarship. Since opening in April 1993, the Museum has welcomed more than 20 million visitors, including more than 6.2 million children. The Committee on Conscience guides the Museum’s genocide prevention efforts. For more information, visit www.ushmm.org/conscience.